Halloween is not a harmless event. Read what one Orthodox bishop writes about it:
A Pastoral Word on Halloween
The Joyous Feast of Pumpkin
by Bishop [now Archbishop] Kyrill
It is that time of the year when the secular society in which we live is preparing for the festival of Halloween. Many do not know its spiritual roots and history, and why it contradicts the teachings of the Church. The feast of Halloween began in pre-Christian times among the Celtic peoples of Great Britain, Ireland and northern France. These pagan peoples believed that life was born from death. Therefore they celebrated the beginning of the "new year" in the fall (on the eye of October 31 and into the day of November 1) when, as they believed, the season of cold, darkness, decay and death began. A certain deity whom they called Samhain was believed by the Celts to be the Prince of Death and it was he whom they honored at their New Year's festival.
From an Orthodox Christian point of view, we can see many diabolical beliefs and practices associated with this feast which have endured to this time. On the eve of the New Year's festival, the Druids, who were the priests of the Celtic cult, instructed their people to extinguish all hearth fires and lights. On the evening of the festival, a huge bonfire built from oak branches (oak was regarded by the Celts as sacred) was ignited. Upon this fire sacrifices were burned as an offering in order to appease and cajole Samhain, the Prince of Death. It was also believed that Samhain, being pleased by the offerings, allowed the souls of the dead to return to their homes for a festal visit on this day. It is from this belief that the practice of wandering about in the dark dressed up in costumes imitating ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, fairies, etc. grew up. For the living entered into fellowship and communion with the dead by what was, and still is, a ritual act of imitation, through costume and the activity of wandering around in the dark of night, even as the souls of the dead were believed to wander.
The dialogue of trick or treat is also an integral part of this system of beliefs and practices. It was believed that the souls of the dead who had entered into the world of darkness, decay and death, and therefore into total communion with and submission to Samhain, bore the affliction of great hunger on their festal visit. Out of this grew the practice of begging, which was a further ritual enactment and imitation of what the Celts believed to be the activities of the souls of the dead on their festal visit. Associated with this is the still further implication that if the souls of the dead and their imitators were not appeased with "treats", i.e., offerings, then the wrath and anger of Samhain would be unleashed through a system of "tricks", i.e. curses. Such is the true meaning of this pagan feast. It is then evident that for an Orthodox Christian participation at any level is impossible and idolatrous, resulting in a genuine betrayal of God and Church. If we participate in the ritual activity of imitating the dead and wandering in the dark asking for treats or offering them to children, we then have willfully sought fellowship with the dead, whose Lord is not Samhain, but rather Satan. It is to Satan then that these treats are offered, not to children.
There are other practices associated with Halloween from which we must stay away, such as sorcery, fortune telling, divination, games of chance, witchcraft and the carving of an ugly face upon a pumpkin and then placing a lit candle within the infamous Jack O' Lantern. The pumpkin (in older days other vegetables were used) was carved by the Celts in imitation of the dead and used to convey the new light (from the sacred oak fire) to the home where the lantern was left burning through the night. This "holy lantern" is no other than an imitation of the truly holy votive light (lampada) offered before an icon of Christ and the saints. Even the use and display of the Jack O'Lantern involves participation in this "death" festival honoring Satan.
The Holy Fathers of the first millennium (a time when the Church was one and strictly Orthodox) counteracted this Celtic pagan feast by introducing the Feast of All Saints. It is from this that the term Halloween developed. The word Halloween has its roots in the Old English of All Hallow E'en, i.e., the Eve commemorating all those who were hallowed (sanctified), i.e. Halloween Unfortunately, either due to lack of knowledge or understanding, the Celtic pagan feast being celebrated on the same day as the Christian feast of All Saints (in western Christiandom) came to be known as Halloween.
The people who remained pagan and therefore anti-Christian reacted to the Church's attempt to supplant their festival by celebrating this evening with increased fervor. Many of these practices involved desecration and mockery of the Church's reverence for Holy Relics. Holy things, such as crosses and the Reserved Sacrament, were stolen and used in perverse and sacrilegious ways. The practice of begging became a system of persecution designed to harass Christians who were, by their beliefs, unable to participate by making offerings to those who served the Lord of Death.
