Halloween: "LEARN NOT THE WAY OF THE HEATHEN"
(Jeremiah 10:2)

This time of the year (September/October) is the most sacred time of the Biblical liturgical calendar still followed by most Jews and a minority of believing Christians. Rosh Hoshanna is the New Moon of the seventh Hebrew month (Tishri) and is called in the Scriptures the memorial of the blowing of Trumpets. It begins the judgement of the people of God and of the world for a period of ten days (called the days of awe) ending on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. In traditional Judaism it is taught that this is the time when God examines the book of life, to either inscribe, or blot out, names of those who will remain alive or who shall die for the following year. Five days after Yom Kippur is the celebration of the harvest feast called the Feast of Tabernacles (or the Feast of Booths). Those believing Christians who observe this holy time recognize this as the time of the birth of Yahshua (Jesus), who the Bible says was born in a "booth" (manger) during a time when the shepherds watched their flocks in the fields at night (full moon of the autumnal equinox). Today the majority of Christians no longer recognize the Biblical liturgical calendar, opting instead for a so-called "Christian" liturgical calendar originated by the Roman Catholic Church.

"And he shall speak words against the Most High [God], and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change the times [of Sacred feasts and holy days] and the law," Daniel 7:25, Amplified Bible (brackets belong to the quotation).

Since the Catholic church changed the Biblical liturgical calendar out of a dislike for anything "Jewish," the holy days of Scripture that were celebrated by Christ, His apostles, and the early Church were changed for the pagan and heathen holidays celebrated by most Christians today. Among the most economically important are Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. 

History of Halloween

Every October 31st, hundreds of thousands of children dress in costumes which range from the cute and sweet to the macabre and Satanic. This custom is ritually repeated because, well, because its always been done. That is what makes it a ritual. After all, it is a great way for children to get candy, have harmless fun, and pretend they are someone else.

But where did the rituals come from? Why do people carve jack-o-lanterns? Why do children dress in costumes? Where did the tradition of bobbing for apples at parties originate? Why, when children approach a stranger’s door, do they enthusiastically exclaim, "trick or treat"? How did the custom of orange and black as the colors of Halloween get started? Where did these rituals originate? 

Druidism

Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the Celts, inhabitants of Britain and Ireland, observed a festival on October 31st. Unlike modern-day Halloween, theirs was no children’s holiday. The Celts and their priests, the Druids, celebrated Samhain, a festival that marked the eve of the Celtic New Year, which began on November 1. The fall harvest was complete and winter loomed ahead. The Celts believed the power of the sun was fading. For the next several months, darkness would prevail.

The celebration of Halloween was observed by idol worshipers long before Christ came. The ancient Druids of Britain, the Romans and Greeks, and others, all kept a Halloween festival. It was not until many centuries after the death of Jesus and his apostles that popular Christianity began to observe such a night.

Michael Judge, writing for the New Age periodical Common Boundary, explains Halloween probably began between 1000 and 100 B.C., among the Celtic people. The actual holiday was a commemoration of the new year (Sep./Oct. 1993, p. 29). It was at this time of the year that Baal, the Celtic god of Spring and Summer, ended his reign. It was also when the Lord of the Dead, Samhain, began his reign (Ibid.).

Proinsias MacCana writes, "During this interval the normal order of the universe is suspended, the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are temporarily removed, . . .  all divine beings and the spirits of the dead move freely among men and interfere, sometimes violently, in their affairs," Celtic Mythology, p. 127.

As a part of the Druid festival, men and women had to fear not only the departed spirits, who were to return during the evening hours, they must also fear the Druid priests themselves. It was a time of mass human sacrifice. "Men and women, young and old, criminals and innocents, were forced into huge wooden and thatch cages. Often these cages were fashioned in the shape of giants — ‘wicker men’ — perhaps representations of Samhain himself. At a signal from the presiding Druids, these immense structures were torched, everything in them burned to cinders." After the sacrifices, the Druids held thanksgiving meals around "roaring bonfires," Common Boundary, Sep./Oct. 1993, p. 30.

One of the cardinal reasons for this celebration was because of the Celt’s belief in "life after death," Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Richard Cavendish, editor, p. 171. While this belief in itself is certainly not an erroneous belief, their application of this belief lead them to several faulty conclusions.

