The end of October every year brings out all the worst types of celebration. People dress up as ghosts, demons, skeletons, Frankenstein’s monster, witches, zombies, vampires, werewolves, and other evil things; children go round doing trick or treat demanding sweet things from people or else they’ll play a trick on them; people hollow out pumpkins and carve a face on the front, and insert a burning candle inside.
For many people it is “fun”, a chance to go crazy for a night, and behave in a different way to the rest of year. Some people are less extreme and try to make it less to do with evil, and dress up in superhero costumes, or as animals, or other funny costumes.
Some people just use it as an excuse to party that night, and drink a lot, eat a lot, and have fun.
There are some well-meaning churches that celebrate the day that immediately follows, calling it All Souls Day, or All Saints Day, and keep away from the unchristian activities of the night before. Yet they might still have pumpkins and ghost images decorating their church halls, or have parties on the night of Halloween.
In recent years, Halloween, especially in the United Kingdom, has become more of a thing to celebrate than it used to be. When I was a boy, there were a few children who did trick or treat, but hardly any other mentioning of Halloween in general. Now it is a big money-maker for the shops who sell endless supplies of costumes, plastic pumpkins, images of skulls, ghosts, witches, and even witch dolls and other things related to the dead.
But what are the origins of this day? Historically, days began at sunset rather than midnight, as they do in the Bible. So the day starts in the evening with the “hallowed evening” going into the day part which is All Souls Day.
The word Halloween is a shortened version of “hallowed evening”. So what does hallow mean? Many people might recognise the word from the Lord’s Prayer of Matthew 6:9 (“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name”, NKJV).
The word hallow means “to make holy; sanctify; consecrate”, according to dictionary.com. This seems to suggest that it could be a good thing to keep. The “een” part is a shortened version of “evening”, and it is in the evening or at night that people celebrate Halloween.
So hallow means to make something holy. When used as a noun, it refers to a saint. If something is made holy, then it is dedicated to God. A saint is a true Christian, one who has the Holy Spirit in them and is following Jesus Christ. A saint is not a person whom a church decided to call a “saint” after they died because of doing good works.
So where is the connection between the name Halloween and being holy? The Catholic Church, in its early days in the 300s AD, sought to bring many pagan believers into its congregations. But they allowed these people to hang on to pagan customs, and renamed as “Christian”, including things like Christmas and Easter.
All Souls Day, also known as All Saints Day, has its origins in non-Christian beliefs. The day is observed on 1st November. According to Wikipedia, “In Christianity, All Souls’ Day commemorates All Souls, the Holy Souls, or the Faithful Departed; that is, the souls of Christians who have died. Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day… Also called: Feast of All Souls, Defuncts’ Day, Day of Remembrance, Commemoration of the Faithful Departed… Observed by: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Church, various Anglican and Protestant denominations.”
The pagan peoples who were christianised believed that on that day the souls of dead people had a chance to get into Heaven, if they had not already ascended. They believed that the evil spirits would try to prevent such souls on the night of 31st October, and thus everyone alive had to do battle against the evil spirits through various customs.
The Catholic Church continued this, and believed that those who died but who were not already saved, were wandering the Earth that night, needing to be released from the evil spirits who trapped them on the Earth. And so the following day, they celebrated the fact that they had warded off evil spirits, albeit by pretending to be evil spirits themselves, and the spirits of the dead had risen to Heaven.
This All Souls Day is nothing more than a day of celebrating the dead. The “Christian” believers thought that by dressing up as evil spirits, they would scare away the real evil spirits. They thought that the vegetables (turnips were used in Europe rather than pumpkins) that looked like heads with candles in them, would ward off evil spirits as well.
But what are the actual origins of this day? So far we see nothing biblical in its origins. Churches who celebrate these things, even if they don’t do the whole Halloween-type dressing up, are not following the Bible. There is nothing in the Word of God that tells us to set aside a day to pray for all those who died.
The Bible never mentions praying for the dead. There are serious warnings about trying to communicate with the dead, such as in Deuteronomy 18:10–14, “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. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.” (NKJV).
God forbids trying to contact the dead in any way or form. It also follows that praying for the dead is not allowed, especially as the dead are dead, not continuing to live on in the form a spirit or ghost.
“For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, NKJV).
This does not mean they are lost and forever gone. The Bible elsewhere tells us that people will be resurrected back to life again in the future.
This is in stark contrast to what some churches believe, that believers go to Heaven when they die, and sinners go to an eternal life in Hell. Jesus Christ Himself said that no one goes to Heaven, in John 3:13 which reads: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (NKJV).