One can see in contemporary Western society that the Western Church's attempt to supplant this pagan festival with a Christian feast failed. How then did something that is so obviously contradictory to the Holy Orthodox faith gain such acceptance among Christian people?
The answer is spiritual apathy and listlessness which are the spiritual roots of atheism and turning away from God. Today's society urges one that Halloween and other such festivities, notwithstanding their apparent pagan and idolatrous origin, are nonetheless harmless and of no consequence. Upon closer consideration these pagan festivals are the source for destroying any kind of spiritual foundation and lead to disbelief and outright atheism.
Halloween undermines the very basis of the Church which was founded on the blood of martyrs who had refused, by giving up their lives, to partake in any form of idolatry
Holy Mother Church must take a firm stand in counteracting any such (pagan) events. Christ taught us that God is the judge in all our actions and beliefs and that we are either FOR GOD or AGAINST GOD. There is no neutral or middle of the road approach.
Today we witness a revival of satanist cults; we hear of satanic services conducted on Halloween night. Children are kidnapped by satanists for their ritualistic sacrifices. Orthodox clergy are ritualistically killed as has happened more than once in California. Everywhere Satan reaches out to ensnare as many innocent people as possible. The newsstands are filled with material on spiritualism, supernatural phenomena, seances, prophesies and all sorts of demonically inspired works. These works all serve Satan, for they are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit, but the fruit of the spirit of this world.
From a parish bulletin at St. Nicholas Cathedral.
Here is some more on this far from harmless day and night:
Is "Halloween" just harmless fun?
The "feast of Halloween", celebrated in other parts of the world, is finding its way to our Australian shores. It is portrayed as harmless fun for children. This could not be any further from the truth! Halloween is normally regarded as one more occasion for a party, one more opportunity for a good time without the least inquiry as to its meaning or origins. It is hardly a surprise when we consider that the greatest feasts of Christianity such as Pascha (Easter) and the Nativity of Christ, for which our ancestors prepared with fasting, prayers and tears, are now to so many, simply dates for eating, drinking and the exchanging of gifts. Be warned: Halloween is not what it appears to be! Its seemingly innocent manifestations represent a memory of an ancient celebration deeply rooted in paganism and demonology and continues to be a form of idolatry in which Satan, the angel of death is worshipped.
Known also as All Hallows Eve, the feast of Halloween began in pre-Christian times. It was originally a Celtic festival celebrated widely among the peoples of the British Isles and northern France. These pagan peoples believed that life was born from death. On this night a certain deity whom they called Samhain, their lord of Death, was honoured at their New Year's festival (end of October). On that night Samhain was believed to lead hosts of evil spirits into the world. Samhain is also identified as the Grim Reaper, the leader of the ancestral ghosts. On the evening of the festival, a huge bonfire built from oak branches, which they believed to be sacred, was ignited in a high place. Upon this fire sacrifices of crops, animals and even human beings were burned as an offering in order to appease their demon lord. It was also believed that Samhain, being pleased by their faithful offerings, allowed the souls of the dead to return to their homes for a festal visit on this day. Thus they believed that cold, dark creatures filled the night, wandering and begging amongst the living. It is from this belief that the practice of wandering about in the dark dressed up in costumes imitating ghosts, fairies, leprechauns, elves, smurfs, (a German nature spirit) and other assorted demons, grew up. It is important to note that the 'souls of the dead', or ghosts, are in fact demons cunningly mimicking the attributes of departed loved ones as much as is necessary to delude the observer. Any attention paid to such illusions is destructive ! The dialogue of "trick and treat" is also an integral part of this system of beliefs and practices. It was believed that the souls of the dead who had entered into the world of darkness, decay and death, and therefore into total communion with and submission to the demon Samhain, bore the affliction of great hunger on their festal visit. Out of this grew the practice of begging for "treats" (offerings). If these "treats" were not forthcoming, then the wrath and anger of Samhain would be unleashed through a system of "tricks" (curses).
From an Orthodox Christian viewpoint, participation in these practices at any level is idolatrous, and a genuine betrayal of our God and our Holy Faith. To do so by dressing up and going out would be to wilfully seek fellowship with the 'dead' whose Lord is also known as Satan, the Evil One, who stands against God. Or, to participate by submission to the dialogue of "trick or treat" is to make offering, not to innocent little children, but to the lord of Death, whom they unknowingly serve as proxy for the 'dead'.