"Because the Celtic day started at sunset, and ran to the following sunset, the festival began on the eve of 1 November, when the souls of the departed were supposed to revisit their old homes in order to warm themselves by the fire and to comfort themselves with the good cheer provided for them in the kitchen or the parlor by their affectionate kinsfolk. All Hallows’ Eve, as the beginning of winter and the dying time of the old year, was a night when the dead stalked the countryside. Offerings of food and drink were put out for the ghosts," Man, Myth and Magic, Vol. 1, p. 67.

It was believed by the Druids that during Samhain, the dead would play "tricks on mankind and caused panic and destruction. They had then to be appeased," Ibid., Vol. 4, p. 440. Part of this appeasement process involved the giving of food to the spirits as they visited the homes. This formed the foundation of the modern practice of "trick or treat."

Another common belief of the Celts was the idea that those who had died the previous year "had been transformed into animals." Thus, to welcome the dead on this sacred night, the Celts "dressed as animals." Then, "As the dawn broke, they made a great parade to the edge of the settlement, in hopes of leading the ghosts into paradise," Common Boundary, Sep./Oct. 1993, p. 30.

The ceremony of Halloween underwent an infusion of other pagan influences when the Celt homeland was absorbed by the Roman empire. While Rome allowed the Druid priests to continue all their ceremonies, "except human sacrifice," new rituals of Roman origins were also incorporated. "Chief among them was the worship of Pomona, goddess of the harvest. Representing bounty and fecundity, Pomona was shown in art sitting on a great basket of fruits and flowers, a horn of plenty at her feet. Apples were the sacred fruit of the goddess, and many games of divination involving apples entered the Samhain customs through her influence. One of the most popular involved bobbing for apples," Ibid..

Centuries later, Pope Gregory III moved All Hallows’ or All Saints’ Day, the day which commemorated the saints and martyrs, from 13 May to 1 November in an attempt to Christianize the pagan festival of the dead, Man, Myth and Magic, Vol. 1, p. 67. On All Hallows, many churches staged pageants in which participants would dress up either as patron saints or demons. This became a way to celebrate All Hallows or perhaps to scare away real demons, Halloween and Satanism, pp. 36-37.

The custom of celebrating an All Souls’ Day can be found throughout the world. Funk and Wagnalls’ Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend tells us: "Essentially, All Souls is the adaptation of an almost world-wide custom of setting aside a part of the year (usually the last part) for the dead. The Babylonians observed a monthly Feast of All Souls in which sacrifices were made by priests." In Folklore, by James Napier (p. 11) we read: "There was a prevailing belief among all nations that at death the souls of good men were taken possession of by good spirits and carried to paradise; but the souls of wicked men were left to wander in the space between the earth and moon, or consigned to the unseen world. These wandering spirits were in the habit of haunting the living . . . But there were means by which these ghosts might be exorcised." This satisfaction was through gifts and food that might be set out for them. Also shelter would be provided for these souls. According to these superstitions, if you could please these spirits, they would not bother you; however, if they were not pleased evil things would befall you.

"The Miztecs of Mexico believed that the souls of the dead came back in the twelfth month of the year, which corresponds to our November. On this day of All Souls the houses were decked out to welcome the spirits. Jars of food and drink were set on a table in the principle room, and the family went out with the torches to meet the ghosts and invite them to enter. Then, returning to the house, they knelt around the table, and with their eyes bent on the ground, prayed the souls to accept the offerings," Adonis, Frazer, p. 244.

So, throughout the ancient pagan world, we find a similar pattern for appeasing or making offerings and gifts to the dead. Of course, there are differences in the methods, but the same purpose prevailed in all.

Michael Judge gives the final historical link in the evolution of the name for this holiday when he writes, "Grafted onto one of the Church’s great holy days, Samhain became All Hallows’ Eve, contracted over years of usage to All Hallow’s E’en and, ultimately, Halloween," Common Boundary, Sep./Oct. 1993, p. 31.

As a result of time and external influences, the holy day of Druidism was beginning to wane. Judge explains, "The religion, Druidism, that had supported the original ritual had been destroyed. Parades were still held through the towns, but increasingly only children went about in costumes, and not to appease ancestral spirits but to frighten their neighbors into giving them sweets," Ibid

In America

The many rituals of Halloween found their way into America through a most interesting set of circumstances. Judge writes, "Halloween might have died out altogether, but late in the 15th century, something happened to ensure the survival and growth of the customs in lands far away from those that had created it. In 1492, Columbus landed in the New World," Ibid.

With the founding of America and its basic premise of Freedom of Religion, those who believed in the Druid traditions would once again be allowed to practice their customs. However, it was not an immediate rush to the shores of the New World. Rather, it took a potato famine to get things moving.

