Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Halloween and Christianity Part Two: How Halloween Began

I bought some leopard jammies at Target the other day for the upcoming women’s retreat (with which I hope to win a prize). The cashier assumed I was buying them for Halloween. When I told her no, they were for a Chocolate Retreat at church, she said it sounded like much more fun. We agreed it was too bad she lived so far away, otherwise she could have come too.
The next day, I walked into our bank and it was like entering an ancient crypt. Thick cobwebs swathed the fireplace, spiders hung from the ceiling,  fiends lurked in dark corners. The counter was festooned with skull and cross bone caution tape at a child’s eye level. A lot of effort had gone into the d├ęcor. We all want to have fun and get silly from time to time. But it makes a difference what we celebrate.

I grew up considering Halloween harmless fun. But in 1992 my church showed the movie Halloween: Trick or Treat? and I began to wonder what I had been celebrating all those years. Jeremiah Films interviewed a number of church leaders, law officials, former occult members, and practicing witches. They also showed actual footage of cult worship that chilled me to the bone.

Those saved from the occult, feel pretty strongly when asked what they think about believers celebrating Halloween. Former Satanist Glenn Hobbs said:

“It makes me sick...Christians should be the ones who are standing up against this. There are people out there who don't just celebrate Halloween with Trick or Treat candy. This is a religious holiday to them. This is something holy and sacred, and they are taking innocent human life. I can't say, ‘go ahead and have Halloween fun’...because Satanists are using this as a smokescreen.”

After seeing the movie, I did some research of my own. Among many other things, I found out that Halloween is the High Holy Day for Satan worshipers. I didn’t want to participate in a cover up for evil, but I knew it would be hard to give up the fun associated with Halloween.

That’s exactly why, centuries ago, Church leaders started filling the calendar with Christian holidays – so people could put energy into festivals that glorified God. One of these holidays has been completely forgotten by Christendom. 

 In the seventh century, Pop Boniface IV declared an All Saints celebration in May - to remember Christian martyrs. Less than two centuries later - orgies, animal and human sacrifices, and nature worship were still practiced every fall. So Pope Gregory III moved All Saints Day from May to November first. Instead of worshiping demons, he hoped people would choose to celebrate life and light and faith. 

However, new superstitions sprang up. People surmised if Saints were honored on All Saints Day, then evil spirits must roam the earth in All Hallows’ Eve. So if they had to go out on October 31, they would dress like demons. If the spirits thought they were one of them perhaps they would leave them alone. Others put out food to appease them and ward off bad luck.

Soon dressing in costume, fortune telling, collecting treats, and Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) parties gained popularity. When people from the British Isles immigrated to the United States, they brought Halloween with them.

Today, the church has virtually forgotten All Saints Day. I had never even heard of it until I began researching Halloween. But I love the idea of focusing on a Christian holiday. I’m not advocating somber marches to the cemetery and death masks. No, I think it should be a day to party and give thanks for all saints (which the Bible tells us is just another word for a believers), whether they were martyred or not. Christians throughout history have made it possible for us to have a personal relationship with Christ, because they kept the faith. That’s worth celebrating!

When I tell people I observe All Saints Day, not Halloween, they often say, “Well ,that’s different.” Yes indeed, I think that’s the point. God tells us to, “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2). Refusing to conform is different and delightfully full of freedom.

I hope you will join me for part three of this series: “The Writing on the Wall.” It will cover the themes of Halloween and how they compare to the life of faith.

#historyofhalloween #allsaintsreplaceshalloween #allsaintsfortoday #reclaimOctoberforGod


  1. Dear Readers,
    Interestingly enough, I have never had problems with fonts or sizing on my blog entries before. But since starting this series on Halloween, the spacing, fonts, and size have changed by themselves and no amount of work on my part will fix them. A coincidence? I don't think so. I have received a lot of emails and enthusiasm from you about this series. I think people are hungry to know how we can best honor God and I'm excited about your interest. Please keep me in prayer as I continue with this series.

  2. This is a fabulous series. I've not "celebrated" Halloween since the 1970s, but also, I haven't heard a lot of what you are sharing with us in this blog. Whew! good information. Thanks.

  3. Just read the newest installment of the series - rescuing All Saints Day from the dust bin of history, huzzah! You are right, without the faithfulness of all the saints throughout history, it would not have come down to us today. That IS something worth celebrating.

  4. Love this, Beth! So glad to have met you this week! :)