Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is Halloween So Harmless?


(This is a special post added this week. For those of you looking for the latest installment about defeating depression, see the Monday, October 28 post!)


Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.
 1 Corinthians 10:31


Halloween is BIG business. Worldwide, it’s a celebration that attracts all ages, and ranks second to Christmas for dollars spent. With consumer spending expected to be around $6.9 billion dollars, it’s a retailers delight. Pet owners will spend over $330 million on pet costumes. It also gives retailers a kickstart to the upcoming Christmas season.

As a recent AOL article stated: “For many people, Halloween has come a much-needed escape from reality. ‘For adults, you can put on a Halloween costume and forget about work, the bad economy, and other pressures,’ said Kelly David, Spirit Halloween spokesperson.”

As a kid it was one of my favorite holidays. My mother spent weeks preparing the perfect, award-winning costume for me. We’d troop down to the sewing store to locate the must-have costume pattern and material. Then she’d measure, sew, fit and complete my get-up, which I proudly, arrogantly, dawned at school in front of my envious classmates.

Then, as I entered my late elementary and middle school years, my fascination with Halloween altered. Gradually I became more drawn to the dark, occult side of the holiday and started investigating séances, spells and Quija board use. Without going into detail, I can tell you how insidious and destructive those practices were to me, and to anyone who entered into them. They’re anything but harmless, especially to a curious, impressionable youngster.   

Do you love this holiday and can’t imagine not celebrating it? Do you consider it all in good fun? Do you have nagging questions about whether or not you should celebrate Halloween? If you’re a Christian, do you wonder if you should take apart in it? I have my opinion.

But before you make a decision on whether or not to celebrate this holiday, let’s look at the history and facts surrounding the festival.


What’s the History?

Celtic-Druid Influence:
The ancient Celtic empire encompassed France, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Druids were Celtic priests. They had a yearly celebration called the Festival of Samhain and gathered pumpkin and cornstalk leaves for decorating as feasting and end-of-summer harvest celebration began.

That all sounds innocent enough, until you learn what Samhain means. Samhain was the lord of the dead, or the demon of death, and this celebration began the evening of October 31. The Druids celebrated with bonfires, foretelling futures and witchcraft. This is where the Halloween emphasis on death comes from, along with its familiar symbols of coffins, tombstones, skeletons, skulls, crossbones, ghosts, mummies and graveyards.

First, it was believed that the dead rose from their graves that night in an attempt to return to their former homes they occupied when living. In Druidism, the evil departed ones rise up as horrifying night creatures, decaying skeletons and inhuman bodies. (Sound anything like the walking or “living” dead stories everyone’s so enthralled with now?) Other spirits transmigrated to other humans. (Many people in the 21st Century believe in soul transmigration, the idea that they existed in a former life. Anybody remember actress Shirley McClain’s outrageous claims and “channeling” back in the 90’s?)

Samhain was also the supreme night of demonic jubilation and a celebration of oncoming winter and darkness. The “hordes of hell” roamed the earth in a wild celebration of darkness and death, all in Samhain’s honor. The frightened villagers did everything they could to try to placate these spirts, or avoid them, including leaving fruits and nuts in the yards or dressing in costume to avoid detection if they had to be out on the road that night.

Sometimes Samhain called together wicked spirits to inhabit the bodies of animals. 


Let’s Have a Bonfire!
The Druids were famous for using bonfires under oak trees (a sacred symbol to them) in their worship. But the ‘bonfire” was actually a “bone fire.” Need I explain why it was called that? Their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers, and were also used for divination.


Where’d the Trick-or-Treat Candy Come From?
Mildred Arthur, in her book, Holidays of Legend, wrote that the food given out at night to visiting spirits or wandering people was given to placate those roving evil spirits. Later, in Scotland, food was given to youth who went around terrorizing neighborhoods so they’d stop their behavior. I knew kids who skipped the treat and went straight to the nasty trick just “for fun.”

When I was in junior high and high school, I knew youth who went around terrorizing neighborhoods, damaging personal property and wreaking havoc on Halloween. Nothing could placate them! They were bent on destruction. There were certain neighborhoods we knew we needed to avoid that night out of fear of physical threat or possibly being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Contrary to popular opinion, Halloween has never been a night of “harmless fun.”


