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Thursday, October 29, 2015

In Defense Of Halloween

About four years ago I wrote this on a different blog, and I thought it was worthwhile sharing it here this year as I have a larger readership on this site.

I am a born-again, conservative, evangelical Christian.  And I love Halloween.

This isn't exactly the common perspective and comment among such Christians, but frankly I get a little tired of hearing churches and Christians come down on the holiday.  I know there are plenty of sites and emails touting the horrible, pagan events surrounding Halloween and why Christians should run as far away as possible from these events.  But let me give some of my reasons why I hold a different opinion.

First, let's look at the origins of Halloween.  The name itself originates from "All-Hallow-E'en", or the evening before All Hallows Day.  Also called All Saints Day, this is a solemn holiday on November 1st celebrated by many Christian denominations.  The day commemorates all who have attained sainthood and hold a special place in Heaven.  The name Halloween was first used in the 16th century.

The events around Halloween are mostly attributed to the Celtic celebration of Samhain, though older origins have been suspected.  Samhain was seen as an end to the "light" part of the year and the beginning of the "dark" part of the year.  The day was not a celebration of the darkness, but a recognition of the transition from one part of the year to the other and usually involved bonfires to ward away the darkness and evil spirits.  Yes, modern Wiccans do still recognize the holiday, but as a way to honor and pay respect to people who have passed on, not to perform evil ceremonies (no I'm not advocating or supporting Wiccans, just pointing out the facts).

Most of the traditions we now associate with Halloween were actually used to trick or ward off evil spirits, not encourage them!  Costumes and masks were used by the Gaels to trick ghosts and other evil beings into thinking that the people were actually some of their own kind, and therefore not anyone to try and harass or possess.  Pumpkin-carving originated with large turnips that were hollowed out and placed in windows with lit candles inside as a way to repel evil spirits (while turnips were common in Scotland and Ireland, where the practice began, immigrants to America used the larger and more common pumpkins as an alternative).  The practice of carving pumpkins was a harvest-time tradition in America and didn't become specifically associated with Halloween until the late 1800s.

So as you can see, the day of Halloween stems from a belief that evil and ghosts more easily walked the earth on this night of transition from light to darkness, and the desire of the people to protect themselves against such horrible things.  As Christians, we should very much support such ideas and traditions, as we also should seek to prevent and ward off evil influences.  Costumes, pumpkins, and other things associated with Halloween are supported by our fight against Satan and his minions, though we call on the name of Christ rather than these trappings.   There is NOTHING inherently evil about these things, and nothing against God.

What about all of the pagan symbols associated with Halloween?  Shouldn't we avoid it because of such things?  Yes, those of us who are Christians should not support anything that is going to promote a view other than that the Bible is true, Jesus is the Messiah, and God is the supreme power in the world.  We should worship only God, and nothing or no one else.  But is participating in Halloween supporting pagan rituals?  I hardly think so.  Anyone who can't discern between worshiping Gaia, casting a spell in a circle of candles, and dressing in a costume among friends needs to get a big dose of reality-check.

Okay, so what about the pagan origins of the holiday?  Yes, Samhain started among the pre-Christian Celts and Gaels.  So?  If we ignore or lambaste Halloween because it has a few traditions that started among non-Christians and pagans, then we also need to get rid of our two big Christian celebrations:  Easter and Christmas.  Don't believe me?  Let's look at a few things very briefly. 

One of the biggest symbols of Easter in modern culture is the Easter egg.  Painted eggs date back to the ancient Zoroastrians many centuries before Christ was born.  Christians have looked at the egg as a symbol of new life, renewal, and resurrection.  However, similar beliefs of the symbolism of eggs were also held by ancient Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Gauls, and Chinese.  A rabbit associated with the date can have origins with the goddess Eostre. Notice her name?  The monk Bede wrote that Easter derives its name from this deity, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring.  So "Easter services" at churches are invoking the name of a pagan goddess!

Christmas has even more pagan influences.  First of all, the date is nowhere near when Jesus would have been born.  If you read and analyze the Biblical accounts, Christ was born in the Spring.  So why do we celebrate it in December?  Around that time of year the Winter solstice occurs, which was a major pagan holiday as the longest night of the year.  There are various debates as to why this time was chosen to celebrate Christ's birth, but many believe that it was a method of the church to entice pagans to celebrate Christ by associating their existing holidays with Christian ones.  The church couldn't get rid of the celebrations already established during this time, so they provided alternate ones.  The Roman holiday of Saturnalia is most commonly associated as the source of the date, and involved gift-giving and celebration.  The colors of red and green traditionally represent the fertility of males and incubation of females, a rather pagan viewpoint.  Red berries, mistletoe, holly, and wreaths all have pre-Christian origins among pagan beliefs.  Christmas trees were first used as such in the mid-15th century.  However, pagans commonly looked at evergreens as a symbol of everlasting life, and would use them in their celebrations.

Many traditional, conservative Christians are against Halloween because of the pagan origins and images.  Yet if we applied the same analysis and criticisms in the same way to other holidays we wouldn't be able to say "Easter", have Easter eggs, Christmas trees, Christmas presents, and a host of other things that we as Christians hold dear.  If we can adopt and use pagan traditions in other holidays, or even ignore where our "Christian" traditions come from, why can't we do this with Halloween?

What does Halloween mean to us in the 21st century?  Ask a child about the holiday and they'll say that it's all about dressing in costumes and getting free candy.  They have no idea at all about anything "evil".  Yes, some of the decorations and costumes have monsters, ghouls, ghosts, and other scary things.  But such images are not inherently evil, nor are spooky stories.  The Bible has numerous stories involving ghosts, witches, demons, and the dead coming back to life.  As long as we are not holding Frankenstein and vampires above God, it's merely harmless fun.  

Let's be real, folks.  Halloween is harmless fun and even its origins are about repelling evil, not celebrating it or succumbing to it.  There is nothing wrong with a Christian participating as long as they keep God in their heart.

1 comment:

  1. I just came across your blog and I'm really enjoying it. I'm not a religious person myself, but would like to offer some insight on paganism. Pagan isn't just one religion. Pagan is a name given by early Christians to those who were not Christian, Jewish, or Islamic. Most Pagan religions were polytheistic. That doesn't mean they're evil. It means they believe something different. Witchcraft isn't the evil spell making that Hollywood has made it out to be. People who practice Witchcraft believe in the time of threes-what they do will happen to them threefold. Wiccan is a religion that believes everything on earth is divine and often use herbal remedies for curative purposes. They turn to prescription medicine as a last resort. Many people misunderstand what these religions are and the people who practice them are put into a bad perspective. When churches were erected in Europe in the middle ages and the religion became more popular, many Christians demonized Pagan religions and they are still taught this belief to this day. My one wish in this world is acceptance among religions. My question, from a person who does not believe in a higher being (me), is how is one religion right and the others are wrong? Each religion believes their religion is the true religion. Some just tolerate other religions more than others. I celebrate the holidays because they're fun. They have no religious meaning to me, but I still incorporate those ideas in the way I celebrate. To me, Halloween is just a fun holiday, but I'd rather work on that day. I enjoy Thanksgiving (I usually work this holiday as well) because it means family time to me (if I'm not working), even though there actually is a gruesome history to it by people who practiced Christianity (actually, if you really delve into it, Christianity caused a lot of bloodshed when they were trying to eradicate and outlaw Pagan religions). I celebrate Christmas because I get to see my family. I don't really celebrate Easter. Why can't people just enjoy themselves and really understand their history and just appreciate it?

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