For many, many years, Halloween has been associated with witchcraft and evil. Satan’s one night of the year to claim souls for Hell has been the belief of the church and pious individuals Halloween began as a pagan festival that celebrated nature and its gifts. It was believed that on this one night the boundaries between the living and the dead were compromised and Halloween spirits could walk the earth.
In an effort to appease the Halloween spirits, people would leave offerings of food and drink on their doorsteps. These Halloween customs were thought to protect their harvests for another year. This was also the time for a practice called “souling.”
Souling involved food in exchange for prayers. During the celebration, poor people would take to begging for food from neighbours. This food was granted in exchange for prayers by the receivers for the souls of dead family members. As Halloween customs were was passed down, the begging became food left for these poor individuals who would continue to pray for the dead. Eventually, children were sent from house to house to receive food or bits of money for the family.
In some countries, the wearing of masks and receiving of gifts is still called “souling.” Small food items or money are still received by children. Trick or treating is one of the modern, American Halloween customs. The first-ever recorded Halloween celebration in the United States occurred in Anoka, Minnesota, in 1921. That was the start of trick-or-treat, Halloween costume parties, and a series of activities depicting the essence of the celebration.
When it first started, trick or treating was just that. If a homeowner didn’t provide treats, the costumed person (one of the most popular Halloween customs is dressing up) would perform some trick. This could be playing a prank on them or egging the house. In some countries, this is a part of the mischief of the Halloween spirits. Any Halloween spirit that didn’t receive food was also likely to do something to the person of the house. It was in the year 1970 that the trick-or-treating tradition started to wane because of several rumours that some households were handing out harmful or poisonous treats to children. Today many parents accompany their children while trick-or-treating or organize private Halloween parties.
Now, kids go from house to house, saying this phrase and receiving a ton of sweet treats. People travel from neighbourhood to neighbourhood for sweet fare. Tricks are more a part of the fun of the night than a slight against any one person. If a neighbour is not participating, they turn out their porch light so children will know not to approach. Of course there are those mischief makers that egg houses and cars, but most neighbourhoods celebrate Halloween without incident. Even the adults get involved in Halloween customs with fog machines and costume parties.
In an effort to scare people, tales of the undead have been immortalized in books like Frankenstein and Dracula. Movies brought us Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and the Scream guy. People love to be scared, but so much of the fiction has been confused with fact that Christians have been led to believe that the practice of Halloween is evil for their children.
Basically, children know what we tell them.. There are people who practice earth religions like Wicca and those who profess to be Satanists. They derive their greatest influence and media coverage on this night. Even those groups have been made gorier than they actually are through film and books.
Our children will learn that the practice of dressing up and receiving candy is not evil from the knowledge that we obtain. Spirits are not roaming the streets looking to take over their bodies or mess with their minds. In fact, for little ones, it is essential that we not expose them to the scarier side because they could be traumatized by it and fear the fun side of Halloween.
Christians have nothing to fear from Halloween as long as the truth is told. While there are groups who practice magic (the jury is still out) and contact with the dead, they don’t have exclusive rights on Halloween. They practice their crafts all year round and not just this one night of the year.