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Some Notes on Halloween

Adapted from lecture notes from Singapore


Some four thousand years ago, the ancient Celts settled in lands known today as Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. To them, October 31 was the end of summer. As temperatures dropped and leaves began falling in autumn, nature almost seemed to be dying. To explain the change in climate, legend has it that Celtic priests, known as Druids, taught how Muck Olla, their sun god, was losing strength and Samhain, the lord of death, was overpowering him. As a result, the Celts began celebrating a festival on November 1 in dedication to Samhain, naming it after him as well.

On Samhain Eve, the Celts celebrated the festival by burning animals (and even humans) as sacrifices to Samhain to appease him. The Druids weaved an elaborate story: the souls of the dead were magically transferred to and confined in animal bodies. Therefore, every Samhain Eve, the myth went, Samhain released the souls of all who had died during the previous year to their former homes to visit the living.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Samhain was an important precursor to Halloween. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on the day of Samhain, and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to appease supernatural powers and thought to be the most favorable time for divinations concerning luck, health, and death.


On Samhain Eve, the Druids, as well as the common folks, would go from house to house asking for fatted calves, black sheep, and human beings for sacrifices. Those who gave were promised prosperity while those who refused were cursed and threatened. Furthermore, it was believed that since the returning spirits would be hungry, one should set out treats for them in order to avoid being cursed and tormented. This was a custom known as “mumming” and in other parts of the Western world, “souling.” This is believed to have gradually evolved to the modern custom of children requesting for treats or threatening tricks, commonly known as the practice of “Trick-or-Treat.”


On the eve of Samhain, the Celts masqueraded in costumes made of animal skins and heads to disguise themselves from the returning souls. Tradition has it that they would chant and dance around flames and parade through streets making loud noises in the hope of warding off or confusing the returning souls. It is believed that these practices have been perpetuated in the form of today’s Halloween where revelers dance in elaborate ghoulish masks and costumes at wild parties, or parade in street carnivals.


It is commonly believed, based on several records, that by the fourth century, the churches in the east were holding a feast dedicated to all martyrs on May 13. Hence, in 609 A.D., when Pope Boniface IV wanted to dedicate the Pantheon in Rome as a cathedral in honor of Mary and all martyrs, he picked May 13 for the occasion. From then on, it was known as All Saints’ Day.

However, in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III moved this holiday to November 1 to coincide with Samhain. The move was effected by dedicating a chapel in St. Peter's, Rome, in honor of all saints on that day.

Subsequent ecclesiastical documents, such as the 800 A.D. Alcuin records and a ninth century English calendar, show that All Saints' Day was kept on November 1.

Finally, in 837 A.D., Pope Gregory IV ordered its general observance. In medieval England, the festival was known as All Hallows’ Day (referring to the saints being hallowed beings). Accordingly, the eve of the festival was known as All Hallows’ Eve, which became abbreviated to just Hallows’ Eve and eventually just “Halloween.”


First and foremost, Halloween and its festivities are distinctly pagan in origin. Furthermore, underlying Halloween is the deceitful theory that spirits of dead men return to the world of the living. Ecclesiastes 12:7 says: "Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." Christians unknowingly promote heresies by celebrating Halloween.

Second, Halloween is openly associated with demonic activities such as witchcraft, fortune-telling, and necromancy. Deuteronomy 18:9–13 warns: “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things [are] an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.”

By celebrating Halloween, we embrace the ideals of this festival’s pagan origins and demonic associations, an image unfit for a faithful Christian.

At one time, Manasseh “practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists." The Bible described what he had done as “evil in the sight of the Lord” and noted that these acts of his “provoked the Lord to anger” (2 Chr 33:6).

Acts 19:18–19 records that those who became Christians renounced all dealings with the occults and burned all occult materials they had. Paul condemned witchcraft: "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are ... sorcery." 1 Peter 4:3–5 adds: “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles--when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

Third, a danger of Halloween is the popularization of the devil and the normalization of the practices of darkness. The propaganda of its festivities allows children to easily accept the occults and then be entrapped. The devil remakes himself as a pop-cultural icon and a celebrated personality. Christians are warned: “I do not want you to have fellowship with demons,” "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” "Nor give place to the devil.” Ephesians 5:6–12 says: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light ... And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”

Fourth, we should guard ourselves against Christians of other denominations who propose that since the import of Halloween to the Western world was due in large part to the Catholic church, the festival is in fact positively ”Christian” in nature. Deuteronomy 12:28 lays the fundamental lesson here: “Take heed to yourself that you are not snared by following them, after they are destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise. You shall not do so unto the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burned in the fire to their gods. Whatsoever thing I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor take away from it.”

God’s edicts for us are simple and straightforward. He has no desire to see us adopt the religious customs of our neighbors, especially if they are satanic in nature, and transplant them to our worship of Him. Let us be clear about our faith and our standards of true worship.