Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

Search Google for “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?” and you’ll get about one thousand sites covering everything from “it’s completely harmless” to “it’s completely hellish.” Here’s site number 1,001 that’s somewhere in the middle:

Origin of Halloween

Halloween’s origins date back two thousand years to the Celtic New Year festival of “Samhain” (pronounced sow-in) named after their god of the dead. (If it’s been a while since World History class, the Celts occupied England, Ireland and northern France.) Samhain was also one of the four high days (sabbats) of witchcraft or, more accurately, Wicca.

On the night before the November 1 new year, Celts believed that Samhain and the dead would roam the earth causing all kinds of trouble. So the Celtic priests, Druids, would demand that all light be extinguished on Halloween night and sacrifices be made to prevent trouble.

To avoid “tricks,” the villagers would bake up “treats” to appease the dead. They would also dress up in ghoulish costumes and parade to the outskirts of town hoping the departed souls would follow them out of town.

After sacrifices, villagers would carry the fire, thought to be sacred, back to their homes in carved out vegetable shells.

In the eighth century Pope Gregory II moved the church festival honoring martyrs of “All Saints” to November 1 as a Christian alternative to the Celtic New Year celebrations. “All Hallow’s Eve” or “Halloween” means the “evening of holy persons” and was to be used in spiritual preparation for All Saints Day.

(Halloween is not the only holiday based on pagan origins. See also my posts on Christmas and Easter.)

So, what should a Christian do?

The Apostle Paul deals with these kinds of issues when he addresses meat offered to pagan idols. Is this wrong for the Christian—who doesn’t believe in the false gods to whom the meat was offered— to eat meat offered to idols? Here’s Paul’s advice:

    So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

    But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

    Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall (1 Corinthians 8:4-13).

If Paul were alive today, he might write something like . . .

    Don’t worry about the ancient association of these holidays with paganism since we know there are no gods of sun and death, and that the dead don’t roam the earth. You’re not appeasing Samhain when you go “trick-or-treating” or sacrificing to the gods by carving a jack-o-lantern. But if your family or friends have reservations about these things, don’t encourage them to do something they feel is “sinful.”

At least that’s my (and possibly St. Paul’s) opinion—among the nearly one thousand other perspectives.

© Copyright 2005 James N. Watkins. All rights reserved.

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Photo: First Evangelical Presbyterian Church

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8 thoughts on “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

  • October 13, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Hey Jim, terrific post. You saved me a little time for a column I’m working on for The Presidential Prayer Team. I’ll be sure to give you credit for a quote I’m considering pulling. Thanks!

  • October 14, 2015 at 7:00 am

    I find it more difficult to accept my “Christian neighbor’s” boycott of a fun evening for their children than causing my “weak believing” friends to stumble. I wonder if my birth on Halloween could have an influence toward having fun on that evening.

  • October 6, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Hi Jim,

    While I appreciate your somewhat humorous take on Halloween, I have to vehemently disagree.

    While living in California, we lived near thousands of acres of orange groves. On specific nights, and Halloween, the local Wiccans, Warlocks, etc. gathered in those groves to set bonfires and offer sacrifices. I also had a patient who was a police detective. He bluntly said, “If you don’t think Satanism is alive and well, then I invite you to come along with me to inspect the freeway underpass areas, where you’ll find animal and human blood sacrifices, including mutilation remains.” Halloween and Satanism were no joke to him. And here in Tucson, Arizona, we have one of the largest gatherings of Satanists during the week prior to and week after Halloween for a celebration of Satan’s birthday. During that time, we are cautioned to keep our cats indoors, since they are a sacrifice favorites.

    Based on these facts alone, I think it’s irresponsible for any Christian to turn a blind (or humorous) eye to what’s going on in the “real” world, maybe behind our backs. I think it’s playing with fire to think some our kids (or we) can touch it and not be burned. It’s just too real for so many, and I know many kids who have been drawn into the occult just by first playing around the edges of it.


    Andrea Arthur Owan

    • October 6, 2016 at 7:48 pm

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I may have been a bit too flippant. I totally agree that there are demons and satanic activities that Christians need to stay FAR, FAR away from. I do have a strong argument against Ouija boards on my site and an important post on the reality of demon possession–and obsession.

  • October 9, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Reverend Know-It-All (his real name is Simon) is a Catholic priest and has a blog.

    Here’s part of his comments on Halloween:

    “… you can encourage your children to dress as super-heroes and even saints.

    “Halloween is a way to laugh at our own fears. It is a sort of whistling past the cemetery. I would not forbid moderate Halloweenieness (Yes, a new word. You heard it here first.) to children. I would forbid it to adults. Halloween has become an adult holiday, with all the attendant debauchery and drunkenness. An unhealthy fixation on things occult seems to be growing, not on the part of children but on the part of parents and older siblings.”

  • October 19, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    I do this a bit differently. I have an autumn wreath I put plastic bugs on– including butterflies. The banner says, “All creatures of my God and King lift up your voice in praises sing.” I have a glow in the dark skeleton with the bones all labeled. He holds a banner that says, “I praise God that I’m wonderfully made.” I also have a zombie crossing sign with John 10:10 on it. We carve a pumpkin with some kind of creature or person. I draw. My husband carves. We do a pretty good job. 😉 We give good candy, and the kids love coming to our house because it’s light in the darkness- a beacon. Always, someone asks for water or to use the bathroom. I think that’s a pretty good witness. My take on the subject.

    • October 21, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      I love it, Kathleen! What an example of “overcoming evil with good” (Romans 12:21).


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