In the days of the early Celtic Church, which was strictly Orthodox, the Holy Fathers attempted to counteract this pagan New Year festival by establishing the Feast of All Saints on the same day (in the East the Feast of All Saints is celebrated on the Sunday following Pentecost). As is the custom of the Church, the faithful Christians attended a Vigil Service in the evening and in the morning a celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is from this that the term Halloween developed. The word has its roots in the Old English of All Hallow E'en, i.e. the Eve commemorating all those who were hallowed (sanctified). The people who remained pagan and therefore anti-Christian and whose paganism had become deeply intertwined with the occult, satanism and magic reacted to the Church's attempt to supplant their festival by increased fervour on this evening. In the early middle ages Halloween became the supreme and central feast of the occult, a night and day upon which acts of witchcraft, demonism, sorcery and satanism of all kinds were practiced. Many of these practices involved desecration and mockery of Christian practices and beliefs. Costumes of skeletons developed as a mockery of the Church's reverence for Holy Relics; Holy things were stolen,and used in perverse and sacrilegious ways. The old practice of begging became a system of persecution designed to harass Christians who were, by their beliefs, unable to participate by making offerings to those who served the lord of Death.
As Orthodox Christians, it is important to be aware of how these anti-Christian, pagan and demonic practices have crept into our society and our very lives as innocent, fun, and playful diversions. Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to the "narrow path", to the bearing of our own Cross, to the difficult road of rejecting sin and embracing righteousness. By refraining from this hidden demon worship, we set ourselves apart from the world, perhaps even are mocked and laughed at for such stupidity and simple mindedness. "How can children having fun be related to demonic activity", they may ask. In the face of all this we must also remember that Satan is the "father of lies", the great deceiver and he will go to any lengths to trap us into choosing to follow him rather than our Lord, even if we do so unwittingly and in ignorance. Know this: the devil exists; evil spirits exist! Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world in order to destroy "him that had the dominion of death, that is, the devil" (Heb 2:14). Remember that many martyrs were tortured and killed rather than allow themselves to be coerced into tossing a little incense on a pagan altar. When we willingly participate in the sacrifice to the lord of death as a "harmless" social custom, we ourselves make a mockery of the witness of those martyrs. Instead, as Orthodox Christians, we are given the opportunity on this night to remember the feast of the Holy Unmercenaries, Saints Cosmas and Damianos, celebrated on 1st November. God has provided us with His Saints as a powerful weapon against the snares of Satan, even in the midst of such a deception. We should take full advantage of this weapon and turn our hearts and minds away from the celebration of death and onto the remembrance of God, Who is "wonderful in His saints." Another weapon given to us by Christ is the power of Prayer and Fasting. In Christ's own words, "by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:21) we can overcome evil.
We take great pains to protect our children and ourselves from disease and harm. We teach them good nutrition, hygiene and personal safety. We discourage them from engaging in fornication, substance abuse and other immoral and dangerous acts. Why do we allow them to dabble in darkness? Even if Halloween was good, clean, innocent fun, to what benefit-spiritual, intellectual or otherwise- is this for a Christian? Let's teach our children to surround themselves with what is good and to "walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:8). Let's show them that the hope of the Christian life is to be delivered from death into life with God for eternity! We are Orthodox Christians. We are called to be not of this world. We were instructed by our Saviour to pray: "deliver us from the evil one." Halloween is the celebration of the evil one. Who could possibly support it?
What do the Holy Scriptures and Holy Fathers say on the subject ?
1 Thessalonians 5:22
Canon XVII of Carthage
Canon XXXIX of Laodicea
- "That one must not join the heathen in celebration of holidays and festivals, and share in their Godlessness".
And finally, here is a third comment:
... Because most of us are either newly Orthodox or newly aware of our Orthodoxy, we must carefully examine every aspect of our involvement in the world - its activities, festivals, associations, and societies - to be certain whether or not these involvements are compatible with our Holy Orthodox Faith. This difficult task can lead to some pain when we realize that we cannot take part in some popular organizations and activities.
