Trick or Threat: Fundamentalist Christianity’s Aversion to Halloween
By Vic Tanner
Halloween is undoubtedly my favorite holiday. It just has an attitude about it that other holidays could only hope to have. For many Fundamentalist Christians, however, Halloween is seen as an unholy celebration of all that is evil. This fear of Halloween is known as Samhainophobia, and it isn’t just a trivial matter to them; it is deeply rooted in the core belief of their faith.
Halloween is a Christian holiday. Or, more precisely, a Christian adoption of an ancient pagan holiday, very much like Christmas. It is the evening before All Saints’ Day and there is even an “Eve of All Saints’ Prayer” in the Book of Occasional Services. Halloween began at least 2,500 years ago as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a celebration of summer’s end and a remembrance of the dead. When the Roman Empire conquered Western Europe, a Roman-Celtic syncretism occurred that mixed language and culture. Samhain proved to be popular and, in 835 CE, Pope Gregory IV moved the Catholic holiday of “All Hallow’s Eve”, which served much the same purpose as Samhain, to November 1st to coincide with it.
As mundane as any of that sounds, fundamentalist Christian sects often see Halloween as a dangerous holiday that could damage their souls. Examples of Christian commentary on Halloween can be found on many places on the Internet: On iSawTheLightMinistries.com, a Halloween page says that parents should “refuse to allow your kid to take part in this evil holiday of Satan.” Demonbuster.com warns the faithful: “Don’t even open your doors to pass out ‘tracts.’ If you do, then you are celebrating this unholy day.” Sabbatarian.com also has a page dedicated to the fear of Halloween, but it was so incoherent that I found it difficult to find a quote.
Why do some fundamentalists consider Halloween evil? The aversion to Halloween seems to be an extension of an extreme xenophobic fear of other religions. Strict fundamentalist thought holds that all things outside of Christianity – outside of their Christianity – are the work of devils and demons and are designed for the sole purpose of tricking the unwary into eternal damnation. If they take part in Halloween, in any way, they will be inadvertently celebrating a pagan holiday and thereby worshiping Satan. One minute they’ll be walking down the street in a Batman mask, the next, BAM!, they’re possessed. Nothing they can do about it.
In their world, devils and demons actually exist. They are not symbols, signs, or personifications of abstract threats. They are real supernatural beings looking for any chance they can get to cast magic spells on the unsuspecting. And any non-pious act can invite them in.
Unfortunately, more liberal churches that do not hold such superstitious beliefs can give credence to the fears of the fundamentalists by shunning the holiday and holding church sponsored harvest or fall festivals on October 31st as an alternative for Halloween. This makes it appear that Halloween is a holiday to be avoided.
On Halloween night, as the faithful are cowering inside, painting crosses on their doors to keep the specter of death out, I’m going to be hauling out the buckets of (fake) blood for my homemade skull fountain and scaring the few children that will be allowed to take candy from strangers. Halloween is one of the few holidays that actually encourages people to go outside and stop by their neighbors’ houses, if even for a piece of candy. I’m going to enjoy it.
“I think we ought to close Halloween down. Do you want your children to dress up as witches? The Druids used to dress up like this when they were doing human sacrifice…[The children] are acting out Satanic rituals and participating in it, and don’t even realize it.”–Pat Robertson