No. 11 - Do Orthodox Christians Observe Halloween?
What is “Halloween”?
The answer to this is in two parts: The Christian meaning of this day, and the anti-Christian meaning of this day:
The Christian “All-Hallows’ Eve”
“Halloween” is short for “All Hallows’ Eve,” that is, the evening before the Western Christian feast day of All Saints. “Hallow” is an old-fashioned word for “Holy”. So the “Day of All-Hallows” means the “Day of All-Saints.” “E’en” is short for evening. “Halloween” then, in its Christian meaning, refers to the evening before All Saints’ Day, which is November 1 on the western Roman calendar (the eastern Roman, or Byzantine, calendar places the commemoration of All Saints on the Sunday after Pentecost). This feast was instituted when old Rome and the Western European lands were still Orthodox, and therefore for centuries Orthodox Christians in the West observed All Saints’ Day on 1 November, and, like all traditional Christians, the pious people attended church services on the evening before the feast as well, which in this case was the eve of All Saints, or “All Hallows’ Eve” in old-fashioned English.
The Anti-Christian “Halloween”
The occult, demonic “Halloween” practices derive from the Druidic religion of the Celtic people who inhabited the British Isles. This is why, until very recently, the “spooky” Halloween was only celebrated in the British Isles, America, and other countries of British origin. Only recently has the “ghost and goblin” version of Halloween been – alas – spreading into formerly Orthodox and Roman Catholic countries.
When Christianity came to Britain, the Church found pagan people, the Celts, who celebrated a feast of their god “Samhain”, the Lord of Death, in the fall. On the night of “Samhain”, it was believed that the spirits of the dead roamed the earth and needed to be appeased, so that they would not work evil. To imitate this ritually, people would pretend to be the dead and roam from house to house demanding “treats.” On this dreadful night, as well, there were probably human sacrifices to appease death, as there were human sacrifices at many of the major Druidic holidays.
When the Church came to Britain and Ireland, of course, She strove mightily against the pagan religion of the Druids and attempted to stamp out such practices. In revenge, the pagans intensified their practices. This included, on “Samhain”, harassing those who would not give them “treats” – thus the threat of “tricks”. It also came to include mocking Christian practices: for example, “decorating” with skeletons was done in mockery of the veneration of the relics of the saints. The carved pumpkin is a mockery of the revered skull of a saint.
The original date of “Samhain” varied, because the Celts had a lunar, not solar, calendar. But after the Romans introduced the Julian calendar in Britain, “Samhain” came to be fixed on the night before November 1st. Thus it stood in direct conflict with the vigil for the Feast of All Saints.
It was very clear, then, that on the Eve of All Hallows, only PAGANS roamed the streets demanding ‘treats’, while CHRISTIANS KEPT VIGIL FOR THE HOLY FEAST DAY in a pious and Godly manner. When we go “trick or treating” we are, whether we know it or not, identifying with the pagans against the Christians.
But Isn’t the Modern “Halloween” Harmless?
Some people may object to all this and say, “Well, that was true at ONE TIME, but NOW Halloween is just a time for kids to dress up, get candy, and enjoy themselves.” I am afraid this is wishful thinking. The facts are these:
- The “cute-ification” of the witches, demons, and other symbols of Halloween is not harmless. On the contrary, it is the NORMALIZATION of things that are EVIL. Things that are evil should not be depicted as if they were friendly or harmless. This teaches children the opposite of what they should be learning. And even if our children dress up as something harmless, they are “swimming,” as it were, in the atmosphere of the occult symbols that are everywhere at Halloween, and we are lending support to the whole thing by being part of it.
- Real witches still exist, and they STILL regard “Halloween” as one of their “holy” nights. All over the United States alone, thousands of “Wiccan” and “Church of Satan” practitioners perform evil ceremonies on this night, ranging from the Wiccan neo-pagan nature worship to actual Satanic rituals. On a night when such things are known to go on, it is more important than ever not to confuse our Christian identity with things that are anti-Christian. It is also a night when we should intensify our prayers to combat the forces of evil.
- By taking part in the pagan Halloween, we make ourselves part of the rapid de-Christianization of the United States and Europe. Current data indicate that the number of people who “keep” Halloween is constantly growing and may at some point surpass the number of people who observe Christmas in the United States! Do we want to contribute to this trend?
- We may THINK that we “mean no harm” by “doing Halloween,” but uncritical behavior regarding invisible realities that we don’t really understand often invites demonic activity. Why should we take a chance on letting demons into our lives? Are we absolutely sure that Halloween is so harmless?
We Don’t Want Our Kids to Feel Left Out
Parents underestimate their children all the time. Children, and especially teenagers, are naturally idealistic and heroic. If you explain to your children why we don’t “do” Halloween, they may be a little disappointed, but in the long run, they will feel spiritual joy and a more profound sense of their own Christian identity. Also, standing up heroically like this when they are young prepares them for much bigger sacrifices they may have to make as adults to keep their integrity and their Faith.
What Should We Do on “Halloween” ?
In the Orthodox Church, of course, the night before November 1st is not “All Saints’ Eve,” for we celebrate the Feast of All Saints on the First Sunday after Pentecost. But we can have Church services – Vespers and a Paraclesis, for example, can be served just about any night of the Church year, especially when there is a pastoral need. AND we can plan wholesome and enjoyable non-Halloween activities for our children and youth on that night, either at Church or in our homes, so that they have a healthy substitute for trick or treating.
What About Halloween “Month” at the Public Schools?
It is a fact that the entire month of October, lately, seems to be “consecrated” by the public schools – especially in the elementary grades - to witches, goblins, ghosts, and so forth. This is even more evidence that Halloween is part and parcel of the agenda of de-Christianization of society. Can you imagine if you tried to devote December to stories and decorations related to Christmas, as once was the case in public schools? There would be lawsuits in thousands of school districts based on “separation of Church and state.” The disappearance of Christmas and the emergence of Halloween as the major “holiday” in the fall semester at school is a major triumph for paganism in its unending war against Christianity.
During this month, we have to monitor what our children are being taught, what their activities are in class, etc. We must keep explaining to them that witches are real and are not cute but evil, that “ghosts” of the dead do not leave heaven or hell, where the spirits of the dead really are, but rather devils masquerade as the dead to frighten and mislead people, and so forth.
ALSO – depending on your school district, parents may have a lot more control over what goes on in class than you think. Chances are, there are other parents who don’t care for “Halloween month” either, and if enough of you get together and ask for a change, changes can happen. We are usually too passive and think that our children’s education is the school board’s, school administration’s, and teachers’ business. It is only secondarily their business; primarily, it is OUR business. We have to be brave and assertive.
Of course, families that home-school their children or who send their children to clear-sighted church schools where they do not “do” Halloween, do not have this problem.