Every October, Halloween frenzy overtakes many a family, fostered by ample attention through school parties and vast commercial enterprises.
Merchants love it! Halloween is the sixth-largest spending holiday. Despite a struggling economy, total spending for 2011 was a record $6.9 billion according to the National Retail Federation. Americans spent about $2.2 billion on candy and $2.2 billion on costumes. The estimate for 2012 is $8 billion in total sales including $380 million for costumes for pets.
Halloween is the third most popular day for parties (behind New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday), and it has become the second-biggest decorating holiday—both indoors and outdoors—behind Christmas. The holiday is becoming an entire season in the tourism industry with events held throughout October at theme parks, hotels and popular travel destinations.
In school, kids take part in all sorts of Halloween-related activities. While schools are enjoined against celebrating Christmas and Easter, they spend time on Halloween songs, stories, crafts, decorations and parties.
Even adults and young adults celebrate Halloween in schools, offices and at home. The biggest spending group at Halloween is 25-34-year olds with 69% of 18-34-year olds planning to celebrate this year. Over half of 18-24-year olds will dress in costume and throw or attend a party. According to one research firm, “Halloween remains one of the only days where society gives permission to act like kids again.”
What is it all about? Is it just harmless fun and games? Kids in costumes trick-or-treating? Parties? A boon to business? Beneath the seemingly innocent fun and games lies a dark connection. Some years ago, USA Today quoted a witch who said, “(Christians) don’t realize it but they’re celebrating our holiday with us.… We like it!” (10/29/90)
HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN
A simple Google search on the Internet reveals countless articles outlining the pagan and occult roots of Halloween. That Halloween is actually a remnant of supernaturalism is beyond question. Christians therefore have an obligation to investigate.
Any honest examination of the facts will find that our society has been cleverly deceived into paying massive homage to the Devil and his demons. Halloween represents an unholy alliance between him and the church.
Celts in ancient pre-Christian Ireland and Scotland marked October 31st as the end of summer. November 1st marked the new year. Druids, the Celtic “priests”, held that their great Lord of Death assigned the souls of wicked people who had died to bodies of animals or even another person. Cats, in particular, were special dwelling places for these departed souls.
In short, they believed that a myriad of evil spirits roamed at large. People would dress in scary costumes and hide their faces so that they could fool the spirits and keep themselves safe. Celts honored Samhain, the god of the dead, and donned animal skins to fool the spirits.
Fires and torches were lit to chase the spirits away. Huge ceremonial bonfires (actually “bone fires” since they sacrificed animals) were also used to revive the faded sun on this first day of winter. Druids burned crops, animals and perhaps humans, and read their ashes to determine the future.
In ancient Ireland they gathered fruit for Muck Olla, a pagan god; greater honor was indicated by the more they gathered. Bobbing for apples seems to be from an October 31st ancient festival for the Latin goddess, Pomona, goddess of fruit. In a type of divination, apple success forecast good future crops.
The modern jack-o-lantern is heir to the notion that leering fiery faces could scare away the evil spirits. "Jack " is thought to be a legendary figure, a miser who played tricks on the Devil and was too bad to enter Heaven and too good to go to Hell. Jack was consigned by God to roam the earth, carrying a candle to light his way, which Jack put in a turnip to keep it glowing longer. When the custom came to the U.S., pumpkins were used for “Jack’s Lantern.”
Trick-or-treating also has its roots in the pagan festival of Samhain. Beggars or children would go door-to-door begging for “soul cakes.” The person who gave the cake would name a recently departed family member and the recipient would pray for that person’s soul. Eventually, the cakes were replaced by candy, and a harmless “trick” was played when no one was home to answer the door.
The medieval church incorporated many of these pagan traditions into its rituals. Pope Gregory IV attempted to sanctify the season by designating November 1st as All Saints Day to honor the dead martyrs and saints. As with the pagan customs, the evening before—October 31st—was assumed to be the most favorable by witches, sorcerers and the like to attack. Pagan confusion joined church superstition and became the jumbled occult “hallowed evening,” what we now call Halloween.
Witches across this land count Halloween as the highest point on their wretched calendar—their Grand Witch Sabbath. It is estimated that there are between 10,000-100,000 witches in the U.S. with most estimates at about 50,000. They meet in groups, or covens, to honor and harness the forces of nature. I have been in meetings in areas where these groups have been active. In one case, a man came for deliverance from the spell cast upon him by a witch using a black cat.
The Internal Revenue Service has officially recognized witchcraft as a religion and granted tax exemption to the Church and School of Wicca. A U.S. Army Chaplain’s handbook addresses Wicca (a form of witchcraft) as a religion.
Some schools have changed Halloween celebrations to “Fall Festivals” or “Harvest Celebrations,” but not all do so to avoid the appearance of paganism. A school in Washington State banned Halloween parties because it did not want to offend witches in the Wicca religion!
Local public schools cannot teach the true meaning of Christmas, yet millions of kids are assigned work celebrating Halloween. Today’s religious freedom in America allows this to exist, but should it be honored in the public school system at taxpayer’s expense while Christianity is systematically removed?
A listener once sent me a copy of a “Teacher’s Friend” public school assignment. It was a sheet of Halloween history that observed, “Next to Christmas, Halloween is the favorite holiday of many children.” Children were assigned to write spooky stories using colorful words including “hag, sorceress, soothsayer, siren, demon, warlock, ghoul, phantom, spirit, spook, fiend, poltergeist, frightful, spooky, awesome, grim, horrifying, ghastly, terrifying, fiendish, and vague.” Tax dollars paid for that?
