A Guide for
Christian Parents

Halloween falls closely behind Christmas as the second most popular holiday in America among both youth and adults. To compare, 80% of us decorate our homes for Christmas and 65% for Halloween.(1) Not a year goes by when our country’s participation in Halloween doesn't increase in fervor and intensity. For small children it’s a night of excitement and trick or treating.

For kids of all ages it’s a bigger “party night” than New Years Eve. For retailers, it’s a seven billion dollar sales extravaganza. Public schools have minimized or eliminated Christmas but join in with festivals, celebrations and carnivals during Halloween. For weeks, it’s all our kids can talk about!

So how should Christian parents respond to this time of celebration? Many of us have our own fond memories of dressing up and trick or treating as kids and we know how much our children look forward to this day. But we can become confused when we hear of Christian parents who don’t let their children participate. Are they just being uptight and legalistic or do they know something about this holiday that we don’t know? This pamphlet was written with the goal of helping lessen this confusion by taking a look at the history of Halloween so that we have a better understanding of what we celebrate today when we carve our pumpkin!

The roots of Halloween are grounded in the Celtic religion. The Celts were the first Aryan people who came from Asia to Europe. They settled in Briton and Ireland and believed that their ancestors were descendants of the god “Dis” who the Romans believed was the god of the dead.(2) The Celts worshiped idols and nature, and believed in reincarnation. Stonehenge is an example of an ancient ceremonial site where it is thought that the priests, called Druids, held their worship ceremonies.  The Druids’ two main gods were the sun god, “Belenus,” who they worshiped on May 1st, and the Lord of the Dead, “Samhain,”(3) who they worshiped on October 31st. They believed that good people were reincarnated as humans and the bad were reborn as animals.

Druid priests taught that on October 31st, the night before the Celtic New Year, the Lord of the Dead, Samhain, did two things:  First, he gathered the souls of the dead who had been condemned to enter the body of animals and he decided what animal form they would take for the next year. Second, he allowed the spirits of those who had died within the past year to return to the earth to associate with their family and friends before being reincarnated as either human or animal.(4) During this night when “ghosts” came back to Earth, people would put on masks and dress in disguises to hide from these spirits or try to frighten them off. “Bonfires would be built on hills to draw them away from the houses and treats would be left on doorsteps to appease those spirits who were getting a little too close to home.”(5) Today’s custom of dressing in masks and costumes and giving out treats descend from these pagan practices.

In A.D. 835, humans were being sacrificed to the gods during the pagan ceremonies on October 31st, and the Catholic Church decided that by changing what the day represented, maybe they could change the customs and traditions being practiced. So the Church proclaimed November 1st as “All Saints Day” and the day before as “All Hallow’s Evening” (6) with hopes that the people would worship the saints of the church and not the pagan gods of their ancestors.

Halloween was not practiced in America  until around the twentieth century, when Irish/Catholics immigrated to America and brought their traditions with them. The “Jack O’ Lantern,” according to Irish legends, came from a man named Jack who could not enter into Heaven because he was stingy, and could not enter into Hell because he had swindled the devil in a bar. Because of this, Jack’s ghost had to roam the earth with a lantern until the day of final judgement.(7) We carry on that tradition by putting our carved, lighted, Jack O’ Lantern out on our porch, and it’s interesting to look back at history to see how many of these pagan traditions are still being practiced today.

No discussion of Halloween would be complete without looking at what this night represents to the estimated 600,000 men and women in America who practice witchcraft.(8) Witchcraft’s roots and rituals have been traced to the fertility goddess of the Canaanites. Witches who identify themselves as “pagans,” “druids” and “wiccians” focus on their god “Lucifer” during Halloween night. The wiccian’s symbol of worship is a five pointed pentagram symbolizing the devil. October 31st is a very powerful day for those who practice witchcraft and it is as spiritually significant to a witch as December 25th is to a Christian. According to a wiccian information site: “The wall between earth and the underworld is thin at this time of year. On Halloween night, the wall opens and the Lord of Darkness rises up from the underworld. It is an evil and wicked night, a perfect night for a witch to celebrate New Years.”

On Halloween, wiccians draw Satan’s energy down upon themselves, a practice they call “drawing down the cone.” On this night, spells are cast, young women drink blood as they dedicate their souls to Lucifer, and the ceremonies include animal or human sacrifices. These rituals are not confined to third world countries nor to small towns far away. So widespread is this practice that Los Angeles County Department of Animal Regulations does not allow the adoption of any black cats during the two-week period preceding Halloween.

