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The 4 Things Halloween Teaches Our Children
There are many Christians who celebrate Halloween. I am not writing this as a judgment. However, I am writing this to provide food for thought, before your children run out of the house on that night all dressed up so cute (or scary) to collect candy.
Many times we practice traditions in our households simply because that is what our parents did or we have sentimental memories of the event when we were children. Sometimes we practice certain things in our households simply because that is what everyone else does, or we do not want to deprive our children of a special and "normal" childhood experience. Whatever your reasons are, you are not alone.
As parents we attempt, I hope, to be purposeful in all that we do. I mean, we try to parent on purpose, making decisions for our families that are weighed against the Bible first and foremost. I also hope that we are taking into consideration how our decisions might influence our children, and how our core beliefs as Christians are either supported or negated by our actions. Ultimately, you may come to a different position than my family does and that’s okay. This is just meant to provide food for thought from another perspective.
Podcast Season 2, Episode 2: Celebrate Holidays Like A Christian
How should a Christian approach holidays? Some Christians choose not to celebrate any holidays. Other Christians choose to go along with the flow and celebrate holidays as they were taught, and often very similarly to how the world celebrates (i.e. Halloween, Santa, Easter Bunny). A growing number of Christians are opting to be more intentional in their approach to holidays, doing their research concerning the roots of certain holidays, and instituting purposeful traditions that point their families to Christ. Of course this is a spectrum and not everyone lands in the same place, and that's okay. Our goal in this podcast is to help Christians think through some of those details and at least start you down a path of intentionality in your celebrations.
The History of Halloween
There is debate among Christians concerning the roots of Halloween. Some believe that it stems from pagan traditions and others believe that Halloween finds its roots in Christian tradition.
Halloween has both pagan and Catholic roots it seems. The pagan history of Halloween, according to the Library of Congress, can be traced back to the “ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a pagan religious celebration to welcome the harvest at the end of summer, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.” It is believed that as the Church spread throughout Europe, pagan traditions seeped into religious practice. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III instituted November 1st as All Saints Day. October 31st was known as All Hallows Eve, later called Halloween. During the Middle Ages, All Souls’ Day was added on November 2nd. These days incorporated some of the festive practices carried over from the Druidic traditions.
During the religious holiday, people were dedicated to honoring the saints and praying that the souls of the recently departed would reach Heaven from purgatory. Jack-'o-lanterns were used to depict those souls trapped in purgatory and were set in front of one’s home to ward off evil spirits. Children and the poor would go “souling,” offering up prayers for the dead in exchange for what were called soul cakes.
Even if you are not convinced that Halloween has pagan roots, and only believe it to be religious at its heart, it is difficult to deny the superstition that haunts the holiday at its inception.
Modern Day Halloween
Halloween is now the second largest commercial holiday behind Christmas. It can be fun with candy and cute costumes. It can also be dark and scary with skeletons, ghosts, and witches. Ghost hunters also go out in droves hoping to catch a glimpse of a long departed spirit on Halloween.
Interest in pagan mysticism, new age dogma, and Wicca (witchcraft) has been growing over the past few years. Halloween is one of the two most important festivals on a Wiccan's calendar.
Our modern version of Halloween has taken one particular divergent path from its more religious historical context. Today, Halloween has become a very sexual holiday. French Maid costumes, sexy demons, and immodest celebrity look-alikes are very popular to imitate for youth and adults alike.
Biblical Principles to Consider
Many Christians who practice Halloween do not participate in all of the ghoulish side of the holiday. I understand this, but it is good to take account of the general theme of Halloween and to consider what the Bible has to say about this theme.
1. Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Mediums
The Bible directly rebukes anyone practicing witchcraft, sorcery, or attempting to contact the dead.
Deuteronomy 18:10 "There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer."
Leviticus 19:31 “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God"
Leviticus 20:27 “A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.”
Leviticus 20:6 “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people."
God clearly sees witches, sorcerers, and mediums as enemies. Anyone who seeks after them is considered to be whoring themselves out to those that they feel will give them something better than God Himself can give. God will punish those and set Himself against those who seek witches, sorcerers, or mediums.
