Can Christians Celebrate Halloween?
It’s that time of year again. A time where people play dress up, ask total strangers for candy, and try to give each other heart attacks by popping out of the bushes and screaming - A time where the weather in Texas begins to cool down to a balmy 97 degrees.
For many, Halloween is just about friends, fun, and candy. For others, Halloween is about something darker.
Every October, someone asks me whether or not Christians can celebrate Halloween due to the pagan elements in the holiday. I think that is a fair question, but before I answer it, let’s see where Halloween comes from…
A Brief History
Interestingly enough Halloween doesn’t just have one origin; it is a combination of several cultural fall holidays that have evolved and combined over the years.
About 2,000 years ago there was a Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced: “Sow-in”). Unlike Americans, who celebrate the new year in January, the Celts celebrated the New Year on November 1 and believed that the night before was a transitional period from a time of harvest, light, and warmth (summer/fall) into a period of death, darkness, and cold (winter). Strangely enough, they believed that the “spiritual” and “physical” realms overlapped during that night (Oct 31) and that spirits could then walk the earth. So, they did what any logical person would do if they thought that spirits were out walking the earth: they put on scary masks and lit bonfires to scare them away. But, not all of the spirits were bad. What about your dear grandmother who had passed away? Wouldn’t you want to see her if she was out there wandering around? Well, to guide the spirits of their dead relatives home, they put candles in their windows (which some people still do today on Halloween).
In 43 A.D. the Romans conquered the Celts, and Samhain was combined with two Roman holidays. The first holiday, Feralia, was a day to honor the dead (which is a pretty big theme on Halloween). The other holiday celebrated Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Have you ever seen someone “bob for apples” around Halloween time? Well, some believe that this waterboarding-like activity is linked to this Roman celebration of the fruit-goddess Pamona.
By the seventh century, Roman Catholicism was the major player when it came to declaring holidays. Pope Boniface IV declared November 1 as a time to honor the saints. It was called “All Saints Day” or “All Hallows.” This is why October 31 is called “All Hallows Eve” or “Halloween.” By the year 1000, All Hallows prompted big parades where people would dress up as (drumroll) saints, angels, and devils. Have you ever seen someone dress up as an angel or a devil for Halloween? You can thank Pope Boniface IV for that.
In England around this time, poor people would go door to door to ask for food. They were given what were called “soul cakes” that they could snack on. Over time that evolved into kids dressed as Batman coming to your door and saying, “Trick or Treat,” (which originally meant “Give me a treat or I’ll play a trick on you”).
So, since there are both pagan and Christian elements in Halloween, should we celebrate it?
A Biblical Example to Consider
If you’re looking for a Bible verse that says “thou shalt not carve a Jack-O-Lantern,” you are not going to find it. However, that doesn’t mean that the Bible is silent on the issue of whether or not a Christian can take something that has a pagan origin and use if to glorify Christ instead.
Consider 1 Corinthians 8:4-13. In Paul’s day, people would offer sacrifices to idols and then sell the meat in the marketplace or eat it in the temple (pagan temples doubled as a first century Chili’s where you could eat some steak and hang out with friends).
Some Christians opposed this practice under the following line of reasoning:
1. There is no God but Yahweh.
2. Since there can be no other gods, sacrifices made to any “god” other than Yahweh must be made to demons.
3. We should not have anything to do with demons.
It is true that Paul does not want Christians eating idol meat in the pagan temples because he doesn’t want them associating themselves with demons and false-religions. However, he does allow meat sold in the marketplace to be eaten, even though it was offered to demons. How can that be? Shouldn’t we stay away from this meat since it started out as pagan sacrifice? How can Paul allow Christians to eat meat sacrificed to demons?
Paul’s answer: Because all good things belong to God and can be redeemed for His glory (1 Tim 4:4). There is no “demon meat” – there is only meat that can be eaten in celebration of Jesus. Jesus made meat, and it is a good gift. Don’t get rid of the meat. Rather, get rid of its demonic association and redeem those juicy steaks for Jesus.
The same principle applies to Halloween; though the holiday has pagan elements, any elements that are not inherently sinful can be used to glorify God. Jesus created joy. Jesus created celebration. Jesus created laughter. Candy is a gift from God. Those things should be redeemed and used for Jesus.
Now, there are elements of Halloween in which Christians cannot partake because they involve—not just neutral things that can be done to God’s glory—but sinful things that cannot be done to the glory of God. For example, dressing in an immodest costume, taking part in anything demonic (Ouija boards, séances, etc.), and sexual, drunken debauchery would all be wrong. But to simply laugh with friends, dress up, and eat candy is not wrong. As Christians, we have the ability and the opportunity to celebrate Halloween to the glory of God.
But, I also understand that Halloween may not be for everyone. Paul allows the Corinthians to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but he warns those who can’t do it in faith to abstain. Don’t violate your conscience. If you are uncomfortable with taking part in Halloween, then feel free to not celebrate it. God doesn’t want you to do something you cannot do in faith (Rom. 14:23). But don’t judge those who do participate out of a good conscience. Although you “can” celebrate Halloween, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily “should” or “have to.” Allow the Lord to lead Christians in their own consciences regarding this holiday.
(Adapted from a blog I wrote originally at: https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/articles/should-christians-celebrate-halloween - copyright The Village Church 2012).