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The History of Halloween

Name: Story of Halloween Title: Story of Halloween Custom File Name: story_halloween.html


And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them: and His disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto them, "Allow the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:13-14)

In North America, the yearly observance of Halloween amounts to a multi-billion-dollar industry, second only to Christmas...selling costumes, candy and food items, party supplies, greeting cards, tours of so-called haunted houses, and other forms of entertainment. In fact we have a robust selection of black and dark brown trees suitable for use at a Fall Harvest celebration. But, what is the history of this particular day? The story may surprise you.


More than two thousand years ago, a people called the Celts (Kelts) lived in what are now Ireland, Great Britain, and France. Among the Celtic people was an elite intellectual class known as the Druids, who served as religious priests, judges, lawmakers, and scientists. They had an elaborate pagan religious festival, along with certain rituals. Chief among these was the Fire Festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-en), observed at harvest time to mark the Celtic New Year.  The Celts believed that on this night the barrier between the natural world and the supernatural was removed, and the spirits of the dead were able to move freely among human beings. Samhain was the most solemn and important night in the Celtic year.


After the Roman Catholic Church brought Christianity to the Celtic peoples in the seventh century, some of their traditional folk customs were Christianized. In 835 A.D. Pope Gregory IV moved the church's "Feast of All Saints" from the spring to November 1st to replace the observance of Samhain. All Saint's Day, still observed today by many Christians, honoring believers who are dead in the Lord. The night before All Saints Day, featured a sacred vigil in Catholic church, became known as "All Hallow's Eve," or Halloween. But the old practices of the Druids died hard and were denounced by the church as witchcraft. This is how Halloween became known as a witch's holiday.


Dressing in costumes and going door-to-door comes from a much later tradition popular during medieval times in the British Isles. Minstrels (musicians) in masks and actors/ players would go from house-to-house, putting on a simple drama or musical performance in return for food and drink. Often these performances had Christian themes. That practice was not restricted to Halloween. Christmas caroling from house to house is a part of that tradition as well.

The "trick-or-treat" custom we know today is thoroughly American in origin. In the nineteenth century, when Irish and Scotch immigrants brought their Halloween traditions to North America, the night became an occasion for pranks and mischief. Vandals would go through the night, soaping windows, overturning outhouses, and pulling gates from their hinges. These pranks were playfully said to be the work of witches and ghosts, but by the 1920s the joke wasn't funny anymore. The damage to neighborhoods was mounting.

To counteract Halloween vandalism, community clubs like the Boy Scouts organized alternatives that were safe and fun. Children were encouraged to go door-to-door and receive treats from homeowners and merchants, keeping the troublemakers away. By the 1930s, the practice was popular nationwide, and young voices crying, "Trick or treat!" were echoing through neighborhood streets. In this way, a combination of pagan, Christian, and civic elements formed the Halloween celebration we know today.

When I was a kid (never mind how long ago that was!) Halloween was every bit as much fun and exciting as Christmas day. The only "evil" that we had to consider was the possibility of a sick stomach from eating too much candy.  In recent decades, however, a renewed interest in the old pagan beliefs and satanism has blossomed in North America. Popular entertainment, including television shows like "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer," and even "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," make occult themes and witchcraft seem fun and acceptable. The result is that Halloween today has become strongly associated with the spiritualism, the occult, worship of satan and a preoccupation with fear or death — all of which the Bible (Scripture) and the church warn against.


In recent years Christians and the church have written this holiday off as "the devils day". I think that we need to reclaim our place in it for the glory of God. First, it is our obligation to know and share the truth about this "holiday" which is not celebrated as a "holy" day any longer in our culture. We can not escape the negative symbols or spiritual influences of the day. However, you can redeem some part of the event by making a prayerful, loving effort to reach the young people around you with the truth of God's personal and never-ending love for them. Halloween, like Christmas, is a time when the spirit of giving and receiving prevails. God's love and redemptive power does not stop working on Halloween. As an agent of His grace, you can share His love on Halloween just as you would any other day of the year. There are children (and parents) in your neighborhood who need to know that God knows them, loves them and cares about their circumstances. That is a message which Christians are uniquely empowered to share. Plus, you don't have to go find them. They will be coming to you.


1) Remember, there are kids all around you who need to know and feel the security of God's caring love for them. This year, attach a small, colorful, personal card that emphasizes the love of Jesus with the wrapped candy that you distribute to the children in your neighborhood. You can purchase tracts with fun activities and a gentle (or strong) message at these websites: American Tract Society, Moments With The Book, Good News, Chick Publications (for older kids and adults.) Or, make your own small card and staple wrapped candy inside. Pray that every seed you sow will bear fruit and God's love will touch the heart of every child.

(2) Should you choose to, have a small harvest-themed party in your home or a larger one at your church and invite the children in your neighborhood.  Avoid the obvious negative symbols of the day - anything that is bloody, gruesome or grotesque. Kids get enough of that just about every other day of the year. Keep it clean, stay focused on the beauty of the fall /harvest season which God has created as well. Have fun, good food, games and activities and take time to gently share the love of Jesus with each child in a personal way. 

How to decorate? Black ( which represents the passing /dying of summer) and orange (which represents the change in seasons and fall crops) are most commonly used for Halloween. In recent years retailers have been promoting items with black and purple as the dominant colors for decorating on Halloween. But, you can decorate with fall or harvest themed colors ( brown, orange, dark yellow, red) only and use a fall theme.

(3) Make a unique celebration for your kids ( family, friends or neighbors ) from one of the other special days and events that take place during the month of October:

(4) If you can't bear to keep your kids away from "trick or treat-ing" make their costumes with a historical, literary or biblical character theme. Again, avoid the obvious negative symbols and anything that is bloody, evil, gruesome or grotesque. Have your kids bless every home from which they receive candy with a brief, hand written "thank you" or a loving, Christian-themed "God bless you" that includes an invitation to salvation. And, pray that those seeds will bear fruit as well.

"REDEEM THE TIME (MAKE GOOD USE OF YOUR TIME) FOR THESE ARE EVIL DAYS." Ephesians 5: 16. Satan is not a joke. And, evil is real. Though the Bible clearly states that God is the highest authority in the earth, the heavens and under the earth, He gave Satan a certain amount of power. The evil in this world is under Satan's control. Satan was the first being in history to openly defy God. He also started a way of life that was self-centered and rejected God's authority. His rebellion marked the birth of sin, which is the rejection of God's love and a refusal to live by His commandments. Today sin infects and afflicts the entire human race and even the earth upon which we live. We are all guilty of sin and therefore all deserve sin's penalty. But God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the ultimate penalty for our sins. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [to die], so that whoever believes in him shall not be eternally lost but shall instead, have eternal life."  

If you would you like to know more about becoming a Christian, please click here.

If you already are a Christian and would like a few Scriptures to guide you today, click here. Part of the text above was adapted from a tract available (along with other colorful and gently gospel themed pamphlets) from the American Tract Society (now owned by Crossway)


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