Should we therefore conclude that Halloween is off limits for Christian families? Can’t we just celebrate the “fun” part of Halloween? We don’t hold Celtic pagan beliefs and we’re not practicing the rituals of witchcraft. All we wanted was a little candy!

This is where our own discernment must be focused by the Holy Spirit as we seek our answers through Scripture. We have no argument when Scripture tells us we are not to practice, or actively take part in, any of Satan’s ceremonies: “There shall not be found among you, anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord” (9)

So while we understand we are not to actively practice witchcraft, where does this leave us as we consider our participation in Halloween? It may be helpful to consider what the apostle Paul taught in 1 Cor. 10.  He tells us that eating food previously sacrificed to pagan idols was not necessarily a bad thing because the eating of the meat had no connection to the sacrifice itself. But he did warn against participating in the rituals themselves: “Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.  Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?”(10) 

This was the passage of scripture that spoke to me years ago as I considered whether I wanted my then thirteen-year-old step-daughter to participate in Halloween. The underlined portion of this passage, “I do not want you to be participants with demons,” is translated in the NKJV as “I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.” The Corinthian Christians were not worshiping demons, but the apostle Paul warned them that even their casual participation at the pagan ceremonies was fellowship with demons and arouses God to jealous anger.

As I studied these scriptures, the deciding question about Halloween was this: If we even casually participate in what wiccians and occultists believe is the most “evil and wicked time” of the year, are we glorifying God? Or are we fellowshipping with demons as we enter along with them into a celebration of all that is evil?

As Christian parents, we have a difficult decision to make every year at this time. During tearful family discussions, my daughter’s toughest argument was, “My best friend’s dad is letting HER go trick or treating and HE’S a pastor TOO!” (She still didn’t get to go...) To help us make the right decision for our families, we need to prayerfully consider Scripture and seek guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Once you have reached your decision,  I have a few suggestions to offer. If you have chosen to allow your children to participate, read Psalm 91 (and read it to them if it’s appropriate for their age). Psalm 91 speaks of the covering and security that our Lord gives us when we come up against that which is evil or is rooted in the demonic. When your small children are afraid of ghosts, don’t tell them ghosts don’t exist (demon spirits are real!). Tell them instead that Jesus loves them and He will protect them from ghosts and anything else that they find scary! Because this is a spiritually dangerous night, be sure that your children are well covered in prayers if they participate and watch for behavioral changes in the days following. 

If you have chosen to not allow your children to participate, discuss it with them using the scriptures which led you to your decision as the basis of your conversation. Finally, consider doing something especially fun with your children on Oct 31st to take the place of Halloween parties and trick or treating. Many churches have harvest festivals that provide a spiritually-safe alternative evening of fun for your children.

After you have reached your decision, the most important thing you can teach your children is what the apostle Paul teaches us: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables... One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind... Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.”(11) The primary matter of importance is our salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ and our relationship with God. All other matters and opinions are, in Paul’s words, “disputable”, i.e. arguable.

In some churches, Halloween has become a contentious matter among well-meaning parents and this passage tells us that we should give grace to those whose viewpoints are different than ours on the disputable matters or when their children do something differently than ours do. The Body of Christ should never let any disputable matter cause judgement, friction, strife or condemnation among brothers and sisters. “And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”(12)

1.     2008 Report on Halloween: National Retailers Federation.
2. John Ankerberg & John Weldon, “The Facts of Halloween” Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. 1996.
3. "Samhain" was the day of celebration on October 31 and has been used as the name of the "Lord of Death" by those who have studied this religion.
4. Ankerberg & Weldon, pg 6
5. Author Bob Larson on TBN, October 31, 1995
6. See what you get when you take words "Hallows Evening" and drop the "s", "v" and the "ing".
7. Luis Lara, "Halloween Trick or Treat" Ebenezer Distributions, Los Angeles
8. Bob Larson, "Larson's New Book of Cults", Tyndale House, Wheaton, 1989
9. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (NASB)
10. I Corinthians 10:18-22 (NIV)
11.   Romans 14:1,2,5,13 (NIV)
12.   Colossians 3:14-15 (NASB)

Copyright: John B. Hickman © 1996 ~ Revised 2009
This pamphlet was originally published for distribution to churches in the
Santa Clarita Valley (California) through the SCV Ministry Consortium.
Permission is granted for churches to make exact and complete
photocopies of this brochure for distribution.