In 1848, millions of Irish emigrants poured into America as a result of the potato famine. With this sudden influx of people, the holiday of Druidism found its new home on alien shores. "Proudly Celtic, they called Halloween Oidche Shamhna (‘Night of Samhain’), as their ancestors had, and kept the traditional observances," Ibid.

Just as the Celtic religion of Druidism had incorporated costumes from its Roman conquerors (Pomona worship, with her horn of plenty and sacred apples), so the Celtic religion adapted to its new environment. Things in America were different than they had been in Ireland. America possessed a bountiful harvest of a new product — the pumpkin.

The Irish also did something that has become the indelible symbol of Halloween in America — they made jack-o-lanterns. The original jack-o-lanterns were potatoes or turnips carved and illuminated by Irish children and used to light Halloween gatherings. They commemorated Jack, a shifty Irish villain so wicked that neither heaven nor the Devil wanted him. Rejected by both the sacred and profane, he wandered the world endlessly looking for a place to rest, his only warmth a glittering candle in a rotten potato," Ibid. Hence, the jack-o-lantern finds its historical place in the history and religion of the Celtic people.

Further, the same can be said for the use of orange and black as traditional Halloween colors. "Even the traditional colors of Halloween reflect its Celtic origin. Orange is the color of the autumn harvest, black the symbol of death," Ibid., p. 30.

Another custom often associated with Halloween may find its roots in the religion of Druidism as well. Many children associate not only ghosts and goblins with Halloween, but also the witch and her black cauldron with it. There may be an historical reason for this.

Ross Nicholes, writing in Man, Myth and Magic states, "Samhain is a more mystical occasion, being concerned with the link between living and dead; the ritual is Breton and uses the cauldron, ancient symbol of the Mother, and the Four Foods of the Dead," Vol. 6, p. 722.

Thus, on October 31st of every year, children throughout America carry on a tradition that began in Druid paganism. They carve pumpkins to be illuminated by candles. They decorate their homes and class rooms in the colors of orange and black, generously strewn with witches and cauldrons. They dress as spooky creatures, the living dead, or in other macabre images for the evening’s activities. As they go door to door, gathering sweets, they exclaim "trick or treat," which sometimes includes the harmless activities of pranks. Many adults place a horn of plenty on the kitchen table as a fall decoration or enjoy a game of bobbing for apples at a party. All of these rituals find their origins and historical significance in the religion of old Ireland — the religion of Druidism. 

Christian Response

Because of its Occult history and symbolism, many informed Christians avoid any activity that would appear to support, promote, or celebrate Halloween. Other Christians attempt to minimize the glorification of Halloween’s Occult roots by refusing to directly participate in costuming or activities where witchcraft, Satan, or demonic themes are prevalent. They feel that participation in Halloween and even trick-or-treating, is acceptable, if alternative costumes and themes are substituted or gospel tracts are given at the door. There is not total agreement among believers and churches concerning appropriate Christian responses to this pagan holiday. Knowledgeable Christians at the very least, will certainly want to avoid Halloween’s more obvious glamorization of the Occult. The Bible is replete with warnings and examples of involvement with the Occult. Occult practices are an abomination to the Lord, Deuteronomy 18:10-12, and Witchcraft was a crime punishable by death in the Torah, Exodus 22:18. The New Testament gives several examples of proper Christian response to the Occult, Acts 19:19; 2 Corinthians 6:14

God’s Viewpoint

At this point, we might note that God had told his people not to imitate the pagan peoples: "Do not adopt the ways of the nations," Jeremiah 10:2. Again God had told them: "Do not have recourse to the spirits of the dead or to magicians; they will defile you," Leviticus 19:31. The Scriptures very pointedly tell us that "the dead know nothing," Ecclesiastes 9:5. They are not able to come back and haunt the living. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," Ezekiel 18:4.

After Christ came, his disciples, too, were warned against imitating the pagan religions. "What pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Yahweh and the table of demons," I Corinthians 10:20, 21. The early disciples refused to partake in the paganistic rituals for the dead. But something happened after the apostles died. As the early disciples were either killed or died, the "gentile" disciples fell away from true worship. These apostates began to do the very opposite of what the scriptures said to do. They adopted the ways of the pagans. The foretold falling away from true worship was corrupting the early church. Matthew 7:22, 23; II Peter 2:1; Acts 20:29, 30

False Worship Infiltrates Popular Christianity

Approximately 100 C.E., Emperor Hadrian built a temple to honor the pagan goddess Cybele and other popular Roman gods and goddesses. This temple was called the Pantheon. The Romans also used this temple to honor their dead. Later, the Christ-professing Roman Church took over this temple. Did they destroy its abominations? No. Instead, they adopted the ways of pagan Rome, only they now used the temple to pray to the Virgin Mary and other proclaimed saints. May 13 was chosen as a special day of prayer for the souls of the saints who were believed to be suffering in "purgatory." This day was called "All Saints Day."

