Many go “all out” for Halloween. Houses are decorated. Costumes are selected. Candy is purchased. Did you know that ¼ of all candy sold in the U.S is sold for Halloween? (Halloween 2018- History, history.com). Personally, I have never understood the obsession.
What is the origin of Halloween? (1) Its origin seems to be found in the celtic festival of Samhaim. Their new year was November 1. They celebrated the festival of Samhaim on October 31. It marked the end of summer and the harvest, and the beginning of winter, a time of year associated with human death. The Celts believe that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead become blurred on the night of October 31. They believe that the ghosts of the dead could return on this night. Treats were left to try to appease the ghosts. Carved vegetables were used to protect. The faces were believed to ward off evil and unwanted spirits. Costumes were worn for the same reason. Durids built bonfires where people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to Celtic deities.
(2) These customs became blended with Roman customs after the Roman Empire conquered Celtic territory. The Romans had two festivals near this same time. First was Ferelia, a day used by the Romans to commemorate the passing of the dead. Second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits and trees. Some think bobbing for apples comes from this.
(3) These practices seem to have been “Christianized” by Rome. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween (history.com).
Nike. The name or word can refer to the Greek goddess of victory, or to simply victory (cf. 1 John 5:4). [It is much like the word dike which can refer to judgment or justice (cf. Acts 25:15) or to the goddess of justice (Acts 28:4)].
What about the name of the shoe company? Some early considered names include “Dimension Six,” “Peregrine,” and “Bengal.” In the end it was named after the Greek goddess of Victory (How Nike Got Its Name, businessinsider.com).
Nike is not alone in name the company after a god. Consider the name “Mazda.” The company Toyo Kogyo manufactured corks. It began to produce vehicles. It was managed by Jujiro Matsuda. “‘Mazda’ comes from the (Persian – B.H.) god of harmony, intelligence and wisdom… ‘Mazda’ was the perfect way to pay respect to the substantial founder, whose family name is pronounced very close to ‘Mazda’” (A Story Behind the Name of Mazda, Mazda.com).
Should we conclude that if one allows their children to dress up in a Halloween costume, then one is practicing Celtic beliefs? Should we conclude that if one wears a pair of Nike shoes or drives a Mazda automobile, then one is promoting a false god? Some think so.
However, let us consider: (1) Intent. Dave Miller has written, “I makes no difference what we might uncover when we trace a given practice through the ages if, in fact, that practice no longer carries those connotations… For example, June weddings date back to Roman women who chose to marry in June because the goddess Juno was the guardian of the female sex. To marry in June guaranteed the blessings of the patron goddess… the fact that our word ‘Thursday’ is rooted in the pagan dedication of a day to the god ‘Thor’ is not likely to cause me to cease using the term… knowing the origin of June weddings is not likely to cause me to oppose them. God does not hold us responsible for such ancient links. The question which He is concerned is what does this activity, practice, or observance mean to society today… The meaning attached in our culture to any given observance becomes the key for ascertaining whether the practice is authorized by the principles of scripture” (Miller, Piloting the Strait, pp. 259-260). I believe that this is correct. The meaning of things can change (e.g. the veil Genesis 38:15; The Swastika; The ‘!’ means one thing in math and something different in English. The ‘;’ means one thing in Greek and another thing in English).
(2) Names of Bible characters. Some Bible characters had names of pagan origin (e.g. Epaphroditus and Epaphras = belonging to Aphrodite, Apollos = given by Apollo). These names were not changed. Sometimes in India, when one is converted to Christ, that one will desire to change his name, because of the meaning of his name. Sometimes I am asked to pick a name for a person. Usually one desires a Biblical name. I tell him that it is OK to change one’s name, but not required. What is required is a change of life. One’s life should be lived in such a way that it exalts God and magnifies Christ (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 1:20-21; 1 Peter 2:11-12). This is far more important.
*Sources for Halloween History: Halloween 2018 – History, history.com; The Dark History of Halloween, businessinsider.com; What Are the Origins of Halloween, erounews.com; Halloween Facts, Halloween Traditions, holidayinsights.com; Halloween: costumes, history, myths and more, nationalgeographic.com.
Thanks for the history lesson. It’s fascinating how customs and connotations change. Instead of ditching Halloween, Christians have a great opportunity to highlight Reformation Day (and All Saints Day). What a great opportunity to witness to the community the good news that we receive forgiveness and eternal life by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone!
Thanks for reading. I am glad the content was a benefit. I certainly have no problem with Christians remembering those who went before them (Hebrews 11:4-ff; 13:7, etc.) However, we should be careful not to add to God’s word by creating special holy days.
Christ should always be our focus. Without Him there would be no salvation (Galatians 2:21; Acts 4:12) If we are saved, it is by God’s grace accepted by man’s faith, no disagreement here. However, let me caution… adding the word “only” can leave the wrong impression.
Best wishes, Bryan