For many, the month of October isn’t the beginning of, well, much of anything, but the end of several things. It marks the dwindling sunlight with shorter days, the end of the harvest, the end of warm weather and the end of that feeling in the air, the feel of summer. These feelings are only regional for the Northern Hemisphere because this is the beginning of early autumn. It is also the celebration of a new year according to the Jewish calendar (Sept/Oct; Leviticus 23:23-32). In fact, there are three festivals celebrated during this time in Judaism, the Feast of Trumpets (Jewish New Year; Rosh Hashanah Numbers 29:1-6); the Feast of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur Leviticus 23:26-32) and the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles or Ingathering Nehemiah 8:13-18).
So why do so many look at October with disdain or depression? My dad never looked at this time of the year that way. We would enjoy rides through the country fascinated at the colors of the changing leaves. This was also time for my dad’s ability to prepare his signature pickled corn in an old-fashioned crock. There was another practical reason dad enjoyed this time of year, long sleeves. This would mark the end of sweating for the Knight generation. We could finally walk outside without a sweat towel. It’s this idea of things ending that October ushers in that holiday which for some is marked with darkness and creepy things, Halloween!
Where did this celebration of the dead come from? How should a Christian approach such a celebration supposedly rooted in paganism? We must look a little closer to the origin and then consider our own hearts in the matter of the celebration. We must enter the land of Ireland/Scotland.
Tradition holds that a group known as the Gaelic’s lived in this area and celebrated Samhain, a festival that marked the end of the harvest and beginning of winter. Often celebrated on October 31st and November 1st. Samhain is believed to have been rooted in Celtic paganism and is mentioned in Irish literature and mythology. The early customs were to gather all resources to close proximity. They would choose which livestock to consume for food over the winter and gather the dead crops in piles to be burned. Some of these piles were very large and considered bonfires that accompanied rituals. But this is not exactly where Halloween spawned. The Romans celebrated Lemuria, a feast where they would attempt to rid their homes of fearful ghosts on May 13th. According to the promptings of Pope Gregory III (731-741; most powerful/influential pope in history) the feast of All Hallows’ day was moved from May 13th to November 1st in an effort to overlap two pagan/false religion festivals. This ultimatly led to the currently known holiday of Halloween.
So how are Christians to approach this festival/holiday? I can’t help but think of Romans chapter 14 where we are presented with the Law of Liberty and the Law of Love. Christians understand God to be sovereign and He alone has allowed things to come into being, including Halloween. However, in light of God’s Word in Romans 14 we should not provoke our brothers and sisters who view this holiday to be a stumbling block to participate. Allow those who wish to refrain to refrain, but for those that wish to participate, as your shepherd, I only ask one thing, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31. That being said, we should understand that God alone is LORD and no other. Regardless if Halloween has roots in a pagan holiday, we should avoid applying validity to false worship, for their bonfires and festival rituals meant nothing, because they were dedicated to “nothing”. Only God handed them over to their depravity.
On Halloween October 31, 2023 celebrate in the manner you see fit according to your conscience and convictions in line with God’s Word. Celebrate five-hundred-five years ago in history, on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses upon the annals of Christendom and dress up in costumes with the intent of sharing Jesus. We are to be the light and salt of the world, so dress up as a candle, dress up as a Maglite, dress up as a container of Morton Salt, you can also dress up as dry bones come to life from Ezekiel 37:1-14. Go Trick-or-Treating with the Gospel on the tip of your tongue, but before you go ask where your heart is at on the matter.
Blessings In Christ, Pastor Bryan W. Knight