Like many holidays, Halloween involves a mix of various traditions from different cultures, religions, and time periods. As far back as the 8th c., Pope Gregory III named November 1st as a date to honor saints (All Saints Day). That made October 31st “All Hallows Eve”–or later, “Halloween.” This was also the date that ancient Celts would light bonfires and wear costumes as a way to ward off haunting spirits. Eventually, these two traditions merged, with “Halloween” incorporating costumes, a concern with “ghosts,” and even candy.
Some Christians refuse to celebrate Halloween because of its association with Druidry or evil spirits. But the fact is that many later holidays have at least some connection to old pagan festivals. The more important point is a question of how and what one celebrates. Thankfully, there is nothing un-Christian about silly costumes or free candy. October 31st if also “Reformation Day”: the day which marks the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. So, if you are looking for a more explicitly Christian costume, you can always dress up like an anxious Augustinian monk (young Martin Luther) and cover three holidays at once!
-Dr. Josh McNall
In the twentieth century, the newly-invented religions of Wicca and Satanism both adopted Halloween as a holy day. For most Americans, though, its meaning is secular—it’s a time to dress as a fantasy character and get candy. Some Christians take this secular approach; others avoid Halloween because of its spiritual associations; and still others stage alternatives (e.g. “harvest parties”) or outreach events (like “Trunk ‘r Treat” candy giveaways or hell-themed horror houses meant to scare visitors into repentance). Regardless, St. Paul’s advice to early Christians struggling with relating their faith to their pagan culture still applies: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV).”
-Dr. Jerome Van Kuiken