Redirecting Halloween

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 holes.

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 activities.


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" (winter).

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.


Using 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 religious "alternative."

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 dead.

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 and horrible.

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 routine.

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.


 

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