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Throughout the spread of Christianity there has always been the dilemma of what to do with a culture’s pre-existing traditions.

By Tyson Thorne

October 30, 2014

Look at the people of Israel. Are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? Am I saying that idols or food sacrificed to them amount to anything? No, I mean that what the pagans sacrifice is to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.

— 1 CORINTHIANS 10.18-.20


Should Christ-followers celebrate Halloween?

Throughout the spread of Christianity there has always been the dilemma of what to do with a culture’s pre-existing traditions.

No end of trouble was caused by Jewish Christians who demanded Gentile Christians adhere to the old law. The church made a policy about such matters in Acts 15. Church leaders, including Peter, Paul and James, issued a formal position asking Gentiles to adhere to only four Jewish practices, two moral and two cultural.

Centuries later, as the church spread west, other cultural issues arose. The Celtic and Roman tradition of Samhain was one such issue.

Samhain, celebrated on October 31 as the end of the Celtic calendar year (similar to our New Year’s Eve celebration), was a festive holiday centered on occult beliefs. It was believed that on this day those who had died during the year were allowed to intermingle with the living. As such, many left sweet foods out on their stoop to placate the spirits and help send them on their journey into the next world.

The church was at a loss as to how to respond to the people’s superstitious and idolatrous celebration of Samhain. At that time Christian missionaries attempted to eliminate Samhain with no result. The innovative plan of Pope Gregory the First in 601 A.D. was to consecrate it to Christ rather than try to obliterate it. This was much more successful, and it became a basic approach used in Catholic missionary work.

For instance, this approach was used in deciding when to celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas day was originally a pagan mid-winter celebration. Unlike Halloween, however, the original meaning has not been practiced by anyone for centuries.

Today the original focus of Samhain is still practiced by a minority, but largely it is the “sanctified” or modern, commercialized Halloween practiced by the majority. For many Christians, however, there is still a question about celebrating Halloween.

The question stems from a passage in 1 Corinthians (quoted at left). Is participation in Halloween also participating with demons? Certainly overt occult influences, such as Ouija boards, séances and the like are condemned by Scripture, but is handing out candy to children also condemned?

For some the “sanctification” approach validated by Pope Gregory the First removes any connection of Halloween to Samhain. In fact, to some Christians it becomes a tool to communicate the gospel of Christ. Many hand out Christian literature with candy to visiting children. Others invite friends and neighbors over to tell them about Halloween and to point their guests to the one hope Jesus Christ. To still other Christians, however, any participation in the holiday puts one at risk of participating with false gods.

Every Christian must make up their own mind about how— or if — they will celebrate Halloween. While the answer may not be easy, strive to follow the advice of Paul: recognize Christ is your judge, and keep a clear conscience (1Corinthians 4).

  1. Foreign powers: Egypt, Medo-Persia and Rome.
  2. Domestic kings: Saul, Abijah, Athaliah, Ahaz, and Amon.

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