By Mary Senander
Halloween has become an unofficial American holiday-with a growing
number of parents taking the day off to spend with their costumed
children, communities hosting big-budget parties for kids, and
blowouts for adults at private homes and neighborhood watering
Researchers at Hallmark Cards say that 65% of us will decorate
our homes and offices for Halloween-more than for any holiday
but Christmas. From specially erected haunted houses to resurrected
horror and "slasher" films, from witch-topped teapots
to black cat garlands, from spider earrings to leaf-stuffed jack-'o-lantern
bags, Halloween is an in-your-face season beginning at Labor Day.
For thoughtful Christians, however, there is a troubling reality:
Halloween is the high Holy Day for real witches and Pagans. Indeed,
even some public school districts, anxious over the day's religious
implications and complying with policies that already forbid Christmas
carols, Hanukkah songs and Easter eggs, are banning Halloween
Halloween's night of make believe isn't
one bit "pretend" in the world of real Pagans.
According to media accounts, several hundred thousand American
Pagans, Druids and witches celebrate Halloween as a holy day called
Samhain (pronounced sow-en) or Shadowfest. Samhain is a 2,000-year-old
Celtic festival held on October 31st to honor Samhain, the lord
of death. The festival marks the end of what the Pagans considered
"life" (summer) and the beginning of "death"
As Christianity spread during the Middle Ages, the Church replaced
the fire festival of Samhain with the feast of All Saints, in
remembrance of all those who died for and in Christ. At Halloween
("All Hallows Eve"), Christians prepare for the next
day's holy day. Like Earth-centered Pagans, Christians reflect
on autumn's season of death and dying. But there's a big difference:
Christian reflections at Halloween-as in all seasons-begin with
the Father/Creator, Son/Redeemer and Holy Spirit/Sanctifier.
Paganism generally refers to non-revealed religions (Christianity
and Judaism are revealed religions). "If you want to know
what Pagans believe, you have to ask every Pagan," says the
owner of Evenstar, a metaphysical bookstore in St. Paul, Minnesota,
that offers classes on paganism. Some Pagans worship Satan; others
are "New Age." "Neo-pagans" include those
who claim to blend traditional religion with conflicting pagan
rituals and beliefs, such as Wicca.
Pagans gathering in Minneapolis a few years ago joked that they
were "coming out" of their broom closets. But they were
not joking when they asserted the legitimacy of their religion
and demanded respect as a valid minority. Pagans have community
newspapers, occult bookstores, group activities and a bulletin
board on the Internet.
Halloween as the "hook," modern witches, Warlocks,
Pagans, and Satanists have won some terrific public relations
coups. Slowly but surely, public perception is changing
from something that evoked giggles, gasps or prayers to
something perceived as a fascinating, even benevolent
At Halloween/Samhain, Pagans don't roam in black or bloody garb,
nor do they snatch children. They are not cackling old hags. As
indistinguishable as any of us, they gather to sing ritual songs
and chant ancient sayings and prayers, most of which were condemned
by the early Christian church. Meditating by flickering candlelight,
they evoke the supernatural and honor the changing seasons of
"goddess Earth." Some put out food offerings for the
Halloween is still the primary festival celebrated by those who
follow Satan. Our culture has absorbed this by wearing costumes
of witches, ghosts, skeletons, and devils, proclaiming the macabre
Unfortunately, many Christian believers do not see the dangers
of (a) letting down our guard about beliefs or practices which
truly loathe God and undermine our Faith, or (b) jumping on pagan
bandwagons by participating in questionable practices. Our secular
culture has almost entirely abandoned Halloween as a night of
merriment by the communion of saints, both living and dead. Indeed,
reports of vicious pranks, violence and death have become frighteningly
By returning to a celebration of All Hallows Evening as it was
originally intended, we can give honor and glory to God. A growing
number of churches are staging carnival-like parties with a Christian
emphasis, mixing balloons, candy and apple-bobbing with family
discussion sheets. Some encourage people to come dressed as Biblical
characters and saints. Bill Heiland, creator of Scripture Cookies®,
with Bible verses rather than "fortunes" inside, reports
that more customers are passing out Scripture Cookies® as
a gentle but tasty reminder for neighborhood "tricks 'n treaters."
Of course, the Bible doesn't specifically mention
"Halloween," but it prohibits superstition and
condemns idolatry and pagan practices
"Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his
son our daughter in the fire, nor a fortune-teller, soothsayer,
charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts
and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead (Deut. 18:10)."
As the Apostle Paul wrote, "My fear is that, just as the
serpent seduced Eve by his cunning, our thoughts may be corrupted
and you may fall away from your sincere and complete devotion
to Christ (2 Cor 1:3)...for even Satan disguises himself as an
angel of light (11:14)."
Certainly, to shun Halloween (or, for that matter, "psychic
friends" and reincarnation, ouiji boards, "magic 8 balls"
and other pagan practices) is to swim against the cultural tide.
Nevertheless, redirecting Halloween is one, simple way for Christians
to take a quiet stand.