Disabusing Another Myth

Flash-falling-leavesI had the good fortune (as I’m sure many of you have as well) to read John Sanidopoulos’ excellent treatise on Hallowe’en. It was on his blog Mystagogy, one of the best blogs in the Orthosphere bar none. Rather than regurgitate it for you, I’ll let you read it for yourselves, as there’s no way that I could do it justice. (And I highly encourage you to read it.)

It’s gratifying on so many levels. The one or two I want to deal with here is the historicity of its origins as laid out by Sanidopoulos and the other is my personal gratitude to him for disabusing us yet of another pernicious Protestant/Fundmanetalist myth that has been foisted on us for too long. One I dare say that too many Orthodox Christians have wholeheartedly (and unwisely in my opinion) fallen for –hook, line and sinker.

In this vein, he adds to the corpus of correct thought regarding other urban legends that have constrained clear thought. Along similar lines Your’s Truly humbly proposed a rethinking of the Easter/Pascha debate about six months ago. There was something grating about our standoffishness I felt about our insistence on the word Pascha which I thought a little off-putting to non-Orthodox. I felt like we were veering dangerously close to exclusivist territory a la Kwanzaa or Cinquo de Mayo, demanding that Pascha be part of the “glorious tapestry” that is American culture while being a little standoffish at the same time. “Sure, you have Easter (which don’t you ignoramuses know was named after a pagan holiday?) but we have Pascha (which is only for those of us fortunate to have emigrated from Bulbania, Slobovia or Ruritania). Anyway, you got a problem with that?” I’m sorry but whenever I heard that I’m afraid that we started sounding like another grievance group rather than evangelists.

Long story short, a priest-monk from New Zealand came to the rescue and set the record straight: the evidence of Easter coming from an Anglo-Saxon goddess was neglibible. On the other hand, the overwhelming and immediate Saxon use of Easter and its various cognates as denoting the Feast of the Resurrection is incontrovertible.

And now Sanidopoulos does the same for Hallowe’en. Long story short, the idea that there are any Satanic origins for this holiday come directly from Anton LeVey, an imposter and fraud who created the Church of Satan in the early 1960s out of whole cloth. LeVey had taken an obscure urban legend which had been peddled by ill-educated Fundamentalists for several years and preached it from the rooftops. Immediately, it gained currency and was repeated ad infinitum in an unfortunate Mobius loop until it became accepted as fact. We are witnessing a similar imposture today with the “fact” that the Merovingians are descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalen. In all-too-many circles this too is now accepted as historical. (On a related note, the “Wiccan” religion whose adherents claim predated Christianity in Northern Europe has been proven to be likewise of modern origin.) And so on.

Personally, I’ve always liked Hallowe’en. Along with Thanksgiving, it seemed to me to be the most organic of the American holidays. The fact that both of these feasts fall during the Autumn harvest lends them an added air of authenticity. They are both uniquely American and there’s nothing wrong with that. In the Greek countryside, people fly kites on Clean Monday; in Brazil, Great Lent is preceded by Carnival; the Jews have the High Holy Days (also in the Autumn). All of this is normal. Holidays such as these bind us together.

As for Hallowe’en itself, it epitomized a commonality, it solidified a community, not only in the present but stretching to the past. Like Thanksgiving, it could only arise in a nation which had a common culture. It’s one of those things that give meaning to the words “mystic chords of memory.” You either get it or you don’t. Equally as important, Hallowe’en was one of those things that was always “there” for children. Generations of American children looked forward to it in anticipation, probably rivaling even Christmas I dare say. Even those children whose parent immigrated from the Old Country took to it immediately. It made them American too. For those of us who were ashamed because our grandparents (or even parents) spoke broken English, we felt as if we too were the same as those who had ancestors at Jamestown. As we ran up and down the streets shaking down people for candy, Hallowe’en tied us into the American landscape in ways that no other holiday could –even the Fourth of July. And that’s a good thing.

It’s especially a good memory as our country is fraying apart. I suspect that we will see less and less of Hallowe’en as it used to be, especially now since children can’t go safely running around from house to house on their own. (Really, having your dad chaperone a group of your friends would have been mortifying.) Thanks to multiculturalism, feminism and rampant non-judgmentalism, we now have “Slutty Hallowe’en,” drunken bacchanals and God knows what else. This perniciousness is working its corrosive effects on Thanksgiving, formerly a sacrosanct holiday of feasting and familial camaraderie but now just the start of the Christmas (Oops! I mean “Holiday”) season. And of course we can’t agitate our non-Christian friends by having a Christmas parade or (perish the thought!) an actual Nativity scene on the public square.

This is all of piece; it’s by design. I’d say the battle to regain the culture is pretty much lost. Having said that, we Orthodox don’t have to add fuel to the fire by using our Faith to perpetuate a myth. The truth will set us free, Jesus said. Whether to celebrate or not is not the issue, after all, many older people can’t stay up late at night and so they wisely turn off the outdoor lights to alert any children that no candy will be had at their house. Not a problem, that’s perfectly understandable. But as for me and my family, we’ll leave the lights on this Friday. And I would ask my Orthodox brethren to be a little more critical of the received wisdom, especially if it comes from non-Orthodox sources.


  1. Hmm, wonder what Orthodox monasteries say about Halloween? 🙂

    • Gail Sheppard says

      10 to 1 they will say this: No devils or the like, but positive images that represent truth, strength of heart, endurance. . . the traits the Saints employed. Try to segregate children too soon, they will wither and die in spirit, just like a plant that is transplanted and dies on the vine.

