Would Jesus Avoid Halloween?

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Would Jesus Avoid Halloween

As a new Catholic, I endeavored that my family be loyal and obedient to our Lord and his Church, and so after my conversion I took an inventory of anything which might threaten the integrity of our faith.

The investigation began with that national bastion of fun, sweets, and mischief: Halloween.

Halloween bears a Pagan past which originated with the Celts of northern Europe. Each year, before Christian missionaries brought Christ to the land, the Celts observed a harvest festival which propitiated Samhain (Sow’ en), their lord of death. As the light and warmth of the year slowly faded beneath the encroachment of winter, the Celts lit bonfires to symbolize their hope in the renewal of Spring, but this was also the time when the spirits of the dead roamed.

During Samhain, mischief reigned at the hands of unkind spirits (and some opportunistic, unscrupulous among the living). The only way to ward off these marauding souls was by camouflage (dressing as a spirit) or offering meals and treats to appease the spirits. When the potato famine struck Ireland in the 1840s and a mass migration of the Celtic people landed upon American shores, they brought with them a proto-Halloween. American secularization and commercialization made short work of this dark and Pagan celebration of the lord of death and transformed it into the staple holiday of sweets and debauchery today.

The back story of Halloween curdled my stomach. Never mind the fact that the Church honors All Saints Day the following morning, like the bright, warm rays of sunshine banishing the darkness of a night haunted by a bad dream. Never mind that “Halloween” derives its name from the evening before this great celebration of our departed heroes of the faith, All Hallows Eve. The proximity of this hallowed observance in our holy Church to this Pagan sacrilege was enough for me to eject our family’s participation henceforth.

No more candy, costumes, or so-called church-sponsored “harvest festivals” (which is, ironically, exactly what Samhain is: a Pagan harvest festival! How sly the devil is…)

But my inquisition against the subversive Pagan infection, wreathed in the camouflage of secular American culture, did not terminate there. With a Puritan’s fire, I marched on. I would extract every particle of Pagan filth which conflicted with our love and fidelity to Christ and Church, no matter the cost.

My next target: Christmas.

Santa Claus: a myth superimposed upon an authentic 4th century Catholic bishop and saint known for his care for the poor (especially children) and a defender of the Faith against heresy. A lover of God and shepherd of men turned into an overweight man gorging himself on treats while riding a sleigh pulled by magic reindeer and sneaking into homes. His myth has no place in our home.

The Christmas tree: The lineage of the Christmas tree, lit as a beacon of warmth and familial unity, hails from the northern European tradition of igniting trees and logs in celebration of yet another Pagan festival called Yule, which marked the arrival of the winter solstice. As inviting as the Christmas tree is, and despite my wife’s great love for decorating and basking in its festive warmth, I cannot with good conscience abide its tainted presence in our home.

In a final examination, most scholars agree that Jesus was likely born in the spring, and so celebrating his birth on the opposite side of the year in proximity and association with so many Pagan derivatives (the winter solstice, Yule, honoring Sol Invictus, etc.) seems spiritually dishonest. Perhaps we should cancel Christmas pending a more accurate representation of his birthday?

Thanksgiving Day: 1 Thessalonians 5: 18 states that we must give thanks at all times, so it seems appropriate that we fix a day to thank God for our blessings, and share with others. Upon further investigation, a shadow looms upon the day. With a nation suffering from overindulgence and self-absorption, this day of thanks to God and sharing has devolved into a day of gorging upon food and products we do not need. Henceforth, our family will observe Thanksgiving every day in simple, reverent ways, not an orgy of face-stuffing and stampeding over others for store sales.

Easter bunnies and egg hunts: Easter celebrates the Passion and sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross, a transfiguration of the Jewish Paschal feast, so how is it that bunny rabbits and eggs–Pagan symbols of fertility and perhaps the Germanic goddess, Eostre–crashed the observation of the most important moment in history? Despite the Church, in her wisdom and assimilating nature, utilizing these symbols as evangelistic tools for the risen and triumphant Christ, my family simply cannot risk participating in these festivities.

