Category Archives: Holidays Questions

Questions about Holidays: What Sort of New Year’s Resolution Should a Christian Make?

 

The practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a new year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. However, if a Christian determines to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make?

Common New Year’s resolutions are commitments to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money more wisely, and to spend more time with family. By far, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating more healthily. These are all good goals to set. However, 1 Timothy 4:8 instructs us to keep exercise in perspective: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to physical things. This should not be.

Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, and to attend church more regularly. These are fantastic goals. However, these New Year’s resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honor God and grow spiritually, or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honor God with your body, or is it for vanity, to honor yourself?

Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” John 15:5 declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If God is the center of your New Year’s resolution, it has chance for success, depending on your commitment to it. If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it. If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement in God’s Word, we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution.

So, what sort of New Year’s resolution should a Christian make? Here are some suggestions: (1) pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you make; (2) pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill the goals God gives you; (3) rely on God’s strength to help you; (4) find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you; (5) don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further; (6) don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory. Psalm 37:5–6 says, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christmas: What should parents tell their children about Santa Claus?

Although Santa Claus is a mythical figure, his creation is based in part on a great Christian man named Saint Nicholas of Myra, who lived in the 4th century. Nicholas was born to Christian parents who left him an inheritance when they died, which he distributed to the poor. He became a priest at a young age and was well-known for his compassion and generosity. He had a reputation for giving gifts anonymously, and he would throw bags of money into people’s homes (and sometimes down their chimneys) under the cover of night to avoid being spotted.

Nicholas passed away on December 6 sometime around the 340s or 350s AD, and the day of his death became an annual feast in which children would put out food for Nicholas and straw for his donkey. It was said that the saint would come down from heaven during the night and replace the offerings with toys and treats—but only for the good boys and girls. There are many different versions of the legend of Saint Nicholas, but all are the inspiration for the jolly, red-suited gift-giver that we now know as Santa Claus.

Many Christian parents are torn as to whether or not they should play the “Santa game” with their children. On one hand, he makes Christmas fun and magical, leaving wonderful holiday memories for years to come. On the other hand, the focus of Christmas should be on Jesus Christ and how much He has already given us. So, is the story of Santa Claus an innocent addition to Christmas festivities, or is he a subject that should be avoided?

Parents need to use their own judgment in deciding whether or not to include Santa during the holidays, but here are some things to consider: Children who believe that the gifts they receive Christmas morning are from a magical man with unending resources are less likely to appreciate what they have been given, and the sacrifices their parents make in providing them. Greed and materialism can overshadow the holiday season, which is meant to be about giving, loving, and worshiping God. Children whose parents are on a tight budget may feel that they have been overlooked by Santa, or even worse, deemed one of the “bad” boys or girls.

An even more troubling aspect of telling our children that Santa comes down the chimney each year to leave their gifts is that it is, obviously, a lie. We live in a society that believes that lying for the “right” reason is acceptable. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, it is not a problem. This is contrary to what the Bible tells us. “For the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to live a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil, and keep your lips from telling lies’ ” (1 Peter 3:10, NLT). Of course, telling our children that Santa is real is not a malicious deception, but it is, nevertheless, a lie.

Although it is probably not typical, some children honestly feel deceived and betrayed by their parents when they find out that Santa is not real. Children trust their parents to tell them the truth, and it is our responsibility not to break this trust. If we do, they will not believe more important things we tell them, such as the truth about Christ, whom they also cannot physically see.

This doesn’t mean we must leave Santa completely out of Christmas. Children can still play the “Santa game” even if they know it is all pretend. They can make lists, sit on his lap at the mall, and leave out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve. This will not rob them of their joy of the season, and gives parents the opportunity to tell their children about the godly qualities of the real Saint Nicholas, who dedicated his life to serving others and made himself into a living example of Jesus Christ.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christmas: Should we have a Christmas Tree? Does the Christmas Tree have its origin in ancient pagan rituals?