At that time, there had been many faithful believers who died in the faith (you can read about them in Hebrews 11 as well as many places in the Old Testament), and so you would expect that if saved people go to Heaven when they die, that people like Moses, Elijah, the prophets, etc., would have gone to Heaven already. But Christ said that no one has ascended, not even the most faithful believer. Only Jesus Christ Himself has ever ascended into Heaven, and that only happened when He was alive, not when He was dead.
So there is no biblical authority for celebrating any day connected with the dead, no reason to pray for the dead, no reason to contact the dead, and no reason to keep All Souls Day or Halloween.
Origins of Halloween
Halloween actually pre-dates Christianity. It was introduced into the professing Christian world centuries after the death of the Apostles. “The earliest Hallowe’en celebrations [in Britain] were held by the Druids in honour of Samhain, Lord of the Dead, whose festival fell on November 1” (Halloween Through Twenty Centuries, by Ralph Linton, p. 4). “It is clearly a relic of pagan times” (The Book of Days, Chambers, v. 2, p. 519.)
Other sources shed more light on its origins. “It was a Druidical belief that on the eve of this festival Saman, lord of death, called together the wicked spirits that within the past 12 months had been condemned to inhabit the bodies of animals” (Encyclopedia Brittanica, 11th edition, v. 12, pp. 857–8). It was a pagan belief that on one night of the year the souls of the dead return to their original homes, there to be entertained with food. If food and shelter were not provided, these spirits, it was believed, would cast spells and cause havoc towards those failing to fulfil their requests.
“It was the night for the universal walking about of all sorts of spirits, fairies, and ghosts, all of whom had liberty on that night” (Highland Superstitions, Alexander Macgregor, p. 44). Literal sacrifices were offered on this night to the spirits of the dead, when, so the belief went, they visited their earthly haunts and their friends.
Nothing in those descriptions can make us believe it was in any way Christian. The pagans celebrated it long before Christ, and it involved an unbiblical belief that the spirits of the dead could return to their buried bodies.
The day following, 1st November, is referred to as All Souls’ Day in some churches, and celebrated as a Christian observance. According to Wikipedia, “In Christianity, All Souls’ Day commemorates All Souls, the Holy Souls, or the Faithful Departed; that is, the souls of Christians who have died. Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day… Also called: Feast of All Souls, Defuncts’ Day, Day of Remembrance, Commemoration of the Faithful Departed… Observed by: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Church, various Anglican and Protestant denominations.”
They are commemorating the dead, especially Christians who died. They believed that those who were not saved were wandering the Earth the night before, needing to be released from the evil spirits who trapped them on the Earth.
These beliefs are continued today in how people celebrate Halloween. Especially dressing up as the dead.
But why that time of the year?
The Celts and other Northern people considered the beginning of November as their New Year. This was the time when the leaves were falling, and a general seasonal decay was taking place. Thus it was the right time, so they reasoned, for the commemoration of the dead. Since the Northern nations at that time still began their day in the evening, the eve leading up to 1st November was the beginning of the festival. According to the Roman calendar it was the evening of 31st October.
Pagans would pray to their false gods to prevent demons and witches from molesting them on that night of the dead. And not just in Europe, but also in Mexico.
“The Miatecs of Mexico believed that the souls of the dead came back in the twelfth month of the year, which corresponded to our November. On this day of All Souls the houses were decked out to welcome the spirits. Jars of food and drink were set on a table in the principal room, and the family went out with the torches to meet the ghosts and invite them to enter. Then, returning to the house they knelt around the table, and with their eyes bent on the ground, prayed the souls to accept the offerings” (Adonis, Frazer, p. 244). Today the Mexicans still celebrate Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
So why the end of October, the first day of November? The ancient Druids only recognised two seasons, Summer and Winter. They regarded Summer as starting on 1st May (another pagan holiday, called Beltane), and Winter on 1st November, called Samhain.
Many pagan practices originate dwith the Druids, who worshipped the Devil, creation, mother nature, and practised witchcraft. If we look at the practices of the Druids, we see them continued today in the celebration of Halloween.
For example, why do people put pumpkins out? They cut out the insides, cut a face on the front, and put a candle inside. Pumpkins became popular in America, but in old Europe, they had used vegetables like turnips. It was made like a head, and is sometimes called a Jack-o’-lantern, referring to a fable about a man called Jack who tricked the Devil with a vegetable looking like his head.
