Origin of Halloween

Origin of Halloween

As our society rejects God and the Bible, people grab onto substitutes for the Christian faith. Sometimes those substitutes can be dangerous and certainly foolish. We see an increase in this activity around Halloween. Decorating with jack-o-lanterns and putting on costumes, and even trick or treating can be fun as long as it doesn’t move into witchcraft or a destructive game. However, it is important that we know something about the origin of Halloween and instruct our children about what is real and what is fantasy.

The origin of Halloween and most of its customs can be traced to an ancient pagan Celtic festival called Samhain, Gaelic for “summer’s end.” When the Roman Empire took over Celtic land, they added their traditions to Samhain and the day became known as “All Hallows Day.” Later the Catholic Church designated November 1 as All Saints Day in honor of Catholic saints. People costumed as angels and saints and paraded through the villages. Since November 1 was once called All Hallows Day, October 31 became known as All Hallows Eve, which was shortened to “Halloween”.

In the Middle Ages, women who practiced divination were called witches from the Anglo-Saxon word wicce or wise one. Superstitious people believed that these women flew out of their chimneys on broomsticks and terrorized people with magical deeds. Jack-o-lanterns and costumes were the rage during Samhain, all designed to scare off evil spirits.

Even bobbing for apples had a religious connection. Around November 1, the Roman celebrated a festival for Pomona, the goddess of fruit and orchards. The Romans believed that the first person to catch a bobbing apple with their teeth would be the first to marry in the new year. People believed that the shape of the peel thrown on the ground would be the first initial of the peeler’s true love.

You may think all of this is ancient, silly nonsense, but people believed it. In today’s world, people grab at almost anything looking for something better than what they have in this life. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Life is serious, and Christ has given us the key to having an abundant life. Superstition and tradition may make grandiose promises, but the teachings of Christ work.

You can have fun with the fall tradition and use the origin of Halloween as a teaching opportunity.
Above all, follow Christ for the best in this life and the life to come.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Fall and Winter 2020, pages 14-15.

Ghosts Are Not Real

Ghosts Are Not Real

As we approach Halloween in America, some people ask, “Are ghosts real?” No, ghosts are not real, and there are natural explanations for the stories about ghosts.

The fall 2020 issue of Popular Science (pages 78-87) carried an article by Jake Bittle titled, “Why Do We See Ghosts?” The article explains some famous encounters with Ghosts throughout history starting in 1500 B.C. and including the Amityville haunting in the 1970s. Bittle points out that some people WANT to believe in ghosts and will interpret anything they don’t understand as the action of a ghost.

Those of us who have spent many nights sleeping on the ground have had the experience of hearing sounds in the dark that we cannot identify. When I was in the army, I spent much of my sleep time awake wondering whether the sound I heard came from a human or a natural object or animal–or my imagination. In ancient times, it could be essential to identify a sound you didn’t recognize so that you could avoid being eaten.

Several years ago, I attended a meeting of paranormal experts on the Queen Mary, a ship that some say is haunted. Our guide repeatedly saw ghosts and tried to convince us that they were real. In every case, there were natural explanations for what our guide saw or heard. Nobody in our group saw anything that could be called a ghost.

As technology has advanced, there have been many new ways to produce effects that people could interpret as ghosts. There also have been studies relating ghost sightings to drug use or mental illness. I have friends who had all kinds of ghost experiences when they were using LSD. In those cases, ghosts are not real, even though they seem real.

There is no biblical support for ghosts. Saul’s experience with the witch of Endor was a miraculous act of God that terrorized the witch ( See 1 Samuel 28:5-19). When people reject God, as Saul did, they are desperate to find spiritual guidance of some kind, and they often seek help from ghosts

There is no support for the existence of ghosts or their interaction with humans. In Mark 6:49, when Jesus came walking on the water, the disciples “SUPPOSED it had been a spirit,” but that is the only reference to ghosts in the New Testament.

God has promised us that we “will not be tempted above that which you are able to bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Bible tells us that we can find truth in God’s word and by looking at the world God has made (Romans 1:19– 20). We need to avoid wild stories and things like Ouija boards when making life decisions because they are products of human fantasy. Ghosts are not real.

— John N. Clayton © 2020