Originally published in The Calhoun Times October 24, 2015
Anytime I am asked a direct question in the form of “What do Christians believe about (fill in the blank)?” I say it depends on which Christians you ask. Some Christians do not drink alcohol while others have no problem with it. The same is true with dancing, celebrating Christmas, praying to Mary, joining the army and even voting. I can tell you what my family does at our house and, generally speaking, what we believe as a church congregation. Unless you live in my house or join the church I pastor, I am really in no position to say what you should or shouldn’t do on Halloween. But I am a newspaper columnist so if you’re interested I will share my opinion.
Is Halloween pagan? As much as I hate to say it the answer is a little yes, a little no. The word itself is adapted from Hallows Eve, which occurs the day before All Saints Day on November 1st. October 31st is still regarded in some Christian circles as Reformation Day because it was on the last day of October in 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door of the church at Wittenberg. Why that day? Because everyone would get a chance to see them on November 1st because every church member would come to mass on All Saints Day. The modern day celebration of Halloween is a hodgepodge of traditions and practices, combined with mythology, that bears no recognizable resemblance to the Christian observance of Hallows Eve. It’s really not pagan as much as it’s just… a mess. Most pagan celebrations occur around important season changes, like the winter solstice or the spring equinox. The “Christian holidays” Easter and Christmas are more rooted in pagan tradition than Halloween.
Wreaths, greenery, lights (candles), gift exchange and even the decorated tree are older than the celebration of Christmas. Celebrating the birth of Christ is extra-biblical. I don’t believe that it’s wrong, but there is no mandate in the New Testament to observe it. We celebrated Christmas when I was growing up but never had a tree because of Jeremiah 10:2-4. In Jeremiah’s time there was no “Christmas tree.” They were still waiting for the Christ! Centuries ago, Christians borrowed pagan practices and repurposed them for Christian worship. That’s about the nicest way I can say it. The date for Christmas, or Christ’s Mass, was set on December 25th because it closely corresponds to the winter solstice. By the Middle Ages, European pagans were having a big winter festival and Christians used the birth of Christ as an excuse to have a party of their own. Some Christians today have nothing to do with Christmas because of its history. In a few weeks I will write about Advent, Saint Nicholas Day, and offer some suggestions for how to celebrate the season without all of the trappings (i.e. commercialism) of modern Christmas in America.
If you have ever tried to explain to a child what hiding colored eggs has to do with the resurrection of Jesus then you already know about the problems with Easter. Spring brings new life and rebirth and that’s where the eggs and the bunny rabbits came from. The spring equinox is around April 21st each year and the first day of May is traditionally the date for the pagan festival of Beltane. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. That is again a date set long ago by the Catholic Church. Should Christians celebrate the resurrection? Absolutely; and we should do so every Sunday. What you do with Easter is up to you.
Most Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, but not everyone uses the traditional dates I’ve mentioned here; those are the dates I expect my readers to be familiar with. Some Christians do not observe these days or any special days or seasons. And like I said earlier, such overservance is extra-biblical. There is no mandate in scripture to do any of these things. So back to the original question; what about Halloween?
I believe Halloween is one of those things we shouldn’t take too seriously. I went trick-or-treating as a child and today I’m a church pastor. We take our daughter trick-or-treating and hand out candy to other kids. Carving a Jack-o-lantern now will not lead to sacrificing a cat in a pentagram later. But once again, my wife and I make decisions that affect our family as you must do in your home. If you turn off the lights and go to bed early that’s your business. If you tell my child there is no Santa Claus, you’re in my business. And we are commanded to respect each other.
Unity Baptist Church had Trunk ‘R Treat Wednesday evening. Check out our pics by clicking here.