The last time I went trick-or-treating I was about 4, and I dressed in a Barney costume. My mother helped me stuff newspaper in the tail. And then we stopped celebrating Halloween, and it became an evil day in our home.
This was true of many of my Christian friends as well. In elementary and middle school, I wasn’t the only one who either went home early or had to watch the rest of the kids have fun.
But why? Is Halloween really evil from the Christian worldview, or is that a fallacy?
According to a post titled “What’s Wrong with Halloween” by the apologetics website ChristianAnswers.com, “to some, Halloween truly is a ‘holy’ day because it is set aside to worship the devil.” The post also posits that Halloween is “one day that many people consider a holiday that ignores God completely.”
The reasoning ChristianAnswers presents is along the lines of what many Christians believe who choose not to celebrate Halloween. This is the type of reasoning I grew up hearing.
However, many are ignorant about the history of Halloween or “All Hallows Eve,” including, presumably, the ChristianAnswers writer himself.
According to an October 2014 article by Huffington Post “Five myths about Halloween,” the holiday was originally a Celtic festival called Samhain, which “marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of the new year.” This day was Nov. 1 for the Celts.
The Celts “believed that the souls of the dead mingled among the living at that time.” The harvest was associated “with death, the afterlife and the supernatural.”
According to a post by Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), the Celts associated the changes of this time of year with superstition such as fairies and “the spirits of the dead [who] wandered around looking for bodies to inhabit.”
To prevent the spirits from possessing them, the living “dressed up in costumes and paraded around the streets making loud noises to confuse and frighten the spirits away.” Since Samhain marked the new year for the Celts, it “was believed to be a day that was in neither the year past or the year to come.”
In the midst of this day, which they considered to be chaos-filled, people would pull practical jokes on others.
According to both the Huffington Post article and the CARM post, Samhain was converted to All Hallows Day or All Saints’ Day, a day to honor all the saints of the Catholic Church.The eve of this became All Hallows Eve when Ireland was converted to Christianity by missionaries such as Saint Patrick.
The history of Halloween as a supposed “devil holiday” stems from when the Catholic Church changed Samhain to All Saints’ Day, according to the article.
“It was only when the Catholic Church tried to supplant Samhain and other native holidays that the church branded practitioners of rival religions as devil-worshipers. Beliefs in the wandering dead persisted, but the supernatural beings honored by the Celts became associated with evil. And the Celtic underworld became associated with the Christian hell.”
The original Halloween “featured feasts, the blessing of the hearth and the lighting of candles and bonfires to welcome wandering souls” and “remains a family celebration in Ireland,” according to the Huffington Post article.
A possible precursor to trick-or-treating developed out of a later custom of going door-to-door on Nov. 2. On this day, people would exchange small cakes “for the promise of saying prayers for some of the dead relatives of each house.” This arose out of the belief of the state of limbo, according to CARM.
Another possible precursor to trick-or-treating as we know it “is largely a product of an effort by local governments and businesses in the 1930s and 40s to promote an alternative to pranking and the rowdier aspects of Halloween,” according to folklorist Tas Tuleja in the Huffington Post article.
Halloween does have some pagan origins, but so does the Christmas tree, which most Christians put up in honor of celebrating Jesus’ birth. The Christmas tree “was originally an ancient fertility symbol,” according to CARM.
So, if we use a pagan symbol as a symbol of Christmas without batting an eye, I’m inclined to think that dressing up and having fun on a largely U.S. commercialized holiday is, too.
You can choose whether or not to dress up in observance of Halloween or not. But now you have the history of it. If with this history you are still uncomfortable with it, then of course you have the option not to observe the holiday.
Follow Breanna Grigsby on Twitter: @Bre_Louise