... Just in case you were wondering, this includes the daily horoscope in your local newspaper as that is fortune telling ...
Our modern Halloween, with all its decorations, movie releases, etc., is a holiday meant to foster fear. However, as Christians we are not meant to be a people of fear. As the people of God, we are to fear and be anxious for nothing. In fact, the Bible says that we should not think on those things that would make us fearful, but we should think on the things of God.
Philippians 4:6-8 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Halloween is a superstitious time. Its history is rooted in superstition and our modern day superstitions of black cats and legendary omens are more exaggerated at Halloween.
Sadly, Christians even become superstitious in a way about Halloween, expecting demonic activity to be more prevalent at this time, which it very well could be in terms of spiritual warfare, but when Christians see evil in everything around them, this is not good. Satan is evil, yes. Sin is everywhere, yes, but objects that might look evil, like a skeleton, are not calling down evil in and of itself.
We should be careful as Christians not to become superstitious in the way we speak of evil around us. God is in control, and nothing, even the hand of the devil himself, can remove us from the control of our loving Father.
1 Timothy 4:7 "Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness."
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 "There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you."
4. Making a Mockery
Another thing to just consider is that it can also be thought that we might be making a mockery of the spiritual realm at Halloween. Dressing up as the Devil, demons, and angels, in a sense is like mocking heavenly beings that we do not fully understand.
We do not need to be superstitious, but we also need to be aware that there is spiritual warfare and spiritual beings who are very real. We ought not make a mockery of these things.
An Alternative to Halloween
Reformation Day is what our family and church celebrates. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, Germany. This sparked the Protestant Reformation. This is a very momentous day in Church History. What a joy it is to remember the men and women who worked so hard to preserve the Gospel. It is a day to celebrate God's sovereignty in Christian history.
Instead of going trick-or-treating, we chose early on to celebrate by hosting Reformation Day parties at our home. At first it was just our family, but slowly we started adding more people from our circle of friends until they filled our home each year. Now we celebrate Reformation Day at our church on October 31st. You can see how we do that here.
Just like any holiday, the goal is to point your celebration to Christ. You gear your traditions and teachings around the Gospel. Reformation Day is a perfect time to teach church history in your homeschool or during family worship. Add some extra activities to make things fun and to help your children retain what they have learned. The Five Solas: Signs to Follow on the Narrow Path 7-Day Family Bible Study is the perfect resource for this. In it we have included Gospel-centered lessons for each day of the week, fun activities that cement that day’s teaching, and there are even treats involved! For those not familiar with the The Five Solas, they were a sort of slogan that came out of the Protestant Reformation that reinforced the core truths that the Reformers were working to preserve in the wake of a corrupted Roman Catholic Church.
There are many ideas and activities on the internet to help make Reformation Day festive. Click here to see what we do as a church to get some inspiration!
The Five Solas: Signs to Follow on the Narrow Path
This unique 7 day family Bible Study contains more than 50 pages of structured history and Bible-based lessons, fun activities, and corresponding educational crafts that teach the Gospel using The 5 Solas, the slogans popularized by the Reformers during the Reformation of the Church.
If you believe Halloween stems from paganism then at its roots it is pagan, and if you believe Halloween finds its beginnings in the Catholicism of the Middle Ages then you still have a holiday steeped in superstition at its inception. On one hand, we tell our children not to be afraid because God protects them, yet we celebrate a holiday based on fear and superstition. We believe that God determines the span of every person’s life and that there is a place where every soul spends eternity, whether it be Heaven or Hell, yet we celebrate a holiday steeped in the pagan tradition of the walking dead. What lessons are we inadvertently instilling in our children when we participate in a holiday such as this?
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Lindsey Stomberg is wife to Caleb Stomberg and co-author here at Reformed Faith and Family. She is a work-from-home, homeschooling mom of seven children. Lindsey has enjoyed blogging for over a decade. Lindsey is the former owner of The Road to 31 Blog and author of The ABC’s for Godly Children Bible Curriculum. She enjoys reading, writing, and graphic design. Her favorite pass times are family read-aloud time, snuggling with her babies, and going on walks with her family.