The American culture and that of other countries around the world are approaching their celebration of Halloween. At the same time, we are looking through and beyond that celebration to Thanksgiving, the opposite of Halloween.
A bit of internet research gives this history of Halloween: Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Sanheim (pronounced sow-in), when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory II designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samheim. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or- treating in a number of countries around the world. As the days grew shorter and the nights got colder, even today, many people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.
Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient 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 Samheim, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, to cause trouble and damage crops. The Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly souls made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, cold winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids build 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. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
Out of this description five things appear to be conspicuous in the lives of the Celtic Halloweeners:
- Celebrants of Halloween (Sowheim) depended only on nature for their provision. Christians depend on God for the sufficiency of their provision, understanding that, Matthew 6:33, But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [provision, etc.] shall be added to you.
- Celebrants of Halloween depended only on remnants of their sacred fire for their protection. Christians depend on God for the security of their protection, understanding that, Psalm 46:1a, 7, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble . . . . The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
- Celebrants of Halloween depended only on animal and crop sacrifices to atone themselves before their Celtic deities. Christians know this issue differently for we know I Samuel 15:22, Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice. And of course, as Christians, we believe and understand, Romans 5:11 (KJV), . . .but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received atonement.
- Celebrants of Halloween earnestly, but misguidedly through witchcraft, sought prophetic insights into the future. Christians know, Amos 3:7, Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. And we also hear God’s rhetorical question from Jeremiah 6:10, challenging the witchcraft predictions of the Celts, To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot give heed.
- Celebrants of Halloween lived lives of desperate fears, fears of the cold, the winter diseases, the lack of food, and of the roaming ghosts. Christians know, Psalm 46: 1, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear (our troubles).
What a contrast between Halloween and its origins, and Christianity and its origins! As you are tempted by the cultural temptations of Halloween, be careful that you do not get drawn into worshipping the created rather than the Creator. Be careful that you don’t, as a Christian, cause a stumbling block for others by condoning Halloween’s misguided focus on fears instead of trust in God, and its misguided focus on the natural, secular and fleshly with the satanically supernatural, rather than a rightly-guided focus on the love and power of the living God, dwelling in you.
Take this pending occasion of Halloween to study Romans 8:5-19 (READ): For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally-minded is death, but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors – not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father”. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of his present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
So, carnal-mindedness is death because it is enmity to God; those in the flesh cannot please God; the flesh only produces death and the Spirit of God in Christ produces only life. We are called, V. 13, to put to death the deeds of the body, so that by atonement, reconciliation through Christ, we receive the Spirit of adoption as children of the Living God, not the spirit of fear. We see that those five things the Celts worried about, and which are absorbed by tradition and its organic DNA into the Halloween celebrations of today, should all be viewed by Christians, V. 18, even when our circumstances of food and protection and prophetic insight are at their worst for us, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Conclusion: As Christians we are looking past Halloween, annually and eternally: we are looking forward to that other fall celebration, Thanksgiving, when circumstance, fear and superstition are intentionally set aside by Christian believers who choose to rely on God, through Jesus Christ, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and the prophetic voices of God’s prophets for our provision, our protection, our atonement, our vision for the future, and our peace of mind. We know what to do in our lives: to trust in God, and to pray unceasingly, and to be content in all circumstances, and to live in the knowledge of the word of God and fighting the good fight in the full armor of God, Ephesians 6, when having done all we can do on our own, we stand, we stand, we stand in faith, not groveling around our re-lit hearth fires hoping for favor from the roaming ghosts. Get real; get with God and stay there.
God bless you and amen+