Have you ever wondered why and how American Christians celebrate certain holidays? IFI would love to explain!
Check out some perspective on Halloween:
A Brief History
Halloween is a holiday with ties to multiple religious celebrations.
The name “Halloween” is derived from “All Hallow’s Eve”, or the night before “All Hallows Day”. All Hallows Day is a Christian holiday that focuses on honoring holy people who have died. It is officially celebrated on November 1, but festivities and preparation (i.e. fasting and prayer) begin on the evening of October 31. This holiday was brought to America by Irish and Scottish immigrants and eventually became the modern Halloween.
Halloween also has ties to the Celtic holiday, Samhain (“the end of summer”). This holiday recognized the transition of the seasons, as well as the transition from life to death. Many of the activities and traditions that define Halloween today are a combination of traditions from All Hallows Day and Samhain.
The American Celebration
When Halloween was adopted by American society, it slowly began to transition from a religious holiday to a secular one.
However, it still maintained many of the traditions of the past. These include creating Jack-o-Lanterns, and “Trick-or-Treating.” Jack-O-Lanterns are crafts that are created by hollowing out a pumpkin and carving a design (usually a scary face) into it. Then a candle is added to the inside of the pumpkin and lit to illuminate the face. Trick-or-Treating - which is often done by American children - involves dressing up in a costume and visiting neighbors requesting candy. American adults also hold costume parties during Halloween.
Halloween is also a time when activities associated with “horror” are popular with Americans. This includes watching horror films and visiting Haunted Houses - local venues designed to entertain visitors with scary themes and attractions.
Focusing on the Light
Now, you might ask - “do Christians celebrate Halloween?” Well, the answer requires some perspective.
If you speak to any Christian about Halloween, you’ll likely find a different perspective on the holiday. Some will focus on its historical roots to determine whether or not to celebrate it. Others will focus on the modern traditions, removing the history. A few might not be concerned at all. But, one thing Christians can agree on is who Jesus is.
Christian recognize Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Bible also describes him in other ways: The Lamb of God, the Son of God, The Bread of Life. Jesus also shares this about himself: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:2).
But what does that have to do with Halloween? Well, let’s focus on The Light.
The modern iteration of Halloween, in many ways, is a celebration with a heavy emphasis on darkness and fear. In fact, many of the traditions (ex. Jack-o-Lanterns) that we think of as fun activities, were historically used to fight the darkness and the evil that’s associated with it. But if Jesus is The Light, he is the answer for the darkness, and that means those who follow him don’t have to be afraid. Additionally, just like the candles in a Jack-o-Lantern are lit, when believers are given the light of Jesus, we can see the true beauty of God’s creation: us.
Even Halloween’s historical emphasis on death is answered by Jesus. By giving his followers the “light of life,” they do not have to fear death. Instead, they have hope for eternal life with Jesus. That hope, and their love for Jesus, is what drives Christians everyday, not just on Halloween.
We hope that helps you understand more about Halloween. Check back with us to learn about other American holidays.
You can also hear from American Christians yourself by joining us for our annual Pumpkin Carving event.