Just like the Internet Monk rants here, I was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist home. We read the King James Bible, went to Sunday School, prayer meeting, revival, and every other time the church door was open. We didn’t wear shorts at my childhood home, nor go swimming in mixed company. My dad went to the public school and had me excused from the two weeks of swimming our P.E. class had in August. Dad was a street preacher, standing on the corner of a downtown city block shouting the Gospel at passing traffic. (He still does that once a week, but I no longer hand out tracts to pedestrian passersby.)
But you know what my parents did let us do? Go trick-or-treating. I dressed up for school on Halloween all the way through 6th grade. I remember going to at least one church sponsored haunted house. Other church members handed out candy. And I remember well the day that Halloween was taken away from us. I was about 11 or 12, and don’t remember everything said in the sermon that night, but one point was how that putting a jack-o-lantern on your front porch was a sign that you had sold your daughter to Satan. The “Halloween is the Devil” sermon was an eye-opening experience for my parents, and marked the death of it’s celebration in our home.
Yes, there are pagan festival roots to the celebration of Halloween. Most of those roots are either barely or in fact no longer visible in our Americanized children’s version of the day. Let me ask you this: every struggle with a child’s question about what hiding eggs has to do with Jesus? How do you deal with “Was Jesus birthday December 25th?” If you’re tossing Halloween and all things pagan from your house, Easter and Christmas are gonna’ have to go as well.
The changing of seasons and phases of the moon have always had significance in pagan belief and practice. Each spring as the world reawakened, pagan worshipers observed a feast for Beltane. Springtime is all about fertility, and new life, and… you don’t want me to go into it here. That’s what the eggs are about. In simplest terms, the early Christians were well aware that a big party was going on that they were not allowed to participate in. So rather than worship Beltane, they decided to have their own celebration – scheduled to coincide with the Beltane rituals – and make it about Jesus. That’s why our celebration of Easter is all mixed up between sermons of resurrection and the coloring and hiding of eggs. “We” took a pagan holiday and Christianized it; we stole Easter from pagans.
The same with Christmas. Why is it on December 25th? The dates for Easter and Christmas were set long ago, well before the Protestant Reformation by the Catholic Church. That ought to be enough to send fundamentalists over the edge, who don’t believe Christians existed prior to Protestantism and that the Bible was written in 1611. The first day of winter, just like spring, was a significant marker on the pagan calendar. I’m going to close with a passage of scripture from Jeremiah 10. My dad quoted this each year when we asked about a Christmas tree. Like the holiday itself, we Christianized the tree.
Thus says the Lord:
“Learn not the way of the nations,*
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move. -Jer 10:2-4
*KJV says “way of the heathen”