Most of our schools, local community organizations, and entertainments in television, radio and the press will share in and capitalize upon the festival of Halloween. But Orthodox Christians cannot participate in this event at any level. The simple issue - Fidelity to God and the Holy Orthodox Christian Faith. Halloween has its roots in paganism, and it continues as a form of idolatry to worship Satan, the angel of death. As we know, the very foundation of our Holy Church is build upon the blood of martyrs who refused despite painful penalties to worship, venerate, or pay obeisance in any way to the idols who are Satan's angels. Because of the faithfulness, obedience, and self-sacrifice of the Holy Martyrs, God poured out abundant Grace upon His Holy Church, whose numbers increased daily. The persecution did not stem the spread of faith. Differing from the world's values, humble faithfulness and obedience to God were the very strength of their life in Christ, Who gave them true spiritual peace, love and joy, and participation in the miraculous workings of His Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Holy Church calls us to faithfulness by our turning away from falsehood toward Truth and eternal life.
We can stay away from the pagan festival of Halloween if we understand the spiritual danger and history of this anti-Christian feast.
The feast of Halloween began in pre-Christian times among the Celtic peoples who lived more than 2,000 years ago in what is no United Kingdom, Ireland, and northern France. These pagan peoples believed that physical life was born from death. Therefore, they celebrated the beginning of the "new year" in the fall (on the eve of October 31 and into the day of November 1), when, as they believed, the season of cold, darkness, decay and death began. The Celts believed that a certain deity, whom they called Samhain, was the lord of death. To him they gave honor at their New Year's festival.
From an Orthodox Christian point of view, many diabolical beliefs and practices were associated with this feast, which have endured to this current time. On the eve of the New Year's festival, the Druids, who were the priests of the Celtic cult, instructed their people to extinguish all hearth fires and lights. On the evening of the festival they ignited a huge bonfire built from oak branches, which they believed to be sacred. Upon this fire, they offered burnt sacrifices of crops, animals, and even human beings to appease and cajole Samhain, the lord of death. They also believed that Samhain, being pleased by their faithful offerings, allowed the souls of the dead to return to homes for a festal visit on this day. This belief led to the ritual practice of wandering about in the dark dressed in costumes indicating ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, fairies and demons. The living entered into fellowship and communion with their dead by this ritual act of imitation, through costume and the wandering about in the darkness, even as the souls of the dead were believed to wander.
The dialogue of "trick-or-treat" is integral to Halloween beliefs and practices. The souls of the dead had - by Celtic tradition - entered into the world of darkness, decay, and death, and made total communion with and submission to Samhain, the lord of death. They bore the affliction of great hunger on their festal visit. This belief brought about the practice of begging as another Celtic ritual imitation of the activities of the souls of the dead on their festal visit. The implication was that any souls of the dead and their imitators who are not appeased with "treats", i.e. offerings, will provoke the wrath of Samhain, whose angels and servants (the souls and human imitators) could retaliate through a system of "tricks" or curses.
The Orthodox Christian must understand that taking part in these practices at any level is an idolatrous betrayal of our God and our Holy Faith. For if we imitate the dead by dressing up in or wandering about in the dark, or by begging with them, then we have willfully sought fellowship with the dead, whose Lord is not a Celtic Samhain, but is Satan the Evil One, who stands against God. Further, if we submit to the dialogue of "trick-or-treat," our offering goes not to innocent children, but rather to Samhain, the Lord of Death whom they have come to serve as imitators of the dead, wandering in the darkness.
We must stay away from other practices associated with Halloween, the eve of the Celtic New Year festival. The Druid priests used to instruct their faithful to extinguish their hearth fires and lights and to gather around the fire of sacrifice to make their offerings and to pay homage to the Lord of Death. This sacred fire was the fire of the new year, to be taken home to rekindle lights and hearth fires. The sacred New Year's fire developed into the practice of the Jack-o'-lantern (in the U.S.A. a pumpkin, in older days other vegetables were used), which was carved in imitation of the dead and used to convey the new light and fire to the home, where the lantern was left burning throughout the night. Even the use and display of the Jack-o'-lantern honors the Samhain, the Celtic god of death. Orthodox Christians cannot share in this Celtic activity, but must counter the secular customs by instead burning candles to the Savior, the Most Holy Mother of God, and to all the Holy Saints.
