At the end of this month, there is a "holiday" that causes quite a stir in the church. The question of whether or not to celebrate this day is frequently upon the lips of Christians.
The world has had far more influence on the church than the church has had on the world; and the partial celebration of this holiday by Christians is proof. Let's look at some of the facts about "Halloween."
Many costumes we have today in celebration of this holiday find their origins in the Romans and Druids. The Romans worshiped many different gods. One such god was Pamona for whom the Romans held a special festival and celebration for on Oct. 31. Later, the Druids -- a Celtic order of priests in Britain -- expanded the festival to Pamona by also worshiping Samhain, the lord of the dead. Both celebrations were combined on Oct. 31.
The Druids believed that on Oct. 31, Samhain called together the souls of wicked dead who were condemned to live in the bodies of animals during the year that had just transpired. The people were afraid of these spirits and chose Oct. 31 as the day they would sacrifice to their gods, hoping they would protect them. They believed that on this day they were surrounded by strange spirits, ghosts, witches, fairies and elves who came out to hurt them.
In addition to this, they believed cats were holy animals, because they considered them to represent those who had lived but were punished by being re-incarnated as cats for their evil deeds. All this explains why witches, ghosts and cats are part of this celebration today.
The custom of "trick or treating" started when the townspeople went from house to house collecting food for the celebrations. Those who gave food were promised good luck; those who refused were threatened. They told people: "You treat me, or I will trick you."
The apparently harmless custom of carving pumpkins comes also from Ireland. The jack o'lantern is a symbol of a damned soul. A man named Jack was supposed to be unable to enter heaven because he was a miserly evil man, but was also unable to enter hell because he had played practical jokes on the devil himself. As a result, he was condemned to wander throughout the world with his lantern until Judgment Day. The Irish were so afraid they would receive the same judgment, that they began to hollow out pumpkins and place lighted candle sticks inside to scare away the evil spirits from their homes.
How did this kind of celebration make it onto our calendar? In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church decided that to make it easier for those in the pagan religions to cross over to Christianity, they would allow them to practice some of their pagan feasts. (That's called compromise.) Now, however, they were to pray in the remembrance of saints instead of praying to their pagan gods.
For this reason, the church designated Nov. 1 as "All Saints Day" and the Mass for that day was called the "Alhallow Mass." The night before was called "All Hallowed Evening," which ended up being abbreviated as "Halloween." Even though there has been much effort in making this a "holy night," all the old customs continue to be practiced -- making this anything but a holy evening.
As this tradition continues, we know it as a time of fear: fear of destruction of property, poisonings, razor blades and needles in food, etc. ... Many movies and activities reinforce the roots of this celebration and prey on the fears that hide in the hearts of mankind, by promoting the hopelessness that exists in the heart of many in the world today.
Instead of this scenario, consider another tradition that promotes hope. On Oct. 31, 1517, Dr. Martin Luther published his findings on his search for peace and hope in the Word of God. After a long and intense struggle in his personal life he found that peace and hope can only be found through Jesus Christ. Martin Luther eventually was excommunicated from the Catholic Church where he had served as a priest; but he would not give up his newly found faith.
Dr. Martin Luther's sermon on John 3:16 stands as an example of the powerful changes that happen in the lives of those who turn their lives over to the control of God and accept His forgiveness of their sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Because of the impact the Word of God made on the life of Martin Luther, a translation of the Bible was made available to the common people for the first time.
Entrance into heaven has nothing whatever to do with religion, but God is interested in relationship, with you and with me. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6). We may be surrounded by the forces of darkness, and the hopelessness of this world, but the Word of God says, "Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world."
Instead of celebrating a festival to the dead and dying this Oct. 31, let's celebrate life in Jesus Christ as found in the Word of God. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son. That whoever would believe in him would not perish, but have everlasting life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:16-17)
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.