The modern custom of a Christmas tree does not come from any form of paganism. There is no evidence of any pagan religion decorating a special holiday tree for their mid-winter festivals, although the Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a festival called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. The first Christmas tree was decorated by Protestant Christians in 16th-century Germany. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early German traditions, and the custom most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio.

There is nothing in the Bible that either commands or prohibits Christmas trees. It has been falsely claimed by some that Jeremiah 10:1–16 prohibits the cutting down and decorating of trees in the same manner as we do at Christmas. However, even a cursory reading of the text makes it clear that the passage is one in which Jeremiah sets forth the prohibition against idols made of wood, plated with silver and gold, and worshipped. A similar idea appears in Isaiah 44, where Isaiah speaks of the silliness of the idol-worshippers who cut down a tree, burn part of it in the fire to warm themselves, and use the other part to fashion an idol, which they then bow down to. So unless we bow down before our Christmas tree, carve it into an idol, and pray to it, these passages cannot be applied to Christmas trees.

There is no spiritual significance to having or not having a Christmas tree. Whatever choice we make, the motive behind a believer’s decision about this, as in all matters of conscience, must be to please the Lord. Romans 14:5–6a sets out the principle in a passage about liberty: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.” The Lord is grieved when Christians look down upon one another for either celebrating or not celebrating Christmas. This is spiritual pride. When we feel that somehow we have achieved a higher plain of spirituality by doing or not doing something about which the Bible is silent, we misuse our freedom in Christ, create divisions within His body, and thereby dishonor the Lord. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christmas: Should we give gifts at Christmas?

Many people take the idea of gift giving at Christmas back to the scripture in Matthew 2:10–11 which talks about the Magi (wise men) giving gifts to Jesus at his home: “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

The Bible gives a wonderful story about the gift God gave us—Jesus Christ—and we can use it as an opportunity to present the gospel and to show love. Giving and receiving gifts can be part of fulfilling what Paul says about giving in 2 Corinthians 8:7–8, “But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.” Paul was talking to the churches who were giving him gifts (financial) so that he could keep on in the ministry. We can apply this same lesson to our own lives by giving to others, not just at Christmas, but year round!

So, can gift giving become the focus of Christmas instead of thanking the Lord for the gift of His Son (John 3:16)? Absolutely! Does giving gifts have to take away from the true meaning of Christmas? No, it does not. If we focus on the wonderful gift of salvation the Lord has given us (Isaiah 9:6), giving to others is a natural expression of that gratitude. The key is our focus. Is your focus on the gift, or on the ultimate gift-giver, our gracious Heavenly Father? “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights …” (James 1:17).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christmas: Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

The debate about whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas has been raging for centuries. There are equally sincere and committed Christians on both sides of the issue, each with multiple reasons why or why not Christmas should be celebrated in Christian homes. But what does the Bible say? Does the Bible give clear direction as to whether Christmas is a holiday to be celebrated by Christians?

First, let’s look at the reasons why some Christians do not celebrate Christmas. One argument against Christmas is that the traditions surrounding the holiday have origins in paganism. Searching for reliable information on this topic is difficult because the origins of many of our traditions are so obscure that sources often contradict one another. Bells, candles, holly, and yuletide decorations are mentioned in the history of pagan worship, but the use of such in one’s home certainly does not indicate a return to paganism. While there are definitely pagan roots to some traditions, there are many more traditions associated with the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of the Savior of the world in Bethlehem. Bells are played to ring out the joyous news, candles are lit to remind us that Christ is the Light of the world (John 1:4–9), a star is placed on the top of a Christmas tree to remember the Star of Bethlehem, and gifts are exchanged to remind us of the gifts of the Magi to Jesus, the greatest gift of God to mankind.

Another argument against Christmas, especially having a Christmas tree, is that the Bible forbids bringing trees into our homes and decorating them. The passage often cited is Jeremiah 10:1–16, but this passage refers to cutting down trees, chiseling the wood to make an idol, and then decorating the idol with silver and gold for the purpose of bowing down before it to worship it (see also Isaiah 44:9–18). The passage in Jeremiah cannot be taken out of its context and used to make a legitimate argument against Christmas trees.