Divination was also part of this ancient Celtic festival. After the fire had died out the Druids examined the remains of the main sacrifices, hoping to foretell the coming years events. The Halloween festival was the proper night for sorcery, fortune telling, divination, games of chance, and Satan worship and witchcraft in the later Middle Ages.
In the strictly Orthodox early Celtic Church, the holy Fathers tried to counteract this pagan new year festival that honored the Lord of Death, by establishing the Feast of All Saints on the same day. (It differs in the East, where the Feast of All Saints is celebrated on the Sunday following Pentecost). The custom of the Celtic Church was for the faithful Christians to attend a vigil service and a morning celebration of the Holy Eucharist. This custom created the term Halloween. The Old English of All Hallow e'en, i.e., the eve commemorating all those who were hallowed (sanctified) became Halloween.
The remaining pagan and therefore anti-Christian people, whose paganism had become deeply intertwined with the Occult, Satanism and Magic, reacted to the Church's attempt to supplant their festival by increased fervor on this evening. The early medieval Halloween became the supreme feast of the Occult, a night and day witchcraft, demonism, sorcery and Satanism of all kinds. Many practices involved desecration and mockery of Christian practices and beliefs. Costumes of skeletons developed as a mockery of the Church's reverence for Holy Relics; Holy things were stolen, such as crosses and the Reserved Sacrament, and used perversely in sacrilegious ways. The practice of begging became a system of persecution to harass Christians who were, by their beliefs, unable to participate with offerings to those who served the Lord of Death. The Western Church's attempt failed, to supplant this pagan festival with the Feast of All Saints.
The ancient Slavic counterpart to Halloween in ancient Russia was Navy Dien' (Old Slavonic for the dead "nav"), which was also called Radunitsa and celebrated in the spring. To supplant it, the Eastern Church attached this feast to Easter, for celebration on Tuesday of Saint Thomas' Week (second week after Easter). The Church also changed the name of the feast into Radonitsa, from Russian "radost" - joy, of Easter and of the resurrection from the dead of the whole manhood of Jesus Christ. Gradually Radonitsa yielded to Easter's greater importance and became less popular. And many dark practices from old Russian pagan feasts (Semik, Kupalo, Rusalia and some aspects of the Maslennitsa) still survived till the beginning of our century. Now they are gone, but the atheist authorities used to try to reanimate them. Another "harmless" feast - May 1, proclaimed "the international worker's day" is a simple renaming the old satanic feast of Walpurgis Night (night of April 30 into the day of May 1), the yearly demonic Sabbath during which all participants united in "a fellowship of Satan".
Paganism, idolatry and Satan worship--How then did things so contradictory to the Holy Orthodox Faith gain acceptance among Christian people? The answers are spiritual apathy and listlessness, which are the spiritual roots of atheism and turning away from God. In society today, one is urged to disregard the spiritual roots and origins of secular practices when the outward practices or forms seem ordinary, entertaining, and harmless. The dogma of atheism underlies many of these practices and forms, denying the existence of both God and Satan. Practices and forms of obvious pagan and idolatrous origin are neither harmless nor of little consequence. The Holy Church stand against them because we are taught by Christ that God stands in judgment over everything we do and believe, and that our actions are either for God or against God. Therefore, the customs of Halloween are not innocent, but are demonic, precisely as their origins prove.
There are evil spirits. Devils do exist. Christ came into the world so that, through death, He might destroy him that had the dominion of death, that is, the Devil (Hebrews 2:14). Christians must see that our greatest foe is the Evil One who inspires nations and individuals to sin, and who keeps them from coming to the truth. Until we know that Satan is our real enemy, we can make little spiritual progress. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
Today we witness a revival of satanist cults and special satanic ceremonies on Halloween night. Everywhere Satan reaches out to ensnare more innocent people with spiritualism, supernatural phenomena, seances, prophesies and all sorts of demonically inspired works.
Divine Providence ensured that St. John of Kronstadt, that physician of our souls and bodies, should have his feast day on the very day of Halloween, a day the world dedicated to the destroyer, corrupter, and deceiver of humanity. God has provided us with this powerful counterpoise and weapon against the snares of Satan, and we should take full advantage of this gift, for truly God is wonderful in His Saints.
This is not a harmless night for celebration. So what are your plans next month?