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Halloween’s Ancient Pagan Roots: How Should Christians Respond?

Halloweens Ancient Pagan Roots

Free candy. Fun costumes. Neighborly greetings. Exciting festivals. It’s no surprise that Halloween has become one of the United States’ most popular holidays. Around 70% of Americans celebrated Halloween before COVID-19 struck, with the average person spending $162.29 on the holiday.

For all its popularity, though, how much do we know about Halloween’s roots? Many people know that modern-day Halloween can be traced back to the early 1900s, when the Irish and Scots migrated to the U.S.

But Halloween’s roots go back much further than that. Around 2,000 years ago, the Celts (who lived in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France), had a pagan festival called Samhain. During this festival, people celebrated the dead by offering many animals and crops as sacrifices.

In his article, apologist Bodie Hodge explains that ancient Roman records refer to the Celts and their festivals. After the Romans conquered the Celts, their own celebrations influenced Samhain. The Roman festival Pomona, a harvest celebration, and Feralia, a day honoring the dead, were both celebrated near the end of October.

But there’s more to the story.

How Far Back Do Halloween’s Roots Go?

It’s likely that Halloween’s original roots go back even further than the Celts. Think about it—what are the chances that cultures all around the world have a holiday to honor the dead and that often involve animal sacrifices?

In Mexico, people celebrate el Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), a tradition that traces back around 3,000 years to pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. And in certain East Asian countries, the Zhongyuan Festival (also known as the Festival of the Hungry Ghost) is celebrated to pay respects to dead ancestors and ward off evil spirits. These are just a few examples.

“We can make a pretty strong argument that this holiday goes back to a time when all the peoples lived together—and then they took this holiday to various parts of the world,” says Hodge. “This would likely push the true origin of ‘Halloween’ and these other ‘days of the dead’ to the time before the dispersion at Babel (Genesis 11) over 4,200 years ago, after which different early cultures began to vary in their practices.”

Without a common starting point, it doesn’t make sense that cultures around the globe have such similar celebrations.

Could it be that these death-focused celebrations trace back to a day to honor those who died in the Global Flood? It could be that the sacrifices in these holidays were modeled after the large sacrifices Noah and his family made after exiting the Ark (Genesis 8:18-9:1). Then, as centuries and even millennia passed, the tradition would have morphed among various cultures. This is certainly a plausible explanation given the evidence.

How Should Christians Respond to Halloween?

It’s clear that many modern ways of celebrating Halloween honor death, fear, violence, and even witchcraft. This doesn’t mean that everyone who celebrates Halloween has evil motives, but the holiday itself has many connections to Paganism, witchcraft, and the occult.

So how should Christians respond? Well, first, it’s important we understand that Satan doesn’t “own” any day—not even October 31. Psalm 24:1 says that everything belongs the Lord, and that means everything.

There’s no reason Christians can’t celebrate this day for different and better reasons. For example, many churches celebrate Reformation Day instead of Halloween on October 31, which also happens to be the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door. Christians can use this day to remember how Jesus ended animal sacrifices for good by being the ultimate sacrifice for sin.

Another thing Christians can do on Halloween is share the gospel! (Is there a better way to counter evil than by showing the love of Jesus? We don’t think so!)

Ken Ham recommends “reverse-trick-or-treating,” in which you bring a basket of treats and gospel booklets to bless your neighbors. You can use Answers in Genesis’ “Halloween Kit,” which includes dollar-sized gospel booklets for Halloween for this tradition.

Learn More About Halloween’s Roots From a Biblical Perspective

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Halloween, Paganism, and the Bible

Join Bodie Hodge as he explores the origin and purpose of Halloween, tracing its roots to ancient Paganism and possibly to times before the dispersion at the Tower of Babel!