Christians who choose to ignore Christmas point to the fact that the Bible doesn’t give us the date of Christ’s birth, which is certainly true. December 25 may not be even close to the time Jesus was born, and arguments on both sides are legion, some relating to climate in Israel, the practices of shepherds in winter, and the dates of Roman census-taking. None of these points are without a certain amount of conjecture, which brings us back to the fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us when Jesus was born. Some see this as proof positive that God didn’t want us to celebrate the birth, while others see the Bible’s silence on the issue as tacit approval.

Some Christians say that since the world celebrates Christmas—although it is becoming more and more politically correct to refer to it as “the holidays”—Christians should avoid it. But that is the same argument made by false religions that deny Christ altogether, as well as cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny His deity. Those Christians who do celebrate Christmas often see the occasion as an opportunity to proclaim Christ as “the reason for the season” among the nations and to those trapped in false religions.

As we have seen, there is no legitimate scriptural reason not to celebrate Christmas. At the same time, there is no biblical mandate to celebrate it, either. In the end, of course, whether or not to celebrate Christmas is a personal decision. Whatever Christians decide to do regarding Christmas, their views should not be used as a club with which to beat down or denigrate those with opposing views, nor should either view be used as a badge of honor inducing pride over celebrating or not celebrating. As in all things, we seek wisdom from Him who gives it liberally to all who ask (James 1:5) and accept one another in Christian love and grace, regardless of our views on Christmas.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christmas: Do Some Christmas Traditions Have Pagan Origins?

There is no doubt that some of what we now refer to as Christmas traditions can be traced back, in some form, to pagan cultures and celebrations. The ringing of bells, for example, is generally thought to have had its origin in the early pagan winter celebration of ringing of bells to drive out evil spirits. In later centuries, bells were rung on Christmas Eve to welcome in the spirit of Christmas with joyful noise (Psalm 95:1). When Christians enjoy the beauty of a glorious bell choir ringing Christmas carols, we are reminded of the coming of Jesus into the world, not the driving out of evil spirits.

Similarly, there was an early pagan tradition of lighting candles to drive away the forces of cold and darkness. However, is it likely that our hearts are drawn to those early pagans rather than rejoicing in our Savior, the Light of the World (John 1:4–9) as we light candles? Of course not. Nor is it likely that when I give gifts to my loved ones at Christmas, the gifts will have less significance to either of us because some Druid somewhere in time offered a gift to his goat as part of some pagan ritual. No, we remember, as we should, the gifts given to the Christ-child by the Magi (Matthew 2:11). Jesus was the greatest gift ever given, and therefore His birth is worthy of celebration.

So obscure are the beginnings of many Christmas traditions that reference books and internet sites contradict one another on the details. Some of our most popular and beloved Christmas symbols are entirely Christian, and were never part of any pagan religion anywhere. At the same time, some Christmas traditions undoubtedly do have their origins in the pagan past. What is important is not the origins of traditions, but their significance to us today as believers in the Son of God. December 25 was not mentioned in the biblical narrative as the day Jesus was born, and, as such, we cannot be dogmatic about it one way or the other. But even if the date is completely wrong, there is still the opportunity for thousands of people who wouldn’t go to church any other time of the year to go on Christmas day and hear the gospel of Christ.

If you are fully convinced that you cannot, in good conscience, observe a particular Christmas tradition, do not observe it. If you are fully convinced that a particular tradition is too steeped in paganism to honor God in any way, by all means forsake that tradition. At the same time, if you are fully convinced that you can honor and worship God through a particular tradition, honor and worship God (Romans 14:5)! For Christians, Christmas traditions can be an important part of the celebration of the birth of our Savior, and they remind us of that momentous event that changed the world forever. More importantly, they bring to mind the miracle of new birth He created in us when He came into our hearts, saved us from our sins, and made us children of God by the shedding of His blood on the Cross (Colossians 1:20). It is this amazing truth that enables us to say with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christmas: How should Christians respond to the “War on Christmas”?

Many people perceive that there is a concerted effort to eliminate the word “Christmas” from public discourse—sort of a “war on Christmas.” The stories seem to be coming more frequently: a grade-school choir sings “We Wish You a Happy Holiday” instead of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” for their “Winter Concert.” A library invites “holiday displays” from the community provided the displays have no religious connotation—the stable may have animals in it, but no people. It is possible to do all one’s Christmas shopping and never see or hear the word “Christmas” in the stores.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with saying “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” But if someone says “Happy Holidays” for the sole purpose of not saying “Merry Christmas,” then we are right to question what’s going on. “Why is the word Christmas censored?” we wonder as we wander through the malls. Why do some public schools celebrate everything from Kwanzaa to Labafana the Christmas witch, and ban the Nativity, all in the name of “inclusion” and “tolerance”?

One reason put forward by those seeking to avoid the word Christmas is that it would offend non-Christians. But, according to a recent Gallup poll, only 3 percent of adults in America say it bothers them when a store makes specific reference to Christmas. The exclusion of Christmas, then, is not really a way to “adapt” to a more diverse culture, but a way to engineer a more secular culture.

Many times, the arguments against Christmas programs and displays are couched in political terms, but the bias against Christmas goes much deeper than that. This is primarily a spiritual battle, not a political one.

How should Christians respond to the ubiquitous use of “Happy Holidays” and the exclusion of Christmas? Here are some suggestions:

1) Celebrate Christmas! Let the joy of the season show in your life. Teach your family the significance of Jesus’ birth and make the Christmas traditions meaningful in your home.

2) Wish others a Merry Christmas. When confronted with a “Happy Holidays,” get specific, and wish the greeter a “Merry Christmas!” You may be surprised at how many respond in kind. Even if you’re met with resistance, don’t let it dampen your cheer. Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew was rebuffed year after year, but it never stopped him from wishing his humbug of an uncle a Merry Christmas and inviting him to Christmas dinner.

3) Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). The Christmas season is a wonderful opportunity to share Christ’s love and the gospel message. He is the reason for the season!

4) Pray for those in positions of power (1 Timothy 2:1–3). Pray for wisdom. Pray for revival so that Christmas, instead of being “offensive,” would be honored by all.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christmas: Is It Wrong to Say “Xmas” instead of “Christmas”?

There are many who view the word Xmas as part of an overall “war on Christmas.” They view it as a blatant attempt to take Christ out of Christmas. While it is undeniable that some use Xmas in that manner, the actual origin of the word Xmas has nothing to do with taking Christ out of Christmas.

In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the word for “Christ” is Χριστός, which begins with the Greek letter that is essentially the same letter as the English letter X. So, originally, Xmas was simply an abbreviation of Christmas. No grand conspiracy to take Christ out of Christmas. Just an abbreviation.

But there is no denying that there is a trend to, in a sense, take Christ out of Christmas. In pursuit of tolerance, inclusiveness, and political correctness, some are attempting to obscure the Christian origins of Christmas—as if our society’s materialism has not already obscured the meaning of Christmas. Whether they refer to it as “Xmas” or “the winter holidays” or something else, some will not be satisfied until the celebration is entirely secularized. In response to this, rather than getting angry or complaining about the use of Xmas, we should be sharing the love of Christ through word and deed.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christmas: Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh to Jesus?

Matthew 2 tells us that the magi, or wise men, travelled from the East in search of the Christ child. They inquired of King Herod where they might find Him, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). Upon finding the baby Jesus, “they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

Gold is a precious metal and as such was a very valuable commodity. Its value could very well have financed Joseph and Mary’s trip to Egypt. The Bible does not tell us any other significance to these three gifts; however, tradition has it that there is a deeper meaning for each of the three. Gold is a symbol of divinity and is mentioned throughout the Bible. Pagan idols were often made from gold and the Ark of the Covenant was overlaid with gold (Exodus 25:10–17). The gift of gold to the Christ child was symbolic of His divinity—God in flesh.

Frankincense is a white resin or gum. It is obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark and allowing the gum to flow out. It is highly fragrant when burned and was therefore used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God (Exodus 30:34). Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering.

Myrrh was also a product of Arabia, and was obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. It was a spice and was used in embalming. It was also sometimes mingled with wine to form an article of drink. Such a drink was given to our Savior when He was about to be crucified, as a stupefying potion (Mark 15:23). Matthew 27:34 refers to it as “gall.” Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction. The baby Jesus would grow to suffer greatly as a man and would pay the ultimate price when He gave His life on the cross for all who would believe in Him.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christmas: What is an advent calendar? How does an advent calendar relate to Christmas?

The word ‘Advent’ has a Latin origin meaning ‘the coming,’ or more accurately, ‘coming toward.’ For Christian believers, Christmas is one of the greatest events in the yearly cycle, being the celebration of the greatest gift ever given by God to mankind. That gift was Jesus, the Son of God Himself, born into this world in human form and coming to live among us to show us the true nature of God, experience human joy and sorrow along with us, and finally, going of His own will to die a horrible, agonizing death. In this way the price was paid for all human sin that had cut us off from our Holy God and Heavenly Father, resulting in our complete and total reconciliation with Him.

Centuries ago, the importance of this event caused many Christians to feel that it was inadequate merely to mark off only one day on the yearly calendar for celebrating this incredible gift from God. Believers had (and still do have) such a sense of awe and overwhelming gratitude and wonder at what happened that first Christmas that they felt the need for a period of preparation immediately beforehand. They could then not only take time themselves to meditate on it, but also teach their children the tremendous significance of Christmas.

At first, the days preceding Christmas were marked off from December 1 with chalk on believers’ doors. Then in Germany in the late 19th century the mother of a child named Gerhard Lang made her son an Advent Calendar comprised of 24 tiny sweets stuck onto cardboard. Lang never forgot the excitement he felt when he was given his Advent calendar at the beginning of each December, and how it reminded him every day that the great celebration of the whole year was approaching ever nearer. As an adult he went into partnership with his friend Reichhold and opened a printing office. In 1908, they produced what is thought to be the first-ever printed Advent Calendar with a small colored picture for each day in Advent. Later on, at the beginning of the 20th century, they hit on the idea of making the pictures into little shuttered windows for the children to open day by day in order to heighten their sense of expectation.

The idea of the Advent Calendar caught on with other printing firms as the demand swiftly increased, and many versions were produced, some of which would have printed on them Bible verses appropriate to the Advent period. By now the Advent Calendar had gained international popularity, and children all over the world were clamoring for them as December approached. Unfortunately, the custom came to an end with the beginning of the First World War when cardboard was strictly rationed and only allowed to be used for purposes necessary to the war effort. However, in 1946, when rationing began to ease following the end of the Second World War, a printer named Richard Sellmer once again introduced the colorful little Advent Calendar, and again it was an immediate success.

Sadly, with the wane of Christianity in Western nations, the Advent Calendar, although still enormously popular with all children, has lost its true meaning. Many, many children and their parents have no idea of the history of the little calendar or its true purpose, which is to prepare us for the celebration of the advent of the Christ-child. Even if they do know, most would not care. Also, the makers of today’s Advent calendars are anxious only to sell their product, and the majority of these neither know nor care about the meaning and purpose of Advent. Their calendars depict Santa Claus and his reindeer, snowmen, holly, mistletoe, and all the secular trappings of Christmas behind the little windows, often along with a piece of chocolate. Fortunately, however, Christian printers are still with us to manufacture calendars for children from Christian families that unfold the story of the nativity with each window that is opened. We, as Christian believers, pray that one day the whole world will be aware of the incredible wonder of the true meaning of Advent and Christmas.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions About Holidays: What Are the Origins of Halloween?

Whatever the origins or history of Halloween, Halloween is celebrated in many different ways by all sorts of people around the world. Traditionally, it was known as All Hallows’ Eve, when the dead were remembered. Over time, it became cultural. For Americans, it has become extremely commercialized. We begin to see Halloween decorations in the stores as early as August. Unfortunately, the emphasis on this commercialized holiday has shifted from the little cowboys and Indians to a much more evil and pointed attraction to all things hideous and pagan. Satan has undoubtedly made this commercialized holiday into something that has subtly focused on the ugly and demonic.

Many believe the festival of Samhain to have been the beginning of the Celtic year. At Samhain, farmers brought livestock in from summer pastures and people gathered to build shelters for winter. The festival also had religious significance, and people burned fruits, vegetables, grain, and possibly animals as offerings to the gods. In ancient Celtic stories, Samhain was a magical time of transition when important battles were fought and fairies cast spells. It was a time when the barriers between the natural world and the supernatural were broken. The Celts believed that the dead could walk among the living at this time. During Samhain, the living could visit with the dead, who they believed held secrets of the future. Scholars believe that Halloween’s association with ghosts, food, and fortunetelling began with these pagan customs more than 2,000 years ago.

Many of the customs of the pagan Celts survived even after the people became “Christianized.” In the 800s A.D., the church established All Saints’ Day on November 1. About two hundred years later, it added All Souls’ Day on November 2. This day was set aside for people to pray for friends and family who had died. People made many of the old pagan customs part of this Christian holy day. Some people put out food for their ancestors, or they left a lantern burning in the window so that ghosts could find their way home for the night. Through the years, various regions of Europe developed their own Halloween customs. In Wales, for example, each person put a white stone near the Halloween fire at night and then checked in the morning to see whether the stone was still there. If it was, the person would live another year.

In the United States, many early American settlers came from England and they brought various beliefs about ghosts and witches with them. In the 1800s, many immigrants from Ireland and Scotland arrived in the United States and introduced their Halloween traditions. Other groups added their own cultural influences to Halloween customs. German immigrants brought a vivid witchcraft lore, and Haitian and African peoples brought their native voodoo beliefs about black cats, fire, and witchcraft.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions About Holidays: Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

Whether or not Christians should celebrate Halloween can be a very controversial topic. Some Christians celebrate Halloween simply by dressing up in a costume and having fun, seeing it as innocent and harmless. Other Christians are equally convinced that Halloween is a satanic holiday established to worship evil spirits and promote darkness and wickedness. So, who is right? Is it possible for Christians to celebrate Halloween without compromising their faith?

Halloween, no matter how commercialized, has almost completely pagan origins. As innocent as it may seem to some, it is not something to be taken lightly. Christians tend to have various ways to celebrate or not to celebrate Halloween. For some, it means having an “alternative” Harvest Party. For others, it is staying away from the ghosts, witches, goblins, etc., and wearing innocuous costumes, e.g., little princesses, clowns, cowboys, super-heroes, etc. Some choose not to do anything, electing to lock themselves in the house with the lights off. With our freedom as Christians, we are at liberty to decide how to act.

Scripture does not speak at all about Halloween, but it does give us some principles on which we can make a decision. In Old Testament Israel, witchcraft was a crime punishable by death (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27). The New Testament teaching about the occult is clear. Acts 8:9–24, the story of Simon, shows that occultism and Christianity don’t mix. The account of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:6–11 reveals that sorcery is violently opposed to Christianity. Paul called Elymas a child of the devil, an enemy of righteousness and a perverter of the ways of God. In Acts 16, at Philippi, a fortune-telling girl lost her demon powers when the evil spirit was cast out by Paul. The interesting matter here is that Paul refused to allow even good statements to come from a demon-influenced person. Acts 19 shows new converts who have abruptly broken with their former occultism by confessing, showing their evil deeds, bringing their magic paraphernalia, and burning it before everyone (Acts 19:19).

