In the last several years I have read countless articles on the celebration of Halloween… some say Christians should have nothing to do with it and others say it’s no big deal. Honestly, I have found it all very confusing and frustrating. As a Christian I want to orient my life around the glorification of Jesus Christ and as a mother, I want to teach my kids to do the same. However, with so many conflicting and passionately held positions, it has become very difficult to know what direction to take.
This frustration inspired me to launch my own little mini research project and what I found has challenged me to rethink my entire approach to holidays in general, not just Halloween. Let’s take a look at some of my findings. (Please see links listed at the bottom of this article for references)
As most Christians already know, Jesus was not born on December 25th. In fact, no one really knows when Christ was born because the Bible doesn’t say, so how in the world did we end up with Christmas in December? Most sources I have read trace the origins of the modern day Christmas celebration to the Roman holiday called Saturnalia. It was to honor the Roman god of agriculture named Saturn and was celebrated by a myriad of activities including gift giving, reversal of order (slaves and children were waited upon by masters and parents), drinking, gambling and a strange practice of setting up a mock king known as “The Lord of Misrule” who was sometimes killed at the end of the festivities. It’s kind of dark actually and not very Christian.
Halloween of course is the most obvious offender for pagan origins. It originated in Ireland when the Celts would celebrate the end of summer and harvest in a festival called Samhain on October 31st. It was believed that on that night the boundary between the living and the dead was blurred and the Celtic priests, also known as the Druids would lead the people in engaging in divination and sacrifice to their pagan gods. Also not very Christian.
Easter is named for the Saxon fertility goddess Eastre/Eostre and was celebrated at the time of the spring equinox which closely coincided with the Jewish Passover. Bunnies, being a symbol of fertility, were frequently used in the celebrations honoring Eostre along with eggs, which were considered to be a representation of new life. There is actually very little information to be found about Eostre but she is said to have been derived from the Babylonian goddess, Ishtar whose rituals were highly sexual. Again, not a Christian holiday.
So now that I have successfully ruined every major holiday I am sure you are asking yourself “What’s the point of all this? Should we just not celebrate anything?” The point is we are gentiles and unless you are Jewish, there is no such thing as a truly God-centered holiday except for maybe Thanksgiving. So the real question to ask is, as gentiles redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ what do we do with our pagan holidays? Well I think there are two things we should do and two things we should not do.
What to do:
The first thing we should do is look at the scriptures for guidance. In Romans 14 Paul says this “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God…” This verse indicates that the observance of a special day is not the important thing; the important thing is that whatever a person does he should do it for the love and glory of our Savior. Colossians 2 echoes this sentiment when it states “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” Other good passages to read on this subject are 1 Corinthians 8, 1 Corinthians 10 and Galatians 5, but I think it’s pretty clear that what is important to God is not the celebration itself, but that the heart of the person celebrating is intentionally focused on honoring Him.
In light of these scriptures, it is also clear that we have been set free, not for the purpose of self-gratification but for the glory of Christ. Such things as divination, witchcraft, debauchery, fornication and pagan gods are all clearly described in scripture as evil, forbidden and should certainly not be celebrated. So the second thing to do is choose what we celebrate. During each holiday season we should focus our celebration on what honors God and the good things that He gives us to delight in. It is hard to argue the fact that modern day Halloween festivities are still very centered on the celebration of death, witchcraft and the grotesque. However, this can easily be remedied by focusing on celebrating God’s provision of harvest time. There are lots of ways to do this, including fall festivals, family events and block parties but the important thing is to be intentional about avoiding the dark aspects of the holiday. As for Christmas and Easter, I think it is helpful to remember that God created bunnies, eggs, and Christmas trees. Just because the pagans have used them for a corrupt purpose does not mean that they are actually bad in and of themselves. 1 Corinthians 8 supports this idea when speaking of food sacrificed to idols saying “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him.” To put it more simply, let’s redeem all we can and leave out the rest.
What not to do:
Now moving on to what we should not do. I do not think we should be ignorant of the pagan aspects of our holidays. I think we should honestly confront them and use the opportunity to explain to our children why we do not believe in those things, why they are dangerous and why it is so important to make Christ central in all that we celebrate. 1 Corinthians 10:14-33 emphasizes the dangers of paganism and clearly states that “all things are lawful but not all things are profitable.” We need to be very purposeful in how we teach our children to redeem the culture. God is the author of all good things and it is Him alone who deserves the glory.
The second thing we should not do is treat each other with contempt over something as ridiculous as a holiday celebration. Scripture commands Christians over and over again to live in unity and peace with one another. Romans 14:10 specifically warns us against holding our brother in contempt, stating that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 1 Corinthians 8:9 commands us to not let our liberty in Christ be a stumbling block to our brothers and that goes both ways. As mentioned in the scriptures above, we are both free to observe a day and to not observe a day and neither the one should point a condemning finger at the other. The worst witness against Christianity is not when someone dresses up in a tinker bell costume on Halloween but when we treat each other with contemptuous judgment. This we should never do.
Well, I think that concludes my thoughts on holidays, pagans and Christians. I have spent many years struggling over this subject and I truly hope that I have helped some other parents out there with making decisions for their family. God Bless and Happy Holidays to all!
Links for Christmas Origins:
Links for Easter Origins:
Links for Halloween Origins: