All Hallow’s Eve or Samhein?

Out of all the holidays, I have the least experience with Halloween. When I was little, I looked forward to dressing up as a dalmatian or ballerina and going trick-or-treating with my friends. However, with the mixed opinions among Christian circles about Halloween, my parents later chose to take the more conservative path and not celebrate it at all. Most of my friends were quite disapproving of the holiday as well, so after the disappointment of the first year at not being able to go up and down the neighborhood for free candy, I never missed it much. Since then, my parents have let my little sisters go trick-or-treating, but the holiday was never focused on in our family and my sisters are honestly not that impressed with it.

As a Christian, how the supernatural is approached/dealt with (or NOT, as is usually the case) is a matter full of emotion and strong opinions. Is it ok to participate in Halloween celebrations? Is Harry Potter a gateway for our children to begin pursuing witchcraft? What about our attitude towards horror movies?

Out of curiosity, I did some research on the origins of Halloween to refresh my knowledge. “Halloween” is the modern name of what used to be “All Hallow’s Eve,” celebrated before Saints Day on November 1st by the Catholic church. But it’s origin goes much further back. Originally Halloween was a Celtish holiday called Samhein (pronounced “sow-en”). It spanned over a time of three days where the gatesΒ  between this world and the “supernatural” world were open and the spirits could cross back and forth. It was a time of celebration, where spirits of the ancestors were welcomed back. The Catholic church, instead of abolishing the people’s sacred holiday, turned it into the day of celebrating saints that had since died.

And now we have “Halloween.”

So what do we do with it? Having both celebrated Halloween as well as opted out of the celebrations at various times in my life, I personally think it’s a fun holiday…an excuse to dress up (but I do find the creepy, gory costumes/decor distasteful and uncreative…), get free candy (who doesn’t love that?), carve a pumpkin, and try various recipes involving pumpkin in some way…. I think it can be a innocent, fun, and enjoyable time.

On the other hand, I think our culture has an unhealthy fascination with the supernatural… I see it in the mass amounts of horror movies being filmed, the vampire obsession, and in the over-the-top Halloween decorations littering the lawns… Don’t get me wrong, I love fun decorations, a thrilling movie, and I’ve read and enjoyed Harry Potter and Twilight. I love fantasy novels with wizards and magicians…but those all take place in another world…there’s no uncertainty in the fact that those things won’t happen in real life.

It’s the demonic aspect that does cause me to shudder…because unlike zombie apocalypses, vegetarian vampires, or a magical school of wizardry, demonic activity is very real. I broke one of my cardinal rules yesterday of not watching horror movies by watching the movie Insidious, and it made me think about the whole Halloween debate again (in my defense, I didn’t think it was the type of horror movie it turned out to be…). While I can’t say I’m happy I watched the movie, I’m not sure I regret it either. It caused me to examine my thinking about my attitude towards the supernatural. In the end, I simply felt sad…sad, because while people watch that stuff for entertainment and love the thrill of being scared, those stories in many cases are reality. Demon possession is real, hauntings happen, and the supernatural is very present.

Maybe I take it more seriously because I’ve known people who’ve had multiple “supernatural run-in’s” throughout their lives. A situation was so bad at one time, that my pastors literally prayed over one of the member’s house. Since then, there were no other incidences. As a Christian, I’m not scared about being possessed because the Holy Spirit is within me, but Satan is more than happy to attack us in anyway he can. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this stuff is legit, and it destroys people’s lives. And yet we approach it flippantly like it’s all a game.

So I guess what I’m saying is I’m more of a spooky jack-o-lantern, cute napkins with bats saying “eek,” and ominous looking purple cats kind of girl when it comes to Halloween. I don’t see a reason for me to ban it, but I also respect those who do choose to. An unhealthy fascination with demonic/supernatural is not good, but I also think it’s easy on the other side to sin by judging those who do choose to celebrate the holiday. I guess what it comes down to is a matter of Romans 14.

“Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

I find it interesting that it was the church’s fear of cats as something “evil” that caused them to kill tens of thousands of them, allowing rats and mice to multiply, leaving Europe as a whole wide open to the Black Plague, which was carried by the fleas on the backs of those rats and mice.And what about the Salem Witch Trials? How many girls innocently died during that time? I wonder how many of them were in actuality children of God…

It’s easy to demonize anything we choose to. It’s also easy to not take demonic activity seriously enough.

I love what C.S. Lewis writes in regard to this,

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

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Posted on October 16, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Incredibly insightful piece, and I agree whole heartedly with pretty much everything said. Especially on how society approaches demonic activity. I have a close friend who lived in a house that was haunted by two spirits – one taking on the visage of a little girl, the other a little boy. She told me how she could see the girl through their kitchen window at times, and the little boy in their hallway. She and her family lived in that house for 2 years before moving away, and when they did it was like a burden lifted off their hearts. Most people would scoff at such stories, but there was truth in her eyes as she told me, and I believe her. Spiritual warfare is real. Demons and spirits are real. And it is our responsibility as Christians to recognize this and not go overboard in either direction – be it disbelief or obsession.

    Wow, haha, that was a longish reply. πŸ˜› Again, great post! πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks, Timothy! and *shudder* those stories just freak me out =/ I know as Christians, we’re safe….but I guess I’m just extra sensitive to supernatural activity…even Sixth Sense was too much for me, and everyone laughs at that, because that is hardly anything… Even Frank Peretti’s novels disturbed me. You’re right – spiritual warfare is real.

  3. Like Madeleine says, “If you look for the Devil, you’ll find him.” I think it’s one of those things where you dwell on what is pure, lovely, etc. It’s not about liking completely pure things, because nothing in this fallen world is truly pure. You look for the good and strive for the good.

  4. I also think your point about redeeming the holiday is important, too. It’s sad for little kids to miss out on fun holidays (for most, anyhow). There are lots of great memories to be made! It doesn’t make sense to go against tradition just because you don’t like a few things about it. Christmas and Easter were pagan holidays, too, and there are lots of good aspects to them! It’s just a matter of being positive enough to look for them…

  5. Karen, does your family still celebrate Reformation Day as an alternative? I have always thought that was a great idea. We “celebrate” Halloween, in that the kids dress up and we hand out and collect candy. Our school has a little parade and festival that the seniors put on as well. But what we started doing several years ago was to invite friends over, have chili and trick or treat with the kids. It’s been a fun tradition we’ve been able to continue in all the places we’ve lived.

  6. We do somewhat celebrate Reformation Day, and I really do like that idea πŸ™‚ And that does sound like a fun tradition! I think I just like any excuse to gather with friends and traditions, etc πŸ™‚

  7. I’ve never read a more thought-out and comprehensive article about Halloween in the Christian perspective! This October I read one by AOL that was ridiculously vague. You could tell they didn’t want to take a stance at the risk of offending anyone. Basically, they just put it as a question. “How do Christians choose to spend Halloween?” and gave no examples. I’m so glad Tim’s nomination of for the Versatile Blogger award led me here, because according to the contents of this post, we are quite like-minded. πŸ™‚

    I totally agree with all you’ve said. The fantasy genre happens to be my absolute favorite in reading and film material and I’m a big HP fan, yet I cringe at the gore and death displayed so nonchalantly during Halloween. Anything that glorifies death–and I mean the darkness of death, not death to sin, or the sacrificial Christ-like death that redeemed a soul–is a touch too near the Devil’s devices for me. I hate how some people use the holiday (coming from the words ‘holy day’) to play on people’s fears.

    But I will take any excuse to get free food and dress up. πŸ˜‰

    I look forward to reading more from you! Excellent post, here. Most excellent.

    • Thank you so much for your sweet comment! It was very encouraging! Sorry it’s taken me a ridiculous amount of time to see and respond to this…nursing school turned major insane towards the end of the semester, and I had to keep myself off from blogging :/ But it was wonderful to come back on and read this!

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