Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Amish and halloween

Do the Amish celebrate Halloween?
31st October is traditionally celebrated as a night when children go from house to house chanting ‘trick or treat’. If you give them a treat, such as some sweets, then they will go away happy; if you don’t, then you might have some trick played on you. Where did the custom come from and do the Amish celebrate it, along with the rest of America, Britain and other places?

Where does the name come from?
November 1st is All Saints’ Day, when those martyred for their faith are remembered. The day was also known as ‘All Hallows’. The night before, therefore, was All Hallows’ Eve or Evening, contracted to ‘Eve’ and further contracted to Hallowe’en (though the apostrophe has fallen prey to modern grammar and so it is more often written as Halloween).

The custom goes back to Celtic Britain and Druid pagan worshippers. The end of summer signalled the beginning of winter and was known as ‘Samhain’ (pronounced sow-en). It was the time of year when everything in nature was closing down and therefore the ‘death’ of the year.

The Druids, whose religion and life revolved around the seasons, ever anxious that the Spring would return, held a festival to their gods, around roaring bonfires to encourage the sun to return to warm the land the following year. They would dance around the fire to keep away evil spirits, because it was believed that this night especially, the souls of the dead awoke from their graves and walked the earth. These spirits would play pranks and tricks on people as they walked about the earth. It was also thought that some of these spirits were looking for a host body so they could live again. To confuse these spirits, people would dress up in ghoulish costumes so that the spirits would think they too were searching for a host and would then not possess them.
It was a night when it was  easiest to consult the dead and work magic spells. Sometimes crops were burned, animals sacrificed and it is thought by some that there were also human sacrifices made.

Pumpkin lanterns/Jack o’ Lanterns
The folk tale of the origins of the lantern carved out of a pumpkin or (originally) a turnip has to do with both the devil and the ‘undead’. It was said that a man, named Jack, who lived in Ireland, was a mean and unpleasant character. He loved playing nasty tricks on people and one day, he managed to trick the devil into agreeing not to take him into hell, should he die. On the day he died, St Peter refused him entry into heaven on the grounds that he had been too mean while alive. He sent him to hell, where the devil kept his promise and refused him entry. So Jack was condemned to walk the earth forever in darkness. On lamenting his fate, the devil threw a burning ember from hell fire to him and it landed on a turnip that Jack was carrying. That turnip Jack used to light his way while roaming the earth until the end of time. Ever after, children have carved turnips or pumpkins with crude face shapes and lit them with candles. In times past, on 31st October, Catholic children used to go from door to door, begging for food, carrying a Jack o’ lantern to represent the souls of the dead.

Halloween today
One might be forgiven for thinking that there are no ghoulish or devilish connotations to Halloween today. However, it is still considered by some to be a particularly appropriate time to practice the black arts. Covens still meet under cover of darkness; animal sacrifices are still made; fortune telling is still practiced. And Halloween is still known as ‘witching night’ in some parts of the world, including Britain.

Some of the old traditions have continued to the present day too. People still dress up in costumes representing death, devils and ghosts; they still perform tricks and make mischief, as the spirits were supposed to have done in times past; lanterns are still cut and lit.
Just a bit of fun

Many parents will justify allowing their children to partake in Halloween activities because they see the celebration as an excuse for a party and a bit of fun. They ask what is wrong with dressing up? What is wrong with ‘trick or treat’?

Of themselves, there is nothing wrong with dressing up, or having fun. But the background of this particular ‘bit of fun’ is rooted in the occult and witchcraft. The costumes the children wear are particularly horrible – ghosts, the dead, devils and so forth. This is nothing less than witchcraft dressed up as ‘fun’. Do parents really want their children involved in such things?
The Position of the Church

There are some churches that will have nothing whatsoever to do with Halloween. Some will allow it, though they do not celebrate it themselves. Yet others put on an ‘alternative Halloween’ activity, in the hope of keeping their young people away from the more sinister Halloween activities around them.
What about the Amish?

The Amish do not celebrate Halloween, though I am reminded of a story I read recently of one Amish man who said he did celebrate 31st October. When asked how he celebrated it, he replied ‘with candles and cake’. 31st October was his daughter’s birthday! [The Amish also have a sense of humour!]
Their stand against this particular holiday/celebration is firmly rooted in the Bible. The Amish are well aware of the pagan and satanic origins and practices of this night and for that reason they will have nothing to do with it. They base their thinking on such passages in the bible as:

Deuteronomy 18v10-12:
"There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord”

and Ephesians 5v11:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness”.

The Amish hold to a policy of separation from the world and its practices, based on 2 Corinthians 6v17:
"Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you and be a Father to you.”

Anything to do with witchcraft, even if it is dressed up as ‘fun’ is to be avoided. God calls it an abomination; how can the Amishman call it anything less. For this reason, the Amish will not have alternatives to Halloween either. They consider that Halloween is getting as close to witchcraft as most people dare, without actually indulging in the dark arts themselves. If they are not even to touch what is unclean, they reason, how can they dabble with the fringes of witchcraft, when God Himself has declared it unclean. In a nutshell, when a person plays with a little bit of fire in the name of ‘fun’, they still get burned. In keeping himself pure and unspotted from the world (James 1v27), the Amishman steers a course as far from spiritual danger as he possibly can. Oh, that more Christians would do likewise in this day and age!


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