Halloween lore promises that an abundance of witches, princesses, ghosts and the like will be out haunting the streets Oct. 31. The annual opportunity to spend the night in costume dates back 2,000 years to the Celtic festival of Samhain. However, common images of death and witchcraft have given modern-day Halloween celebrations a bad rap in some churches.
Originating with the Celts, who inhabited areas in Ireland, Britain and northern France, Samhain was originally a celebration of the day before the New Year on Nov. 1. The Celts used Oct. 31 to end the harvest season and usher in the cold winter, a season traditionally associated with death. It was thought that on the night before the new year, the world of the living and the dead would be bridged, and for one night the ghosts of the dead would once again walk on earth. The celebration included dressing in animal skins and telling fortunes for the coming year. The Celtic priests, known as druids, would sacrifice animals and sometimes humans in a large fire.
Alternatives to Halloween
While Halloween celebrations have changed considerably over the centuries, scary themes and the tradition of dressing-up still remain. These themes and the day’s pagan roots have some churches choosing alternatives to Halloween. According to a 2002 article on religionlink.net, Christian “Hell Houses,” an alternative to traditional trick-or-treating, have emerged in 46 states and 13 countries. These houses depict images and consequences of issues such as abortion, sex and drug abuse before offering Jesus Christ as a remedy.
Not many Columbia churches are participating in Halloween alternatives. In the past, the Christian Chapel Church has celebrated “Hallelujah Night,” an event on Halloween night where children dress up in costumes and play games. There are no plans for this year.