v Sabbath School Lesson 2011-2012

Halloween a Custom of the People?

by Larry C. Hamner

October 5, 2009


Halloween has its roots in ancient Celtic festivals, Roman festivals, and the Christian festivals of All Saints and All Souls days. What many see as good, clean, harmless fun for young and old alike is far from God's intent for a harvest celebration. One does not have to delve very deep into the history of Halloween to uncover a pagan (folksy) celebration mingled with religious traditions, sacrifices and folklore.

The Name

The word, “Halloween,” as with many of its pagan based counterparts originated in the Catholic Church. It comes from the term “All Hallows Eve”, which is the day before “All Hollows Day” (or “All Saints Day”) November 1. Catholics observe “All Saints Day” in honor of the saints who do not have their own holiday. Ancient Celtics observed “Samhain” on October 31st a day that they believed all manner of beings were afoot: ghosts, fairies, and demons. History has it that “Samhain” became such a popular celebration among Catholics that “All Saints Day” was moved to November 1st to become its rival. Thus we get October 31st the Eve before Hallows Day or Hallows Even, contracted to Hallowe'en, modernized to Halloween.

The History

Halloween is one of the oldest holidays beginning over 2000 years ago. The Celts, celebrated it as the end of summer and harvest, and the beginning of winter. They believed that on October 31st, the boundary between the realms of the living and dead were temporarily lifted and that their priests could make contact with the dead. Gatherings were held on this night for the sole purpose of making contact with dead relatives. It was a common belief that the priest upon consultation with the dead could, with the information obtained, predict future events. During such celebrations, the Celts would wear costumes, which consisted largely of animal heads and skins. It was also a belief in early England that Hallows Eve was a time for the spirits of the ancestors to come back and taunt them; to avoid recognition by the spirits citizens dressed up in masks and costumes. It is in these practices that the Halloween costume appears to have its roots. While many of the traditions of Halloween such as making jack –o– lanterns, and giving out treats come from Samhain, the Halloween that is celebrated today is very different from its origin. The holiday as we know it in the 21st century has had many influences, from many cultures over the centuries. The Roman's Pomona Day, the Celtic festival of Samhain, the Catholic holidays of All Saints and All Souls Days, none having any biblical basis or sanction. Despite its obvious pagan(folksy) origin the secular world and many Christians see today's celebration as just good clean fun; having nothing to do with evil, devil worship, satanic forces, etc. What say you? What say God?

What say God!

“And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, a holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” (Lev 23:1 – 4 KJV)

“Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. ” (Jer 10:2 – 4 KJV)


I don't hold in belief nor in practice the idea that all traditions and practices of the common folk are inherently evil. What I do believe is that the Christian Church and its religious community at large has forsaken God's biblical festivals for those created by the world–community. She has embraced customs and ideas which reflect a religious world–view. Halloween is simply another confusing mixture of traditions and practices from pagan cultures and Christian tradition that is emblematic of this practice. You want to have harvest celebration? You want Oktoberfest? Why not basis them on the harvest celebrations of the Bible, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles or better yet why not embrace the real thing?

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