The Tricky Topic of Halloween

by Kenneth Samples

In terms of holiday commercial sales, Halloween ranks second only to Christmas. But is this extremely popular tradition (especially in the United States) the devil’s night, a literal satanic and occult extravaganza? Or is Halloween a harmless celebration?

Many Christians raise questions and express concerns about holidays that have some historical connection, at least in terms of dates, to ancient pagan beliefs and practices. Some refuse to allow their children to participate in Halloween celebrations. Others would like to abolish the event. Addressing common questions about this scary holiday may alleviate some of the concerns surrounding this controversial cultural issue.

Isn’t the origin of Halloween connected to an ancient form of paganism?

Like the dates of a number of major holidays (including Christmas), Halloween can be traced, at least in part, to an ancient pagan celebration. The winter festival “Samhain” was celebrated on or near October 31st by the ancient Celts. Samhain was a pagan tradition that commemorated the end of harvest, the beginning of winter, and the recognition of the physical cycle of death, which included crops, animals, and humans.

In conjunction with this festival, many pagans believed that the human spirits of the recent dead would not pass on to their final resting place in the next world until being placated with gifts. The restless spirits’ “tricks” could be avoided only if appropriately “treated,” thus originated the present-day Halloween practice of children dressing up like spirits and arriving at the front door chanting (or demanding) “Trick or Treat.”

But while Halloween has distant connections to ancient pagan beliefs and practices, the holiday has also been strongly influenced by Christian belief and practices. The word “Halloween” comes from “All Hallows’ Eve,” a reference to the evening before the Christian celebration of All Saints’ Day (November 1st). The so-called hall of fame for the faithful in the book of Hebrews (11:1-40) initiated All Saints’ Day, which was (and is) devoted to remembering Christian believers who have died, sometimes suffering as martyrs…

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