Birthdays: As my research toward a purer Christian life reached a crescendo, I uncovered the most shocking of all Pagan defilement: birthdays. All the parties, family gatherings, photos and memories…surely this recognition of life and renewal remains unadulterated. Alas, my investigation revealed that Jewish culture–the culture of our Lord–did not celebrate birthdays, as they were often perceived as reminders of death, and instead performed acts of penance and sacrifice. Celebrating birthdays and even the origin of the birthday cake itself bears Pagan lineage. Various sources suggest that birthday candles echo from the Greeks honoring the moon goddess Artemis. We love our daughters, but such a seemingly innocent event, like a small cut, could invite a more serious spiritual infection. If Jesus didn’t mark his birthday with candles and cake, neither shall we.

While this purge of Pagan-tainted events has presented challenges and disappointments to my family, we are more faithful in the long run. In 1 Peter 1: 17, the Saint declares:

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith…even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Yes, we could do this: we could avoid our culture and bubble-wrap our children. Or, we could help them understand that as disciples of Christ we are called to be the “light and salt” which leavens our world with Jesus who lives within them. Did Jesus, who ate and drank with sinners, tell his disciples to hide from the world or to transform it?

The genius of the Church is that she “examines everything carefully and takes what is good(1Thessalonians 5: 21)” from the culture she enters and leavens it with Christ. Thus we can perhaps evangelize during Halloween by dressing as a favorite saint and sharing their story with friends, or visit homes and offer prayers in exchange for candy.

This Halloween do not hide in fear like the disciples in the upper room; do not sheath the Light with a lampshade of uber-piety. Even in our fallen state God did not withhold himself, but instead saw the good  and wore our humanity in the person of Jesus, thus redeeming us to himself. Take then, and celebrate what is good and allow God to shine into and transform the rest.

This post was written by my husband, but for the record, we do celebrate Halloween. We do Santa and Christmas trees. We enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. We welcome Easter bunnies and egg hunts. And birthdays? Well, let’s just say I celebrate mine for a week. This post was simply to educate and inform of the Pagan roots of many of our celebrations. Don’t “throw the baby out with the bath water”. You may choose not to participate, but don’t choose the road of legal.ism when you yourself may also be participating in celebrations with Pagan roots. There are many dark areas in this world, our job as Christians isn’t to avoid the dark, but to stamp out the dark with Light.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Interesting post! We too celebrate Halloween because my kids like candy and to dress up. But, we also honor the holy men and women who have passed down the faith on All Saints Day. Growing up as a “Cradle Catholic” I never remember celebrating ASD, only Halloween. It was only when I had my own children that I began to learn and embrace that Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve) is really hollow without the mention and celebration of all the Saints who have marched and been martyred before us to pass down our beautiful faith!

  2. Ha, love the clarification at the end….I was beginning to wonder! We celebrate all of the above also, but teaching our children the Catholic twist on each of them. In fact we are finishing up our costumes now for their All Saints Day party tomorrow night at the church 😉

  3. A few years ago, I sat over a man who had been crushed by a piece of machinery. His body was wracked in pain and blood flowed from his mouth. His eyes – were dark and I could tell, he couldn’t speak the words he desperately wanted to say. He died – leaving his wife and children behind.

    A couple of weeks after that, I held my Mother’s hand as she left our world and walked into the arms of our Savior. Her death was more peaceful….but longer. I had watched her walk in pain and torment for years.

    Two deaths, back to back. One filled with blood and pain. Death is real. Pain is real – and now I have to say I hate looking upon what others call ‘fun’ and ‘mischievous’. It curdles my stomach because a painful death wracked in pain is not ‘fun’. So, walking around and looking at others dressed that way, looking at decorations purposely purchased to reenact a painful or ‘evil’ death is not something I care to ‘celebrate’. I don’t hide and I don’t judge others or think I should tell others what they should do in regards to ‘celebrating’ or partaking of anything. That’s between them and Jesus. For me, I look at it different. Not better, not worse, just different.

