Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve?
by Lee Ann Mancini
As a child, I remember jumping into the beautiful fall-colored leaves that blanketed the base of the huge maple tree in our yard. The autumn colors captured my imagination and gave me a sense of anticipation for the fall festivities that were soon to follow!
During the fall, many families celebrate Halloween. But can a Christian family celebrate Halloween? Is there a way for Christians to transform this pagan holiday into a night of fun activities that honor God? Furthermore, if you decide to allow your children to participate in this fall tradition, what steps should you take to ensure that they are not adversely affected by what they see or hear while they trick-or-treat?
Historically, the Halloween tradition finds its roots in the Celtic tribes of Ireland, Wales and Brittany. These tribes believed that the souls of the dead, including witches, ghosts, goblins, warlocks and other evil spirits, would return to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, they would wear masks and light bonfires.
In 835, however, Pope Gregory IV changed the name of this celebration to All Martyrs’ (later All Saints’ Day), which lasted from October 31 to November 1. The night before the celebration became known as All Hallows’ Eve or “Holy Evening,” and the name eventually morphed into Halloween. Understood in this fashion, Halloween is not really originally a pagan holiday. Even today, the Catholic Church celebrates All Souls’ Day on November 2.
Many fall customs that are associated with Halloween come from these ancient celebrations. For example, the custom of going to neighbors’ houses to collect treats first began in Ireland. Farmers would go door-to-door to ask for food for the village feast. If your family did not provide them with food, your family would receive threats of bad luck. This is probably where the term trick-or-treat originated.
How about carving pumpkins? This tradition also started with the Irish, who would carve out turnips and place candles inside of them to ward off evil spirits. When the Irish came to America, the pumpkin became the vegetable of choice simply because it provided greater illumination than the turnip.
Although Halloween is typically considered a pagan celebration, it does have Christian roots, and we are wise to remember Romans 11:36, which states, “For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”
Here are some fun party suggestions for celebrating one of the most beautiful seasons the Lord our God has made:
Grab a Handful – Have kids each take a turn reaching into a bucket of candy.
Color Corner – Cut pages out of a fall coloring book for children to color.
Draw a Pumpkin – Have kids use colored markers to draw faces on a pumpkin.
Sack Races – Get burlap sacks. Have two children each put a leg in the sack and race to the finish line. Large pillowcases will also do.
Moses’ Apple Pumpkin Cake Walk – Instead of numbers, write the 10 plagues on pieces of cardboard. While music is playing, have eleven children walk in a circle. Each time the music stops, remove a plague. The child who is on the last plague wins the Apple Pumpkin Cake!
Stuffing the Scarecrow – Have kids stuff hay into a shirt and an old pair of blue jeans. Use a large cardboard circle and a 12-inch ruler to make a face for the scarecrow. Glue the circle to the ruler and stuff it into the neck of the shirt.
Candy Hunt – Kids love a candy hunt. Place candy into little baggies and hide them throughout the yard or in the house.
Parents Are Judged – Have each parent draw a fall picture, and let the kids decide the winner! Have the children guess which parent drew what picture. Kids love this game.
Dress Up in Biblical Costumes – Another fun activity for children is to have them dress up as biblical figures. They can be characters from the Bible, such as angels, a king, Mary of Nazareth, or they can dress up as objects such as the 10 Commandments, a star, etc… While the children are in costume, take them to a local nursing home. They can form a parade for the elderly and bring them joy and laughter.
Progressive Trick-or-Treat Dinner with the Neighbors – Every house will offer a food course with a bag of treats or small toys. The first neighbor offers hors d’oeuvres. The second neighbor offers a salad. The third neighbor offers the main course. The last neighbor offers a fall-style dessert.
Movie Night – Start with the biblical story of the fall of man. Clearly express how the serpent represents the evil one. Have a few people dress up and act out the story. End with a movie that everyone will enjoy.
Have each child tell a joke or a riddle:
Q: What do you get when you drop a pumpkin?
Q: What do you use to mend a jack-o-lantern?
A: A pumpkin patch.
Q: Who helps the little pumpkins cross the road to school?
A: The crossing gourd.
Q: If money really did grow on trees, what would be everyone’s favorite season?
Q: Who won the skeleton beauty contest?
A: No body.
Q: What happened when the turkey got in a fight?
A: He got the stuffing knocked out of him.
Q: What did one leaf say to another?
A: I’m falling for you.
Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the fall season! Remember that Halloween is not a day to celebrate evil as those with nefarious motives do. Take back the holiday and let it be a day to celebrate all the saints who believe in the one true God! Let it be a day for children to celebrate one of the most wonderful seasons of the year, which the Lord God has made and over which He has proclaimed, “It is good!”
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