One interesting part of this ministry is the wide assortment of emails and postal letters we receive. We average about 1000 per week, which come from every corner of the globe and express every viewpoint you can imagine. So, for example, we get many letters complaining about the end-of-year holidays and the decadent origin of many of them.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are the major end-of-year holidays, and someone will find things to dislike about their origins or practices. Halloween leads all the others with people citing complaints about everything from destructive spirits to human sacrifice. So, should we avoid trick or treat, carving faces on pumpkins, costumes, orange and black decorations, telling ghost stories, or games like Dungeons and Dragons?
The origin of Halloween goes back to ancient days in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales when the people celebrated the end of harvest. They had feasts, games, bobbing for apples, and thanking God for a successful harvest. The Roman Catholic Church added a time of remembering those who had died with special memorials for past family members. This was a positive thing that brought people together.
Years later, the Catholic Church tradition added the doctrine of purgatory. In many European countries, people held graveside services to atone for sins that family members committed before they died. This included leaving food, articles of clothing, or things that were special to the deceased by the graves. When some of these items disappeared, people assumed that somehow the dead had found a way to enjoy them. This led to fantastic stories about meeting these characters at night. Human imagination ran wild, and skeptics made fun of this practice and invented ways to profit from the stories created by people’s imaginations.
People today still invent wild stories, and the entertainment industry has taken advantage of that in films, plays, TV shows, and books. What began as a celebration of God’s blessings evolved into a memorial for those who had died and then became a tool for those who would exploit the uneducated for economic gain.
Taking advantage of people through trickery is nothing new. We read in the Bible about a man named Simon who used magic as a tool to exploit people ( Acts 8:9-11). In 1 Samuel 28:8–25, we find the story of Saul and the “Witch of Endor” seeking to bring up the spirit of Samuel. God commanded His people to avoid witchcraft of any kind. A miracle of God allows Samuel to actually show up, and the witch screams in terror, realizing that God has acted because she knows her scam is worthless. Bringing people back from the dead in today’s world is also a scam.
We have chosen just one of the end-of-year holidays as an example. Is carving a pumpkin or putting up Halloween decorations endorsing something evil? Of course not! Does evil exist? It absolutely does, but God is in control, and for Christians, evil cannot overtake us if we resist it. The Bible tells us to resist Satan, and he will flee from us (James 4:7). Halloween is a great time to learn and help dispel the claims of charlatans and con artists as they strive to fleece the ignorant and uneducated. So enjoy the end-of-year holidays and use them to teach others about what really matters in life–following the teachings of Christ as our guide to successful living.
— John N. Clayton © 2022