So, should a Christian celebrate Halloween? Is there anything evil about a Christian dressing up as a princess or cowboy and going around the block asking for candy? No, there is not. Are there things about Halloween that are anti-Christian and should be avoided? Absolutely! If parents are going to allow their children to participate in Halloween, they should make sure to keep them from getting involved in the darker aspects of the day. If Christians are going to take part in Halloween, their attitude, dress, and most importantly, their behavior should still reflect a redeemed life (Philippians 1:27). There are many churches that hold “harvest festivals” and incorporate costumes, but in a godly environment. There are many Christians who hand out tracts that share the Gospel along with the Halloween candy. The decision is ultimately ours to make. But as with all things, we are to incorporate the principles of Romans 14. We can’t allow our own convictions about a holiday to cause division in the body of Christ, nor can we use our freedom to cause others to stumble in their faith. We are to do all things as to the Lord.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Holidays: What Is All Saints Day?

All Saints’ Day in observed on November 1 by the West (Roman Catholic Church, for instance). In Eastern rite churches, it is observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Its purpose is to commemorate the lives of all saints and, based on the belief of the communion of the living and the dead, to ask for their intercession before God.

All Saints’ Day is also called Allhallows. Halloween is celebrated the day before, or, specifically, the evening before All Saints’ Day. The word Halloween is a derivative of Hallows Eve. The emphasis on spirits, goblins, witches, and other dark images came about from the supposition that the dark forces were especially active just before All Saints’ Day in order to hinder the prayer for the dead that would be offered the next day. The practice of trick or treating dates back to the Middle Ages when poor people would go door to door begging food in exchange for their prayers for the dead.

While the Bible teaches that the dead in Christ are alive, it nowhere teaches us to ask for their intercession. Rather, it urges Christians to come boldly before the throne of grace (to God) knowing that we have a great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 4:14–16, 7:24–25). We are to depend upon Christ alone for salvation (Acts 4:12) and upon Him alone for grace for Christian living after salvation. The Bible speaks of Christ as being our one mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions About Holidays: What Is Reformation Day?

Reformation Day is a Protestant religious holiday celebrated on October 31. It recognizes the day German monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church in 1517. This act is commemorated as the official starting point of the Protestant Reformation.

Officially, Reformation Day has been commemorated since 1567. Exact dates for the holiday varied until after the two hundredth celebration in 1717 when October 31 became the official date of celebration in Germany and later expanded internationally.

Within the Lutheran tradition, Reformation Day is considered a lesser holiday and is officially named “The Festival of the Reformation.” Most Lutheran churches (and others who celebrate this day) commemorate it on the Sunday prior to October 31.

The impact of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation has been enormous on global Christianity. In contrast to the extra-biblical traditions and works-based practices of Roman Catholicism, Luther called the Church back to the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Luther believed the Word of God was the supreme authority for the Christian faith, rather than tradition or papal decrees. In the process of bringing the Scriptures to the common person, Luther translated the Bible into German, published numerous books and sermons of biblical teachings, and composed numerous hymns based on biblical themes. Many of his hymns are still sung today.

Luther was brought to trial before the church, and the court attempted to force him to recant. Luther’s response is often quoted: “I cannot choose but adhere to the Word of God, which has possession of my conscience; nor can I possibly, nor will I even make any recantation, since it is neither safe nor honest to act contrary to conscience! Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God! Amen.”

From Germany, the Protestant Reformation expanded through Europe, influencing the work of John Calvin in Geneva, Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich, and John Knox in Scotland. The Reformation Luther led also sparked the Anabaptist (free church) movement and the English Reformation. These movements, in turn, influenced the spread of Christianity to the Americas and throughout the world where European exploration took place. South Africa, India, Australia. and New Zealand all felt the impact of Luther’s hammer in Wittenberg.

Robert Rothwell has noted, “Today, Luther’s legacy lives on in the creeds and confessions of Protestant bodies worldwide. As we consider his importance this Reformation Day, let us equip ourselves to be knowledgeable proclaimers and defenders of biblical truth. May we be eager to preach the Gospel of God to the world and thereby spark a new reformation of church and culture.”

Reformation Day remains a central rallying point for all of those who choose to follow Christ by faith according to His Word. The holiday commemorates the actions of a man who was willing to stand against the ideas of his day and to present God’s Word as our guide for salvation (John 3:16) and Christian living.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.