In 834 C.E., the date for this celebration was changed to November 1. The name of the celebration was also changed. It was now called All Hallow, meaning "all holy." "E’en" was later added as a contraction of "evening," thus producing the familiar term "Halloween," meaning "Holy evening."

It was no accident that the Roman church chose the November 1st date. As we have already mentioned, it was on this date that the Druids of Britain, the Norsemen of Scandinavia, and the pagan Germans kept their festival of ALL SOULS’ EVE. Most of these peoples were now under Roman control. They had been "Christianized" by threat of loss of life. They had become "Christians" in name, but clung to their pagan ways. In order to accommodate this situation, the Roman church decided to just adopt the pagan ways, and call them "Christian." The various deities that the pagans prayed to were given names of the church saints. It was thought that by doing this the pagan ways of the people could be pronounced clean. However, the people in general, were still pagan at heart. The sentiments of pagan worship remained. It was just called "Christian."

Has this pagan influence waned in our day? Note this: "In many Catholic countries the belief that the dead return on this day is so strong that food is left on the tables (Tirol, Italy) and people (France, Italy, Germany) still decorate the graves of the dead," Funk and Wagnalls’ Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, Vol. I, page 38. The influence of these beliefs can be seen in practically all nations upon the earth today, whether professing Christ or pagan religion.

Today many peoples also have their festivals in which they make gifts and offerings to the dead. On the Chinese New Year, you may find many Chinese Buddhists offering gifts of food, clothing, and money, by burning them. Supposedly these gifts will help the dead on their journey. "In the Far East the festivals of the dead include family reunions and ceremonial meals at ancestral tombs. Mexicans observe November 2 as Día de Muertos ("Day of the Dead") with celebrations in cemeteries made colorful by offerings of flowers, earthen pots of food, toys, and gifts, along with the burning of candles and incense," Funk & Wagnalls’ New Encyclopedia, 1986 Edition, Vol. 10, page 146.

All false worship can trace its origin to the Babylonian worship. 

What About Today?

Should a person who desires to please God lend his time and support to such a celebration? Should he allow his children to participate in the popular activities associated with this pagan festival? Where is the emphasis on this day? Is it on developing the fruits of the Spirit, or does it tend to develop a spirit of "licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness," etc. Galatians 5:19-23? Does it promote the love of Yahweh and his Son, Jesus, or the devil, demons, witchcraft, and a host of other activities which are directly condemned in the Bible?

Another thing to note also, is that similar celebrations were carried on in ancient Babylon. This would indicate that Halloween is a product of the "Babylon the Great" spoken of in Revelation 18:2-4, "Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty, loathsome bird. All the nations have been intoxicated by the wine of her prostitution; every king of the earth has committed fornication with her, and every merchant grown rich through her debauchery. A new voice spoke from heaven; I heard it say, Come out, My people, away from her, so that you do not share in her crimes and have the same plagues to bear." "The Devil . . . is deceiving the entire world," Revelation 12:9.

God calls his people in these last days to come out from the worship and practices of Babylon and to accept the true worship that characterized the primitive faith and practice of the apostolic Church. The early Church followed the Biblical liturgical calendar along with the Jews. True worship has not been wholly eliminated from the earth. God has had true witnesses who have kept the knowledge and worship of God intact.

— written by Sidney Davis

NOTE: For additional reading, see the book, The Two Babylons, by Alexendar Hislop, available from Giving & Sharing for a $14.00 donation. Hislop’s Two Babylons is also available on computer disk, ASCII (Text) format, along with Giving & Sharing Newsletters 31-40. Ask for Disk D013 ($2.50 donation). Giving & Sharing PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849.

 

Additional Articles:

Should a Christian Observe This World's Holidays?
Christmas is NOT Christian
Christmas Reinvented
The Plain Truth About Easter

Main Holy Day Menu

 

Written by: Richard C. Nickels
Giving & Sharing
PO Box 100
Neck City, MO 64849
United States of America

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