Who’s Jack?
Symbols familiar to us actually developed over time. Jack-o’-lanterns (which were actually turnips, not pumpkins) were carried by people on Hallow’s eve in order to frighten evil spirits. A popular Irish folktale is told to represent a soul denies entry into both heaven and hell. It goes like this:

“On route home after a night's drinking, Jack encounters the Devil who tricks him into climbing a tree. A quick-thinking Jack etches the sign of the cross into the bark, thus trapping the Devil. Jack strikes a bargain that Satan can never claim his soul. After a life of sin, drink, and mendacity, Jack is refused entry to heaven when he dies. Keeping his promise, the Devil refuses to let Jack into hell and throws a live coal straight from the fires of hell at him. It was a cold night, so Jack places the coal in a hollowed out turnip to stop it from going out, since which time Jack and his lantern have been roaming looking for a place to rest. (Encyclopedia of Death and Dying (Glennys Howarth, Oliver Leaman), Taylor & Francis, page 320)

North American immigrants used the native pumpkin. Because of its softer structure, it’s easier to carve than a turnip. This pumpkin carving tradition first started in 1837 to commemorate harvest time. It did not become specifically connected to Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century.


Like That Orange, Black and Red Color Combo?
A Good Housekeeping Book of Entertainment once contained the passage, “Orange, black, and red, the Devil’s colors, are the colors associated with Halloween.” (Don’t know where Good Housekeeping got that, but it seems to be the accepted color scheme.)


Christian influence Over Modern Halloween
Today's Halloween customs seem to have been influenced by Christian practices and beliefs. The word “Halloween” is a modern translation of “eve before all Hallows Day, a Christian holy day also known as All Saints’ Day or Hallowmas. This was a time for honoring all the saints who had gone on to their heavenly reward. It is a time for honoring and recognizing them. The day was introduced in May, of 609 AD. Pope Gregory IV had it switched to November 1 835, possibly to compete with, or satisfy people who still wanted to recognize the Festival of Samhain.

The American Puritans strongly disapproved of it. But when the Irish and Scotts brought the celebration with them during the 19th century mass immigration to America, the celebration was accepted into society and become an American holiday celebrated by people of all ages, races and religions.

Many Protestant churches celebrate the day as Reformation Day because it was the day Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Evidently he selected this day specifically because so many visitors would be there to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve.

Category Development Officer, Retail
Satan Worship and Halloween
We can’t overlook the reality of Satan worship associated with Halloween, particularly since it’s become more prevalent. Most recently I had the pleasure of grocery shopping at the same time a family of Satan worshipers shopped. It seemed that every time I entered the store, they were there. The father always wore the same black t-shirt, silk-screened with a white pentagram, Satan worship symbols and words. His skin bore Satanic artwork. Just being in their vicinity gave me the creeps.

People have attested to participating in and observing human sacrifices while practicing Satanism. A November 1, 1997 Orlando Sentinel article talks about the testimony of one man who claims to have had a “profound psychic experience” while he was out trick-or-treating as a young boy. That led him into the occult and kept him oppressed for dozens of years. He sank deeper and deeper into the occult until he was “swallowed by it.”     

Do we scoff, dismiss or shake our heads at these stories?

Police departments don’t scoff. Many have developed a new investigative field dealing with the reality of gruesome Satanic sacrifices. Vandalism increases on Halloween. Many hospitals offer free x-rays of candy to make sure you tyke doesn’t bite into a razor blade.

Anyone remember the Night Stalker who terrorized California in the 80’s by slinking into open windows at night, butchering people and decorating the walls with pentagrams and Satanic messages written in his victims’ blood? I lived through that, and we took this guy seriously. No one knew where or when he’d strike next, and for months we were all badly shaken. 

As a police detective patient of mine commented back in the 80’s, “If you don’t think Satan worship and sacrifice are alive and well, then you can join me on my nightly rounds of inspecting freeway underpasses and orange groves. The things we find are unbelievable, like animal torture and sacrifices, just for a start.” In our area of Southern California, it was common knowledge that one should avoid the orange groves in a nearby town at night, where witches, warlocks and Druid priests gathered for bonfires, worship, sacrifices and divination practices.  

On Halloween many witch covens hold their annual worship service and offer a blood sacrifice to Satan. Other Wiccans find the celebration of Halloween disrespectful of the deceased soul worship they promote, so they choose to abstain from worship services during this time.

Throughout the year Satanists sacrifice cats, dogs, and other animals. Word on the street is that during Halloween, they up the ante by finding a human sacrifice. Where do they find humans to sacrifice? There are plenty of homeless drug addicts that could disappear unnoticed. And children born without birth certificates are another source. (On a side note, my overactive mind wonders if some of our missing children might have been snatched for just this purpose.)

Newscasters in numerous cities warn viewers to guard their animals on Halloween night (actually, a week prior to and a week after Halloween are the best recommendations, which we have followed for years). Many animal humane societies won’t allow black cats to be adopted around this time. Farmers sometimes find mutilated remains of their ritualistically slaughtered farm animals.


