Is Halloween a Christian holiday?

Halloween is coming soon, and I’m getting progressively more excited about it believe it or not. But of course, not everyone particularly cares about Halloween. In fact, there are people of various religions who don’t celebrate Halloween for various reason, but the most common is Christians not celebrating Halloween because they feel it is either a pagan holiday or a day associated with Satan. I actually feel that’s a strange thing for some Christians to say, considering the existence of the Christian traditions of All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day (which is also followed by another day called All Souls Day, which is meant to commemorate the souls of all the departed faithful). The name Halloween even originates from a Scottish term for All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Saints Day (which falls on November 1st, which happens to be the same day that the Celtic festival Samhain is traditionally celebrated).

That said, is Halloween really a Christian holiday? Perhaps it was in the days where All Saints Day and Eve seemed to displace the Samhain festival during the Christian era, but the fact is that the Halloween of today is largely divorced from both Samhain, its Celtic predecessor, and the Christian All Saints days, and is now a modern secular, even commercial, celebration of all things dark, ghoulish, and perhaps macabre. However, modern Halloween does preserve elements of both the Celtic Samhain and the Christian All Hallow’s Eve. The tradition of wearing costumes goes back to old Celtic paganism, where people celebrating Samhain would wear costumes to keep troublesome or evil spirits from bothering them, though they also seem to have done it to placate or imitate the spirits. The tradition of trick or treating seems to have some Christian roots in the medieval tradition of souling, where people pray for the souls of the dead on All Souls Day in exchange for cakes, and the practice of guising (which involves costumes) in the 19th century where children would go door to door in costume for food or coins. I have also heard of a Celtic tradition where people during Samhain would go door to door and ask people for food to donate to the gods, or for kindling and wood for celebratory bonfires, but I’m not sure on that one.

Thing is, both the Celtic Samhain and the Christian All Saints days were religious holidays with religious context, but Halloween as it is now is now without these connotations. Samhain is now seen as a different holiday entirely, especially by neopagans and Wiccans, and though Christians may still celebrate the All Saints vigils, those aren’t entirely the same as the Halloween of today. The attitudes of conservative Christians towards Halloween, and the propaganda against it made by evangelists, has affected Christian attitudes towards Halloween as well, to the point that some Christians devise alternatives to the celebration, though it seems many Christians don’t see anything too negative about Halloween.

Which leads to the other question: is Halloween Satanic? Technically no. It’s a secular holiday, it has no real religious context (at least in modern times), but it can be seen as a Satanic holiday by some people. I myself am thinking of adopting a Satanic flavor for this Halloween and future Halloweens. When Anton LaVey wrote The Satanic Bible in 1969, three years after establishing the Church of Satan, he wrote that the three main Satanic holidays are your birthday, Halloween, and Walpurgis Night. The solstices and equinoxes are also considered holidays, perhaps because Satanism also embraces Nature. For the Satanist, Halloween could be seen as a high holiday for indulgence and in celebrating the darkness, and the Satanist can embrace what Halloween has become, parted from its Christian and even Celtic form and transformed into a secular festivity of darkness.

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5 responses to “Is Halloween a Christian holiday?

  1. I use Samhain/Halloween/October 31st as an ancestor day since it leads up to Dia de los Inocentes and Dia de los Muertos.

      • Wake up early, usually around 4 or 5 am, shower, morning prayer, meditation. Normally I’ll set the ancestor altar up the night before. Of course if something else happens that makes that difficult then I’ll set it up after I’m done meditating. On Samhain, I do an offering and libation for my mom only. After the ritual, I’ll spend the rest of the day with my family because we usually watch horror movies (creature features this year). On The Day of the Dead (November 2nd), I’ll do a ritual for everyone on my ancestor altar.

  2. Pingback: All Souls’ Day | Stepping Toes

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