The origination of Halloween appears to us first in the ancient religion of the Celts who settled in Ireland, Britain and Gaul. The ancient Celtic people were very superstitious and also very conscious of the existence of a spirit world that influenced their own daily lives.
Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween), at the end of summer, was one of the Celts’ four major pagan festivals. The celebration lasted up to three days. During Samhain (around November 1st), they believed that the partition between our world and the spiritual realm would almost disappear. This was a troubling time when supernatural forces were most active. The spirits of those who had died during the last year would rise and terrible apparitions would cross through the supernatural veil into the world of the living. The Celts feared the wrath of spirits who, they believed, now wandered freely throughout the land.
Celtic priests, who were called Druids, carried out the rituals of Samhain by offering sacrifices. They were the intermediaries between the people and the spirits. Usually, the sacrifices consisted of crops and animals. Many times, however, the sacrifices were human. The Druids sought to appease the spirits and ensure that the sun would return after the winter.
The Celts built bonfires to represent the sun and aid the Druids in their war with evil spirits and the practice of fortune telling. Actually, the word “bonfire” is translated from the words that mean “bone fire.” The bones of sacrificed animals and humans were piled in a field with wood and set on fire. Sometimes, the Druids would have two bonfires in one place. They would direct the people to walk between the bonfires in order to be purified for the year ahead. All fires except those of the Druids were extinguished on Samhain. The Druids’ fires, lit during Samhain, would often burn all through the winter and sacrifices would be offered on the fires. On the morning following Samhain, the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family – who would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires would keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits.
During Samhain, the Celts often dressed up in animal skulls and skins and danced around the bonfires. They believed that spirits would disguise themselves as beggars on Samhain and go from house to house asking for food. Those people who would not share with the beggar would be punished by the spirits (“trick or treat”). They also believed that on this night, the disembodied spirits of everyone who had died that past year, would come back to search for bodies to possess. They believed that the spirits would avoid them if they could make themselves look like spirits. In these primitive animal skin costumes, they roamed the community making noise to make evil spirits think that they too were spirits and thus pass them by.
So, how is a Christian to respond to Halloween in light of its pagan history? According to the Scriptures:
10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 18)
It is easy to show that the Bible condemns having anything to do with occultic practices, spirits, and witches. The occult, Tarot Cards, contacting the dead, and séances are all unbiblical and can harm a Christian’s relationship with God. The Christian is not to be involved in anything that exalts or uplifts the occult, demons, devils, and spirits. However, if you can avoid occultic costumes and practices on Halloween and simply participate in it as a cultural celebration in which you give and receive candy (treats), then I see no harm in it for the concerned Christian.