The Origins of Halloween

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The Halloween celebration (observed on October 31) is a popular and widely celebrated holiday in the US and Canada.

In recent years, it has spread to other nations. In Nigeria for instance, halloween adult costume “trick or treating” parties are now springing up in some cities.

During halloween, kids and adults dress up as witches, ghosts, goblins, vampires etc., go through the neighbourhood to knock on doors and they are usually given candies. This is called “trick or treating.” To many children and their parents, halloween is a time of fun and exploring one’s imaginations.

The name “halloween” was coined from the word “all hallows eve.” It was a day set aside to honour the dead (or “saints”). Many cultures around the world celebrate festivals in connection with the dead, though they don’t call it “halloween.”

In Asian countries, they call it Bon (or Obon) festival. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 9th lunar calendar. It is a time when people pray for their ancestors whom they believe return to the land of the living at the time; lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide their spirits, along with dances and food offerings at shrines.

Among the Yoruba in West Africa, it is called “odun Egungun” which is an annual festival to revere the deceased spirits of the ancestors. The particular spirit to be worshipped is solely decided by Ifa oracle. This involves feasts, prayers, dances, loud drummings and theatrical performances.

In Latin America, two death saints: Santa Muerte (Our Lady of the shadows) and San la Muerte (saint death) have their feast days in August during which many people honour the spirit of death with processions, prayers and other rites typifiying death.

It is these sort of festivals and rituals that God calls “abominations of the nations” which “must not be found among you” particularly “consulting with familiar spirits” and “necromancy.” This is why Christians are not to participate in them (Deut. 18:10-11).

Halloween originated from the Celts – people who lived in modern Great Britain and northern France. The Dictionary of Days says: “For the ancient Celts, it [Halloween] was Old Year’s Night, and the night of all witches.”

The Celt new year began on November 1. They called the period, Samhain (or “feast of the Dead”). The Celts believed the spirits of all those who had died the previous year would return to earth at Samhain and could also possess the body of the living. So they would carve out evil faces in turnips (later called Jack O’lanterns), leave food offerings at doorsteps for the ‘wandering dead’ and dress as ghosts or in strange costumes to drive away bad spirits.

They also went from door to door to collect offerings and slaughter animals to appease their gods. The Encyclopedia Americana (1991, 13:725) says:

“Elements of the customs connected with Halloween can be traced to the Druid [ancient Celtic priesthood] ceremony in pre-Christian times. The Celts had festivals for two major gods – a sun god and a god of the dead … whose festival was held on November 1, the beginning of the Celtic New Year.”

When the Romans conquered the Celts in the 1st century A.D, they adopted these customs.

Later in the 7th century, “Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints’ Day to replace the pagan festival of the dead” (Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, 4).

By the 11th century, November 2 was designated as All Souls Day to also commemorate the souls of the dead. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1910, 1:709) notes that: “Certain popular beliefs connected with All Soul’s Day are of pagan origin and immemorial antiquity.”

In the 18th century, the name Halloween appeared in print for the first time. By the 19th century, thousands of immigrants from Ireland, Britain and Germany spread the celebration to the US and the rest of the free world.

Today, halloween has become a multi-billion dollar celebration. Many stores make more money selling all sorts of occult-themed customes, toys and paintings for Halloween. The symbols associated with halloween are black cats, witches, fairies, vampires and werewolves which are all linked to the ancient and modern Witchcraft beliefs.

Most TV networks usually reserve the most violent, bloody, spooky, horror and occultic movies, music and reality TV shows and for the halloween period, and the month of October itself.

Halloween also seems to have its moral effects. A high percentage of teens see it as an opportunity to roam the streets, attend wild rock parties or engage in crimes they don’t normally engage in.

In Witchcraft and Satanism, Halloween or “the vigil of Saman” as they call it, is regarded as one of the “highest” date of the year. There are specific stones, incenses, colours, herbs, symbols used rites observed starting from mid-October to November.

On one of their websites, they wrote:

“It [Halloween] is one of the two ‘spirit-nights’ each year … It is a magical interval when the mundane law of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communications with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time … It is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and honor the Dark Mother and the Dark Father…”

Should Christians partake of Halloween frivolities? No. The evidence from history and the fruit it bears shows that it’s of unclean influence.

October 31st should be a day when Christian families should focus on Christ-centered celebration of life. It is a time for Christians to witness to others about Jesus and educate and warn people about the dangers of dabbling in the occult.

It’s also a time for Believers to wage war against the host of darkness that have enslaved the minds of many people and wield their powers over families, communities and nations that do not know the Lord.