Halloween is a celebration of death and the Western world are gearing up for it. Pumpkins are being carved, the shops are full of scary masks and fake blood, children are planning their trick or treat costumes and households are buying in to give to “trick or treaters”. In all this commotion we stop to consider what the Bible might have to say about the ideas behind the celebration of Halloween.
What is Halloween?
Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31. The celebration originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, also known in ancient Rome as the Feast of the Lamures. During this pagan celebration, people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off evil spirits.
It was in the eighth century, that Pope Gregory III proclaimed that November 1 was the time to honour all Catholic saints. This was called “All Saints Day”. Soon the celebration of this day began to merge some of the traditions of the pagan celebrations. People would dress up as saints, devils and angels.
The name Halloween is actually a contraction of the words “All Hallows' Eve”. A hallow is an old English word for “saint”. Halloween then is actually the eve of “All Saints day” - or Hallowmas - which takes place on November the 1st. It actually marks the start of a three-day observance called “Allhallowtide” - a time which churches dedicate to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows).
This can be seen when one visits Catholic online. On this website we have it spelt out for us: “All Saints' Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have attained heaven. It should not be confused with All Souls' Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven… Generally, All Saints' Day is a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation, meaning all Catholics are required to attend Mass on that day, unless they have an excellent excuse, such as serious illness.”
Halloween then is supposedly a Christian celebration. However many of the religious elements are now not known or engaged with by the average participant. Unknown to many but they are marking and celebrating the corruption of Christianity as it compromised with paganism.
According to a BBC page on the pagan celebration of Samhain “It was the time of year when the veils between this world and the Otherworld were believed to be at their thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most readily mingle with the living once again… To celebrate Samhain the Druids built huge sacred bonfires. People brought harvest food and sacrificed animals to share a communal dinner in celebration of the festival. During the celebration the Celts wore costumes - usually animal heads and skins. They would also try and tell each other's fortunes.”
So this is the true origin of the festival which explains where all of the Halloween traditions such as cutting up and putting lights in pumpkins, dressing up as zombies, skeletons and dead people and going “trick or treating” come from. It was a superstitious pagan feast adopted and tweaked by the Catholic Church and then subsequent Churches. It is also connected to the occult and Satan worship. Nowadays it has evolved into a secular celebration with these origins virtually lost in the mists of time, giving way to money making and entertainment.
According to USA today “Consumers are expected to spend a record $10.14 billion on Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation.” In the UK, according to finder.com, “...we can expect Halloween spending in 2021 to be around £607 million”.
What does the Bible say about these things?
At the heart of the ideas behind Halloween is the concept of the immortality of the soul. Whether pagan or Christian this idea is at the centre of the celebrations. The basic concept is that when someone dies their soul lives on as a spirit to live in the afterlife and it is these sprits who are honoured, celebrated, feared and remembered at Halloween. However this idea is not found in the Bible - in fact the Bible plainly speaks of the dead being completely unconscious:
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing…” Ecclesiastes 9:5
“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Psalm 146:3-4
“For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee…” Isaiah 38:18-19
The scriptures then clearly teach that death is a punishment for sin and is the end of life. The Bible teaches that Adam was the first to bring sin, and therefore death, into the world. That he was warned in the garden of Eden not to eat of the forbidden fruit and that if he did the day he ate of it he would begin to die (Gen 2:17). The Bible also tells us that the soul is not immortal. It simply means the “living being” or “life of a person” and so will perish with them when they die. The following passages prove this:
“…the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4
“He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;” Psalm 78:50
“All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.” Psalm 22:29
These verses are worth bearing in mind as society celebrates Halloween - when the spirits of dead people are honoured, celebrated, feared and remembered. These spirits do not exist.
What should the believers reaction be?
For those who follow after Christ we know that pagan gods do not exist. We understand that the soul is not immortal and that the only hope of life after death is that of the resurrection of the dead that will take place when Jesus returns. Would it be a good idea for us to be mixed up in this festival which celebrates things which are in direct contrast to the truth revealed in God’s word? This is a question we must all answer on a personal level. However perhaps this passage from Philippians chapter 4 and verse 8 might be helpful:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
This has been Matt Davies joining you for the Bible in the News. Join us again next week God willing.