What About Halloween?
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
I was recently asked to give a presentation on the history of Halloween, as well as a Christian response to this holiday. The audience was surprised to learn that Halloween actually began as a most Christian of holy-days. Even the name defines it as a Christian celebration: Hallowed means holy. Een is an abbreviation of evening.
In Jewish celebrations, sundown is the signal of a new day, and the Christian faith continued that tradition. Christmas Eve, the night before Christmas, is a great example. So what was the Hallow-een leading into? All Saints Day, a time of celebrating all of God's saints who have gone before.
This holiday was commemorated since the time of the earliest martyrs for the faith, but was officially recognized by the Catholic church beginning in the 7th Century. At that time, it was celebrated in the spring. In 835, a three-day celebration known as Allhallowtide was moved to October 31-November 2. The first night was a celebration that included parties, night-time parades and processionals. The next day was All Saints Day, and the last day was All Souls Day.
So how did Halloween lose it's association with the other two days, and become a celebration of ghosts and all things scary and evil? Unfortunately, the church gets much of the blame. During the Protestant Reformation, anything deemed "too pope-ish" was rejected as unchristian. As Protestants walked away from Halloween, the forces of sorcery, the occult, and spiritism were more than happy to fill the void.
So today, most people know nothing about All Saints Day and All Souls Day, or Hallow-een being a Christian holy-day. Fortunately, many followers of Jesus Christ are working hard to reclaim the celebration by shining light into the dark places. Trunk or Treats, Fall Festivals, and Light the Night celebrations hosted by churches shouldn't be viewed as "alternatives" to Hallow-een, but as a reclaiming of what the church let slip away.
Reading the Bible, one learns that God is all about celebrations and rejoicing. As the Baker Evangelical Dictionary notes, "The word 'celebrate' is the translation of the Hebrew verb hagag, which means to prepare, keep, or observe a feast or festival."
Whether an individual family or church chooses to celebrate Hallow-een or not is their business, but no Christian should run from the word Halloween itself. A Holy Evening. Holy means "set apart for the service of God." That's how this holiday began. What a great thing it would be to see it returned to its roots.