    While I can’t think of any reference to Jesus partaking of a pagan ritual (and I could be wrong) in the Bible, I can see how God directed the prophets and apostles in different ways, just as Jesus directed those he healed to move forward in their lives in different ways. Some he called to leave their homes and walk with him. Others, he told to go back home.

    So, I think- getting back to the question in your graphic, “Would Jesus avoid Halloween” – is a good question and Jesus’ actions in the Bible clearly state what he would do. I encourage all to read the Bible, pray and seek Jesus’ direction for how he wants each individual to avoid or not avoid anything in this world.

    Your post has great information about your research, but I was really hoping for more scripture, more meat showing what Jesus would have done or would do now. Evangelize – most definitely. Attend ghoulish activities – I’m not so sure about that. Walk around pretending to be someone else…no. Am I against my children wearing costumes, no. Will they walk around saying ‘trick or treat’? No….

    But we will enjoy some fellowship with neighbors.

  4. Our All Saints Day party is the favorite of the year. My kids just roll their eyes at Halloween, and though we have gone trick-or-treating, they could care less, and we quit. I’d encourage more study on the Christmas tree, however. This beautiful story at http://www.ewtn.com/library/chistory/xmastree.htm will tell you a bit about how St. Boniface converted the German countryside by knocking down their sacred oak with one blow of the ax. They converted and asked him how they should celebrate Christmas. He pointed to a little fir tree.

  5. There were some excellent points made in the article and I commend you and your husband for considering the matter so carefully, but your logic in this article is deeply flawed. You conclude in your article that because some holidays have pagan roots, then it must be okay for Christians to celebrate any holiday with pagan roots. The truth is that Christmas and Easter are entirely Christian holidays. We are celebrating Christ’s birth and His resurrection. We worship Him on those holidays and gather with family and friends to remember what He has done for us. If some families choose to include elements of leftover pagan culture, (Santa Claus, Easter eggs, etc) that is strictly a matter of conscience and falls under the area of “Christian liberty”. Many Christians, however, do not include these elements in their celebrations, choosing to focus solely on Christ.

    On the other hand, there can be no question that Halloween was and still is a pagan holiday. Death, murder, witchcraft and ghosts are the objects of celebration at Halloween. It is commonly known that Halloween is the most sacred day of the year for those practicing witchcraft or involved in demonic practices. (Obviously, the same cannot be said of Christmas and Easter.) Look at the horror movies that are popular at Halloween, that entertain teens by glorifying death and murder. Popular costumes for children and adults are zombies, witches, ghosts or chainsaw murderers.

    So, yes, many of our holidays do have ancient pagan roots. But it is flawed logic to assume that if you choose to stop “celebrating” Halloween, then it would follow that you would have to cease all holiday celebrations. Rather, the truth is that holiday celebrations (yes, even Halloween) fall under the category of “Christian liberty” and should be up to the conscience of each individual believer.

    You also wrongly assumed that if Christians aren’t participating in Halloween, then they are cowering in fear in their homes. My family has chosen from the very beginning to abstain from participating in Halloween. (for the reasons I listed above) We don’t stay home because we are afraid. We don’t try to substitute “harvest parties” so our kids don’t feel left out. We just ignore the holiday all together. Whatever we would normally do on that particular weekend, we do. Shopping, eating out, playing airsoft, etc. It’s just another day on the calendar for us. (So much so that we often times won’t even remember that it’s Halloween unless we are out and about and see trick-or-treaters!)

    Thank you for tackling this sometimes difficult subject. It’s important that we all respect each other’s point of view.

    1. Thanks, Tara- the point of the article is that Jesus would want us to be a light in these situations. Halloween actually has deeply Catholic roots. We choose not to glorify the death and murder aspects of halloween- we don’t do witch costumes or zombies or anything of that sort. And also, we didn’t say that you “would have to cease all holiday celebrations”- we just encourage you to not throw the baby out with the bath water. Be the good on an “evil” day.

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Hi, there! I’m Heather Bowen, and I am so glad you’re here.

My passion lies in helping homeschool moms balance marriage, motherhood, homemaking, and homeschooling all while remaining sane!

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