Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?31 Oct 2017
By Fusi Mokoena
Retrieve or Retreat?
As a child I always celebrated Christmas and Easter in the small South African town in which I grew up. Even before I was a christian, I always believed in the christian message of Christmas and Easter. That might surprise you, but I would say it was due to the fact that South Africa has always seen itself as a predominantly christian country.
I experienced a massive culture shock when I moved to the UK. During my first year there I was looking forward to my birthday, and I told a few friends that it was approaching, and one particular person burst into laughter and jokingly said, “Oh dear! Do I need a costume for your birthday?” It was then that I got to know that the 31st October is celebrated as Halloween in much of the world. Just to say, there were no costumes on the day.
The question was posed to me by one member of our church recently, ‘do christians celebrate Halloween?’ This was a genuine question as this person wanted to know what I believed. I’m sure there are a few who have not had a chance to ask me this question but are still very interested to know what my thoughts are on Halloween. So, here we go:
The Origins of Halloween:
Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. To commemorate the event, Druids/magicians built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.
There’s so much we could say about this event, but I think you can understand the meaning behind it is far from christian. Few celebrations in our day are free from pagan roots—almost all had a pagan heritage that was later seized and transformed by a christian culture, 25th December being celebrated as Christmas is the ultimate example of this. Could perhaps 31st October, too, be reclaimed as a christian holiday?
Although many people around the world celebrate Halloween on the 31st October, it’s worth knowing that after 1517 on the same date, Christians started celebrating reformation day. That’s because October 31st 1517, a German monk called Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. This act triggered the Reformation as they were immediately translated and distributed across Germany in a matter of weeks. The Protestant Reformation was the rediscovery of the doctrine of justification—that is, salvation by grace alone (Gal 2:21) through faith alone in Christ alone.
The question, ‘do I celebrate the reformation or halloween?’ still lingers in the minds of many. A lot of christians, at least here in our city, know about halloween, but not many know about the reformation day. So do we try to teach christ-followers the importance of the reformation in order to help them understand why they should celebrate this day? I think we need the bible to help us know what we should do and think.
This is what Psalm 118:24 says about the 31st October for every christ-follower ‘This is the day that the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ Colossians 1:16 goes further to say that ‘all things have been created through him and for him.’ The phrase ‘all things’ here includes the 31st October. For christ-followers, the 31st October is like the 1st November, or any other date in the year. Each day we are given the privilege to enjoy and celebrate what Christ has done on the cross for us, and each day, we need the Holy Spirit to help us to know God more, and draw closer to Him. Now, as to how we conduct ourselves each day of the year; Paul’s questions in 2 Corinthians 6:14 are so helpful for us – For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? Again, 2 Corinthians 6:14 is for every date in the calendar.
There are three options for christ-followers in the city. We either retreat, compromise, or retrieve. We can retreat by pretending we don’t know what is happening, or compromise our faith by going with the flow, or we can look for ways to retrieve. I say we retrieve/redeem by learning to see this day as God’s day; use it to celebrate Christ, whether as Reformation day or in other creative ways . We are to recognise that God made this day for us to enjoy His goodness and His grace, to glorify Him, to love people and to be bear fruit for Him. This means, we are to see the 31st October through the eyes of Christ.
Halloween has a pagan origin, which in it’s nature, is not christian
Christ-followers are called to walk in the light and in righteousness – 2 Cor 6:14
October 31st is the day the Lord has made and we are to rejoice and be glad in it – Psalm 118:24
October 31st has been created through Christ and for Christ – Col 1:16
Let us be creative and use every opportunity to celebrate and redeem the 31st October to the glory of Jesus