The Story of How Halloween Came To Be
Written by Pastor Nate Atwood
It's no accident that Halloween is a fall festival. In its earliest forms, it was known as "Samhain" and was celebrated in Ireland more than 1500 years ago. The focal point was the fall harvest and worshipping various pagan gods—typically gods of the harvest—in thanksgiving.
In the 6th and 7th centuries, the Christian faith swept through Ireland and the British Isles, and the perspectives of the people changed dramatically. Rather than worshipping local gods (even demons), the people of Ireland had opened their hearts to the One True God. In response to this spiritual revolution, Samhain was kept on the calendar and yet was significantly changed. While it was right to give thanks for the fall harvest, it was critically important to point people in the direction of God Himself as the Source.
Against this backdrop, "All Hallow's Eve" was established by the Church as a substitute for Samhain.
The focal point became the saints who had been used by God to free people from their various superstitions to personal faith in God Himself. "All Hallow's Eve" developed as a holiday, and people began to dress up as those various saints. From this practice came our modern custom of wearing costumes.
In our day and age, Halloween holds some connections back to "All Hallow's Eve" and Samhain. The connection to "All Hallow's Eve" is found both in the name ("Halloween") and the costumes. The connection to Samhain still exists because some view Halloween as the day to celebrate the occult. It's hard not to notice the emphasis on death—the grave, magical powers, and the fear we see in some quarters. Yet, despite these overtones, for most Americans, Halloween is little more than a day of fun. We enjoy our kids "trick or treating," and we view the costumes innocently, no matter what they may be.
Isn't it fascinating that even in Halloween and its celebration we find three competing views of what life is all about? There are those who would restore paganism, the occult, and even witchcraft to our culture. Incredible, but true. Then there is the American who views life as being about nothing more than fun. "Forget the spiritual stuff, let's just enjoy the moment!" That's a pretty widespread viewpoint. And then, there is this third view of Halloween—a belief, really, that any fall festival should have God as its primary focus. After all, He is the one Who has put food on our table yet again. And . . . there is a message preached by the saints that would free us from mere superstition.
It is this final perspective on Halloween—"All Hallow's Eve"—which bears the deepest consideration. What if God is real? What if He exists? What if He alone is God? What if both harvest—and even fun—are gifts from Him and are to be celebrated as such? And what if—even during a holiday that celebrates the joy of childhood—we take time to remember this one God who was Himself born as a child in our midst as Jesus Christ? The Bible states it very simply . . . For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men. (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
Yes, even Halloween can be holy.
It becomes this when we place our faith in this one God, coming to Him through the forgiveness, hope, and power offered us through Jesus Christ.
And . . . that's the real story behind Halloween. It began with a very pagan people who met the One True God who gave them not only their harvest but who also gave them His own Son. Maybe that can be your story too.
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Pastor Nate Atwood