American Halloween History and Celebration—Is God Okay With It?

Edwin Eby

Bible Doctrine, Sin and Forces of Evil

The Halloween holiday and season represent an ancient European variant, All-Hallows’-Even (“evening”), that is, the night before All Hallows’ Day.

All-Hallows’-Even probably dates to ancient Celtic festivals celebrating the end of autumn. The Gaels believed autumn was a time when the physical and the supernatural worlds were closest. They believed that magical things could happen at this time, and that man could see and join with cosmic spiritual warfare. During this time they sought help from the spiritual world for protection and guidance. In preparation for the cold of winter and food supplies for the long days ahead, they built huge, symbolically regenerative bonfires and invoked the help of the gods through animal and perhaps even human sacrifice.

However, even more predominant as it parallels modern Halloween observance is the endorsement of the Roman Church (also its counterpart Eastern Orthodox Church) festival of All Saints Day (also known as Hallowmas, All Hallows, and Hallowtide). The Roman Church held many perverted beliefs honoring departed saints and souls—thus death, purgatory, hell, divination, vampires, and ghosts permeated the spirit of this day. As the Roman Church greedily contended for money and advantage, they invoked numerous pagan, wanton, and depraved traditions for souls purged in purgatory. They christened souls by the custom of bread baking, ringing bells, etc.

Among this strange mélange of beliefs, they also taught that souls of departed humans wandered the earth, and that All Saints Day was a last chance for the departed souls of the wicked to obtain vengeance upon their enemies before being cast into the next world. Roman saints wore costumes to disguise themselves and avoid detection by these seeking souls. Saints followed lighted candles set by others to guide their travel for worship the next day—All Souls Day, in which saints were worshiped. By the end of the 12th century the Roman Church had crafted these celebrations as “spiritual obligations” across much of Europe.

British Protestantism curbed and brought defame to this licentious season with the advent of the Reformation, since it denounced purgatory as a “popish” doctrine incompatible with predestination. The Puritan New England establishments in North America continued to reject these Roman Catholic promulgated heresies. Puritans maintained strong opposition while Old World Scottish and Irish Catholics continued these “holy obligations.” But with mass 19th century immigration of Roman Catholic Irish and Scottish, the holiday was introduced to the North American continent in earnest. By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, people of many social, racial, and religious backgrounds coast to coast were accepting Halloween and its associated traditions.

Halloween imagery includes themes of death, hell, evil, occult, mysticism, and mythical monsters. Horror films and literature, and Gothic symbols prevail. Witches, spirits, divination, and skulls are common. Black and orange are the holiday’s traditional color mark. Elements of the autumn season include pumpkins, corn husks, and scarecrows. Around Halloween, homes and businesses often decorate with these types of symbols.

Jack-o-lanterns represent the traditions of the Irish/Scottish Roman Catholic “souling” custom of carving turnips into lanterns to “lighten the path” of souls locked in purgatory. The New World immigrants, though, took to using the pumpkin, which is easier to carve than the turnip; thus the cultural mass selling of the pumpkin for decorations, jack-o-lanterns, and Halloween.

Costume wearing of course, in like manner to the depraved practice of avoiding soul avengers, is included in present Halloween observance.

Trick-or-treating is understandably begat, as children guising as “seeking souls” ask for vengeance—“give me a treat or I will bring vengeance upon you.”

Ghosts and spirits are naturally the children of this evil, presumptuous affiliation with spiritual darkness.

Death, Hell, and Tombstones become an insatiate, illicit desire for those who belong to its darkness.

All present day Halloween celebrations and traditions, including their extended decorations, are direct symbols representing either the depravity of old pagan Celtic beliefs that autumn was a time when the physical world and supernatural world collided, or the Roman Church religious vices of soul purging, departed saints, or rituals to appease darkness.

A Kingdom of Light Response

Should children of a Kingdom of Light accept celebrations and implications of the Halloween season and a day that represent a Kingdom of Darkness? Should they consider it innocent or removed by time? Is celebration parallel with using Greek mythology names for months and days, etc., or that we acknowledge other pagan cultural names, nouns, and places? No!

Is there is a difference between acknowledgement of a thing and acceptance? Yes! Paul and our apostolic elders recognized darkness as a reality; in like manner we concede Halloween as a day, a word, and a reality. We give assent that there is darkness and that there is a door to its realms. Men can access the powers of darkness. However, we refuse affiliations or willingness to accept its power or influence.

As spiritual darkness saturates American and religious cultures; closeness to demons, the devil, and the obscurity of holiness in favor of openness to hellish darkness should be expected. As men invite the darkness of spiritual conflict and power, its fury is further invoked and permitted in their lives. This applies culturally and individually (2 Timothy 3:13).

Friends, the days are flagrantly evil. Blatant darkness prospers. Spiritual adultery is reality and “innocent” agreement is the devil’s strategy.

Is God okay with it? No!

“But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils” (1Cor 10:20).

“Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1Thess 5:22).

“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Rom 13:12).

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5:11).

“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1Thess 5:5).

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