My friend, this whole thing is not merely an influence—it is an invasion!
Halloween has desensitized people—especially children—to death, hell and the spirit world. More and more homes are “decorated” for Halloween. While some are cartoonish, others go so far as to recreate graveyards with tombstones, skeletons and eerie lighting in their front yards! Parties feature ghoulish decorations and snacks such as skeletons, skulls, “witch’s brew” and “eyeballs.”
A prime example of Halloween’s association with death was seen in October 2001 following the attacks on New York City and Washington, DC. Reports indicated a decrease in gruesome displays of skulls, skeletons and gore that year. The reality of death brought people to a more sensitized perspective. How soon we forget.
A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
So, what should Christians do about Halloween? First and foremost, we should give our children and our congregations the full truth about Halloween from a historical perspective and from a Biblical perspective. Too many hide from the truth for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or appearing negative.
The occult is very real, and tampering with the demonic and occult is serious business. Demons do seek embodiment, and honoring Satan and witches and the like may unconsciously lower one’s resistance to their influence, especially since godless, unbiblical supernaturalism is becoming more rampant across America.
Christians need to study every Scripture relative to the occult and take to themselves the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). Using a Bible dictionary and a topical Bible, look at the multitude of passages about demons, witchcraft and sorcery. Scores of verses are apparent, and you will quickly conclude that God despises believers’ involvement in the occult.
In Old Testament Israel, witchcraft was a crime punishable by death (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27). King Saul consulted a witch in an attempt to contact the dead prophet Samuel (I Samuel 27), a crime that cost him his life and the lives of his sons.
To give some balance, it must be noted that previous disobedience by Saul was compared with the sin of witchcraft (I Samuel 15:22-26). Samuel told Saul that God demanded obedience as well as sacrifice. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (vs. 23).
Disobedient Christians are just as much a spiritual obstacle as someone celebrating Halloween. Little wonder that many churches and Christians are sick. They may have removed every visible vestige of paganism from their service and practice, but God’s direct commands to evangelism, church discipline and clean and holy living are often ignored. Remember, friend, the sin of disobedience is as the sin of witchcraft. Christianity is as much about doing the right as avoiding the wrong.
New Testament precedent and teaching about the occult is clear. The story of Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:9-24 shows that occultism and Christianity are completely incompatible. The account of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:6-11 reveals that sorcery is violently opposed to Christianity. Paul called Elymas a child of the devil and an enemy of righteousness and a perverter of the ways of God.
At Philippi, a fortune-telling girl lost her demon powers when the evil spirit was cast out by Paul (Acts 16). The interesting matter here is that Paul refused to allow good statements to come from a demon-influenced person. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (I John l:5b)
Acts 19 is the real bonfire chapter. New converts in Ephesus abruptly broke with their former occultism by confessing, showing their evil deeds, bringing their magic paraphernalia and burning it before everyone (Acts 19:19). Isn’t it strange that Halloween bonfires roar on uncontested, yet when a church sponsors a bonfire to burn CDs, videos and other items of the demonic and the occult, they are accused of being extremists? Perhaps that contrast reveals how far we have drifted and how much we are in need of a fresh infusion of Biblical truth and necessary revival.
Church leaders have a responsibility to educate people concerning these Biblical teachings. Pastors, Sunday School teachers and youth leaders should present messages or lessons on the dangers of the occult and occult-related practices.
Parents should get rid of anything in the home that has pagan and demonic themes. If you have a Ouija board, burn it. If your children play demonic or occult-themed video games, get rid of them. Be very discerning in occult literature—Harry Potter books for example. Some Christians make the point that it is a work of fiction and not real, but the books’ theme of witchcraft only further serves to desensitize children.
If your children’s school holds Halloween parties or emphasizes the holiday, approach the teacher or school officials about Halloween’s roots. Point out that it is an adventure into the supernatural to be avoided. Older students can write term papers on Halloween showing its incompatibility with Christianity or how inappropriate it is in view of separation of church and state since it is has religious overtones. Always keep in mind that those we seek to educate and inform are those for whom Christ died and that they are to be treated as our mission field, not our enemies.
Since every prohibition requires a substitution, do something positive at Halloween. Have a special family time to explain why Halloween is an affront to God. Hold a special youth activity to give young people something positive to do. Some churches hold “Harvest Festivals” as a way to attract the community and share the Gospel. Obtain some good Halloween tracts to give to those who come trick-or-treating.
Some churches and organizations have held public “haunted houses” designed to impress upon people the reality of death and their need for Christ. Whether this modified approach is legitimate will have to be left to the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Of greater significance than Halloween, October 31st is the anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany, the event that sparked the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s personal conversion and subsequent conflict with the church of Rome emphasized the great Biblical doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Churches should emphasize this great event and the doctrine it highlighted, which stand in stark contrast to the themes of Halloween.
In these days of Halloween absurdity, every believer should wisely reaffirm and share the Good News that Christ died for our sins and rose again (I Corinthians 15:3 & 4). By grace, anyone may be saved through faith by receiving Christ. “...it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8 & 9). “Whoever desires, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17b). Whoever receives Christ as Savior “has passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1).
The most effective way to counter Halloween’s superstition is to share Christ’s salvation!
Scripture verses are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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REV. DAVID M. VIRKLER has been in full-time ministry since 1956. He serves as director of Dedication Evangelism, which he founded in 1961. Dave has unique ministry experience as an evangelist, radio broadcaster, former pastor and as a leader of ten tours to Bible Lands. He speaks in churches, at conferences and retreats and other special events.