20 October 2005

Halloween - Has it Gotten a Bad Rap?

I've had Halloween on the mind lately. I have been struggling as a believer in knowing what to make of it all. I have heard it called "the Devil's birthday", or "Satan's holy-day", "All Hallow's Eve", There is much confusion in these assertions, and a lot of history to sort through in order to have an understanding about the holiday Americans celebrate on October 31st.
I have come across several very interesting articles on Halloween origins such as one done by the History Channel called This article outlines the Celtic festival of the dead, and the tradition of dressing up in costumes on what was considered the eve of their new year, when it was believed that there was a blurr between the worlds of the living and the dead. Eventually around circa 800, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1st All Saint's Day - a day to remember and honor saints and martyrs, essentially, the dead. it is also widely believed that this was an effort to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a church-santcioned holiday. The old English word for this celebration is Alholowmesse - meaning literally "All Saints' Day" and the night before it, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.
I also stumbled upon an article by Christan Apologetics and Research Ministry on the origin of Halloween. The conclusion of this article assesses that the origins of Halloween are a mixture of old Celtic pagan ritual superstition and early Catholic tradition. I would definitely recommend anyone interested in learning more read what is written here. It is clear and concise, outlining scripture specifically addressing some of the negative aspects of Halloween, such as witchcraft, the occult and demons, of which the believer should beware.
The author of the CARM article also points out how other symbols, which had pagan origins have been redeemed by Christians, such as the Christmas tree. It's origins indicate that it was originally an ancient fertility symbol. As believers the evergreen tree has come to symbolize eternal life afforded to us because a Savior was born, to die on a "tree", to pay a debt He didn't owe because we owe a debt we couldn't pay.
The bottom line is that a person's decision to celebrate Halloween or not is based on their heart. What do the things associated with Halloween mean to you? The author of the apologetics article uses the references where Paul speaks about eating the meat sacrificed to idols. Where one man's freedom allows him to eat that meat with no association to the pagan worship it derived from, based on his life and history another man may not. (I Cor. 10) Our freedom in Christ, and our living of our lives is based on the conviction of the Holy Spirit working in each of us individually. In your heart, are you associating with Satan and his minions by passing out candy and allowing your children to dress up for Halloween? Or do you you see this as a tradition rooted in Americana, with no attachment to the "dark side"?
In the 70s my brother and I would dress up and take our pillowcases off of our bed. We would walk five blocks in one direction - as far as we were allowed to go without an adult - and get our pillow sacks half full. We would then go home and dump them on our beds, and go five blocks in the other direction! I did not grow up in a "Christian" home, and yet in my mind Halloween was ALL about candy and dressing up and not about the devil.
I read another interesting article that suggests believers are giving Satan a foothold by withdrawing from this holiday. The author asserts that while we lock ourselves up in our churches for this holiday we are missing out a valuable opportunity to be a light in a darkened world, on the one day when the world appears on our own doorsteps. Interesting perspective.
I am not saying to celebrate Halloween or not to celebrate Halloween. My concern is that as believers we level mandates at one another. It is not our job to legalistically regulate the lives of those around us. I can't tell you the times I've heard a self-righteous believer proclaim "We don't DO Halloween." In all honesty, it makes my skin crawl - not that I don't understand the sentiment, but that I am reminded of the prayer of the Pharisee, wherein he proclaimed to God all that he wasn't - and patted his own back for being so much better than the next man.
There is no conclusion to be found in this post - I am still torn on this issue. I would love to hear your comments and what you're thinking about the issue. Please check out some of the articles I've linked above, and if you're passionate about this one way or the other, please count slowly to 10 - and backwards again if necessary and please post your comments in a loving way that may reach the hearts of anyone who reads what we have written here!

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