Halloween, or Hallowed Be Your Name?

By Evan Bartholomew, Lead Minister.

“He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come.’” Luke 11:2 (NIV).

“We are not like Moses, who would put a [mask] over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away…. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the [mask] is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:13-18 (NIV).

Candy corn, pumpkins, fake spider webs, and of course costumes are what enter the mind of most people in the weeks prior to what we call “Halloween”. Some even plan their costumes out months in advance in order to claim first prize at what ever costume contest they enter. Others just enjoy seeing the smiles on their children’s faces after collecting far too much trick-or-treat candy, or just basking in the gloomy atmosphere of spooky Halloween music and dungeon inspired decorations! Yet, most people seldom dare to question the roots and history of such a dark and mysterious holiday, or they just assume that the holiday itself is some sort of satanic ritual. Halloween, however, has a slightly different twisted story!

The word “hallow” means “to make or set apart as holy”, and “to respect or honor greatly”! The earliest roots of “Halloween” come from the ancient Celtic celebration of “Samhain”, over 2,000 years ago. It marked the end of summer, the harvest season, and the beginning of winter. The cold, dark winters were often associated with death. It was at this time that they believed the barrier between the living and the dead broke down, and that the dead spirits would bring death to the crops and animals throughout the winter. Therefore, on the last day of October, the Celts would make huge bonfires and sacrifice animals and crops to their gods, hoping to ward of the evil spirits of the dead. They often wore costumes made out of animal skins, and tried to predict each other’s future.

The campus ministry “strikes” a pose at bowling night!

In roughly 40 A.D., the Romans took over the Celtic territory and ruled over there lands for about 400 years. In that time, the Samhain festival was combined with two Roman festivals. The first festival was Feralia, where the Romans celebrated the passing of the dead. The second festival was to honor the Roman goddess Pomona, who was believed to be the goddess of fruit and trees – the harvest. By 800 A.D., a heavy religious influence had spread all throughout this now Roman territory. It was at this time, that the first day of November began to be celebrated as “All Saint’s Day”, which was also called “All-hallows” or “All-hallowmas”. Thus, the night before it, the same night of Samhain, was called “All-hallows Eve”, and then later “Halloween”. It was not to celebrate Samhain, although the Samhain festival is the root for many of the Halloween traditions, such as costumes, the death themes, and even the harvest colors of orange and black, because it was celebrated on the same day. Rather, it was to celebrate the eve of “All Saints Day”, and the honoring of all saints and martyrs. What a noble holiday!

Interestingly, despite what some denominations may teach, the word “saint” in the Bible is not referring some special order of super-disciples, but all true disciples that live according to God’s Word. The time chosen for this festival was at the time of the harvest. What could that have to do with All Saints Day? As the doctor Luke records Jesus last words to the disciples, or saints, “He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.” (Acts 1:7-9 NIV) Jesus’ last command to the saints was for them to be “witnesses” to the ends of the earth. The word “witness” in Greek is “martus”, where we get “martyr”. Therefore, all saints are to be martyrs, or witnesses! Luke also records Jesus much earlier in His ministry, “He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.’” (Luke 10:2-3 NIV) The harvest is equated with the mission field, and the saints are to witness on the harvest field. It is no wonder that this All Saints Day celebrates the sacrifice of the martyrs and saints at the same time as the celebration of the harvest!

Sadly, this understanding of Halloween has been lost for so many people, and even disciples. The focus of this black and orange, spider-filled holiday has turned away from being the eve of All Saints Day, and the celebration of true discipleship, to the celebration of weirdness and one giant sugar rush! Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a fun costume party, loading up on great candy, and watching scary horror flicks. However, just like Moses, we can put on masks and veil the radiance of God’s ever-increasing glory when we get distracted by “fun” and lose focus on the “fight”!

This year, instead of being caught up in the fun traditions of “Halloween”, what better way to “hallow” the name of God, than to continue being martyrs on God’s vast harvest field! While so many people are wearing masks that are made to resemble the dead, let all of us as disciples remove any masks that “veil” our faces from showing the dead true life! And I pray that we can use this holiday season to reach the lost, and not become lost in the holiday season! Let us remember the sacrifice of so many saints, and continue on in being true saints and modern day martyrs! God bless!