Ancient Druids revered the head. They proudly decorated their houses and temples with bloody severed heads. The Druids believed the head housed the soul, hence the light or candle in the skull. The original Jack-o’-lantern was not a pumpkin or turnip, but a severed human head!
“The Celts of ancient times believed that the head was the most sacred part of the human body, for it housed a person’s immortal soul.” (The Pagan Book of Halloween, Gerina Dunwich, p. 32).
The modern custom of going from door to door asking for food and candy also goes back to the time of the Druids. They believed that sinful lost souls were released upon the earth by Samhain for one night on 31st October while awaiting judgment. They were thought to throng about the houses of the living, and were greeted with banquet-laden tables. People greatly feared these spirits and thought that the spirits would harm or even kill them, if the sacrifices they gave did not appease Samhain.
The Druids also made human sacrifices on 1st November, often in the night, which we regard as 31st October. The evidence for pagan origins of Halloween customs is overwhelming. They also started the practice of bonfires, which currently in the United Kingdom is usually on 5th November, also known as Guy Fawkes Night, yet it is just an extension of the pagan Samhain. The original bonfires were bone-fires — the burning of the human sacrifices made by the Druids and satanists.
It was in the early days of the Catholic Church, that Emperor Constantine wanted all the pagans in the Roman Empire to become a part of his “Christian” church. They brought with them their pagan beliefs about the dead, witchcraft, demons, false gods, etc. They kept their Halloween, which was turned into a “Christian” festival.
There was really nothing Christian at all about Halloween, or Samhain as the pagans often called it. It became a part of mainstream Christianity, renamed as something to make it sound holy, but many of the old traditions remained.
Is It Okay to Celebrate Halloween?
Just because it might sound religious or Christian, or was adopted and changed to a Catholic observance, does that make it okay to keep Halloween?
Let’s look at what God says about these things. Read first what the apostle James wrote about people behaving in a carnal way, in the first few verses of chapter 4 of his epistle. When we get to verse 4, we read: “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (NKJV).
And in verses 7–10, we read, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (NKJV).
The celebration of Halloween is all about the dead, Satan, evil spirits, things of the occult, and is definitely not for Christians. God tells us not to be friends with the world — don’t participate in their ungodly celebrations.
God tells us, in Ephesians 5:11, that we should “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (ESVUK).
I am not celebrating Halloween (and never have done), because of its evil connections, pagan roots, and because God tells us to stay away from those things, such as those I listed earlier in Deuteronomy 18:10–14.
3 John 1:11 tells us: “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.” (ESVUK).
We also read in Romans 12:9, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (ESVUK).
And in 1 Thessalonians 5:21–22 we read, “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (NKJV).
We need to abstain from the evil of this world. Halloween is one of Satan’s high days. A bit like a feast day, or holy day, except that it is all about worshipping the Devil instead of worshipping God.
God has ordained for us several special holidays throughout the year. They are the Holy Days and Feasts, which are outlined for us in Leviticus 23. God gave us those days for a purpose. They reveal to us His great plan to save mankind, to expand His Family, and to teach us His ways.
But are these Feasts of God kept by a majority of Christians? In general, Satan has blinded the whole world — read 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (ESVUK).
Halloween is filled with witchcraft, disobedience to God, worshipping the dead, and brings people into open contact with demons and all things evil.
Yet some churches celebrate this time, maybe making it a bit more “Christian” and tone down the evil parts. They call the day after All Souls Day, or All Saints Day, to remember the dead, despite this being a type of worship of Satan.
We read in 1 Corinthians 10:20–22 that we cannot be both with the Devil and with God. You cannot have a foot in both camps. “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” (ESVUK).
The Devil has an agenda, and he has tricked most people into following his ways. God calls us out of that, to be separate, and to not sit at the table of demons.
Everything about Halloween points to sitting at that evil table. None of it is Christian.
There are the children going from house to house, playing “trick or treat”, demanding sweets from the occupants of each home, or else they threaten to play a trick on those people. But the real trick has already been played on most of mankind, by the Devil, who has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9).
And it is not a Christian activity, to demand things from people, to threaten people, or to play tricks on them.
As I said earlier, I am not celebrating Halloween. What you do is up to you. If you are a Christian, then consider what God tells you in His Word, looking again at the scriptures I have quoted from.
If you celebrate a feast of Satan, or sit at the table of demons, you cannot also sit at the table of God.
The choice is yours. When Halloween comes again this year (and each year), will you celebrate evil, or will you shun the evil and instead choose to worship God?
About the author: David King is a member of Church of God International in the United Kingdom, having attended with the Church of God for over 30 years.