So Now What Do You Do With All of This Information?
Eighteen years ago, after learning the history and facts, Halloween no longer appeared to be such a cute, harmless holiday to me. It seemed as though God pricked my heart and said, “Can you really reconcile worshiping Me and celebrating this day, in that way? Aren’t you treading in dangerous water?”

Then I wondered: If Jesus suddenly appeared before me in the flesh, would I be comfortable getting dressed up in some ridiculous, compromising costume and inviting him along to the party as my date? (Because that’s what I’d be doing since He goes everywhere with me.) And what kind of look would He give me when he saw the costumes I put on my children in order to go door-to-door begging candy?

Do we unconsciously, ignorantly approve of such worship when we participate in it? When the rest of the world sees Christians celebrating this holiday, what do they think of us? We need to think and pray seriously on such matters since we’ll be called to task for leading someone—most especially a child—astray. (Jesus said it would be better for someone to have a millstone hung around his neck and to drown in the sea than to lead one of the little ones astray. That passage has always caused me to shiver.)

If, after fervent prayer and reasoning, you think you can celebrate Halloween and simultaneously glorify God, then go for it. (If you do, please write me to tell me how your spiritual life’s going for you.)

It’s just difficult for me to believe it’s possible to wear the devil’s colors, while holding a ghoulishly carved pumpkin, donning a spidery Black Widow costume, hoping the youth don’t terrorize my neighborhood or vandalize my property, knowing someone’s precious cat got snagged for the purpose of being sacrificed to the ruler of evil, and think that’s all harmless and God doesn’t really care and will turn a blind eye to my “fun.” 

As my husband cynically put it, "It's like inviting everyone to the synagogue or temple for a Baal and Ashura dress-up party, in order to witness!" (If you know anything about Baal and Ashura—fertility god and goddess—and the kinds of sacrifices the Israelites offered them, and how God reacted to that, can you honestly imagine God blessing that kind of witnessing activity?) 

Would it be better to compromise and participate or spend the night in prayer for the forces of evil in this world to be abated? To sing songs of praise and worship to God? To pray in thanksgiving for the departed saints of the faith—the men and women who have gone before us and received their reward? To pray fervently for more souls of men and women to receive a heavenly reward?

As my younger son would add with a shoulder shrug and eyebrow tilt, “I’m just saying…”

____________________________________


Many Christians question Halloween’s nature, influence and fruit.

Many Christians fire back that Christ made all things new, that they have “liberty” in Christ from “legalism.” That God has "made all things new." Or they simply regard it as innocent fun.


But is it just innocent fun?

Halloween is serious business for Satanists and Witches. Do you really want to be even remotely associated with these two groups, decorating your homes, business, work cubicles, classrooms and churches with occult symbols? Did you ever think that you might be glorifying Satan and the powers of darkness by participating?

While you and your child are out traipsing door-to-door by flashlight, realize that those who oppose Christianity and Christ are gathered together to try to cast spells, worship demons and Satan, observe Satanic rituals, perform gross, sacrilegious acts, mutilate animals and offer blood sacrifices to Satan.

Warning: Graphic explanations in this paragraph you might want to skip. Some of the rituals are too ghastly, or shocking to believe: Drinking animal or human blood or urine, eating entrails and organs, ritualistic orgies, substance abuse, and, yes, human sacrifice.

So while Satan worshipers, Wiccans and the police are taking all of this very seriously, many of us lukewarm Christians can’t abide the thought of spoiling our children’s fun during this “harmless” holiday! What kind of message are we sending to our children when we say this is all harmless fun?

Harmless? Really?

Are we deceiving ourselves? Can we call ourselves children of Light while we masquerade around town during a celebration that carries such blatant overtones of evil and darkness? Is it smart for us to laugh at it?
 
Can we overlook the reality of the ever-more-prevalent Satan worship associated with Halloween?

Does Halloween bear any good fruit, or hold any redeeming value?

Does God wave aside everything He’s said about occult worship and place a smiley face stamp of approval on our events, just because we’ve euphemistically titled them “Harvest Festivals” instead of Halloween? Do we really believe that the general, secular public sees our celebration as anything else than a massive Halloween bash?

And if our houses of worship are truly dedicated to God, how do we justify decorating them with occult symbols, no matter how cute they are?



I’m not going to tell you what to think or do. That’s between you and God. But before I sign off, I’ll leave you with some words to think about…

“Learn not the way of the heathen…. For the customs of the people are vain” (Jeremiah 10:2-3).

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).

“Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

“Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12).

“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

“For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness and what communion has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial…. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15, 17).


Thanks for joining me!

I’ll be back again with my next post on defeating depression on Monday, November 4.

Until then!

Blessings,

Andrea

(God instituted plenty of good, wholesome, seasonal festivals. For ideas, be sure to look for my special Thanksgiving blog in late November.)