      • MomofToddler says

        While I think I do see what you are trying to say, how it this consistent with the fact that the Theotokos was raised in a temple since the age of 3? That was a quite set apart, and perhaps isolating upbringing, and she became the Mother of God. Not that any of our children have that same destiny, but I think there is something we can learn from that as far as the efforts we must take to protect them and help them become better vessels of Christ, especially in todays world. Forgive me, if I misunderstood your point.

  2. Tim R Mortiss says

    And Hallowe’en was really to mock Satan and his works– and Satan hates to be mocked!

    Interesting post, George; didn’t read the article because it doesn’t link, though.

    I will have to say that those who think the Merovingians have the indicated descent don’t comprise “many” circles…..

  3. Ladder of Divine Ascent says

    “It was on his blog Mystagogy, one of the best blogs in the Orthosphere bar none.”

    He opens with a Elder Paisios quote, “Man should not be upset about the blasphemies of the devil, but only about his personal sins, and to hope in God’s boundless mercy, for where hope in God is absent, the devil’s tail is present.”

    As a stamp of approval, above an image of group children, including two girls, one dressed as witch and the other as horned red devil. Now keep in mind that this is the same man who said:


    “Television has done us great damage. It’s especially destructive for children. A seven-year-old child came to the hermitage once. I saw the demon of television speaking through the child’s mouth, exactly as demons speak through the mouth of the possessed. It was like a baby born with teeth. It is not easy to find normal kids; they are turning into little monsters. And you see they don’t get to think for themselves, they only repeat what they have heard and seen on television. That’s why they have come up with television to begin with: to make people numb and dumb, so that they will take what they hear and see on television for a fact and act accordingly.”


    “[Mothers must be helped to] understand that television dulls their children’s minds. They lose the ability to think on their own, to think critically—not to mention the damage it causes to their eyesight. And we are talking about man-made television. But there is another kind—a spiritual television. When people uproot their old self, and the eyes of the soul are cleansed, they can see into the future without the aid of any machines. Have they told their children about this other kind of television? If they won’t, these boxes will make our children dumb.”

    As for America/Heterodoxy/”Western civ.” as distinct from the Orthodox foundation (say, Feast of All Saints) of it:


    Democracy/America/Halloween[insert your favorite idol here], “You found me beautiful once.”

    Answer: “Honey, you got REAL ugly.”

    Elder Paisios: The Prophecies about Constantinople:


    “Russia will continue the war after Turkey’s destruction until the Persian Gulf and the troops will stop outside Jerusalem. Then the Western powers will give notice to the Russians to withdraw their troops from these places. That much time the sprouts need to grow, ie six months, but Russia will not withdraw her forces… The war that erupts will be global and will result in the Russians’ loss. There will be massive slaughter, the cities will become slums. We, the Greeks will not take part in this World War.”

    Now, I interpret the above as Russia may “lose,” but it takes the USA down with it.

    Bleeding Out For You:


    ” oh you tell me [Russia] to hold on
    you tell me [Russia] to hold on

    “but [America’s] innocence is gone
    and what was right [with her] is wrong

    “and my [Russia’s] hour is now
    [her, America’s] hopelessness is sinking in
    and the wolves [inside her] all cry
    to fill the night with horror
    and when your eyes are red
    and emptiness is all you know
    with the darkness [you] fed
    I will [now] be your scarecrow [fits fall harvest, Halloween theme of the original topic even, lol]

    “I’m bleeding out
    if the last thing that I [Russia] do
    is bring you down
    I’ll bleed out for you

    “so I bare my skin and I count my sins and I close my eyes and I take it in
    I’m bleeding out
    I’m bleeding out for you
    for you”

    But, we took our children to the Pumpkin festival, went for horse rides, picked pumpkins straight from the pumpkin patch, carved them, and gone to a dog costume parade/event with candy stations for the children, but strained out “Halloween” (death/horror/occult) as much as possible (which is pretty much given we homeschool).

    Strange President , strange “Pope,” strange events (Solomon’s Temple in Brazil), strange days, strange “evil” clowns.



  4. Michael Kinsey says

    Sweet as candy, a whole large paper shopping bag full. a standard product of right thinking. Have fun.

  5. Hieromonk Mark says

    Urban myths, Anton LeVey, Protestant Fundamentalism, historical research and rationalist and academic arguments, etc. aside, what concerns me is the nature of Hallowe’en celebrations and the way they are leading people into increasing pre-occupation with unrestrained violence, grotesque goulishness, gratuitous horror, promotion of sexual and other perversions and the ‘normalising’ of them as well as of death and decay. Those are the things that give me pause. In the Episcopal parish I grew up in, the celebration held at this time of year was a ‘Harvest Home’ festival, an appropriate autumn event directed toward celebrating the gathering in of the harvest and the celebration of God’s bounty. It had feasting, music, games and a village fair atmosphere and setting, all without any of the above issues of concern, and ‘a good time was had by all.’

    • Tim R Mortiss says

      Both a sense of proportion and a sense of humor are of value, in this as in many matters.

      We live in an old neighborhood, with old houses and old-fashioned streetlights, that has grown into something of a magnet for trick-or-treaters from other areas in town. This is fine; everybody is well-costumed and respectful.

      We have been handing out over 200 pieces of candy in recent years; last night it went over 350!

      Lots of princesses of all types, cowboys, astronauts, Spidermen, movie characters of all kinds. They had fun, we had fun, my kids had fun with their kids, who are my grandkids. I had a lot of fun as a kid on Hallowe’en.

      Of course it’s a…..[cue the Theramin], Western thing (dare I say?)! Or even…. [eerie sounds] an…American one…..

  6. My thanks to George Michalopulos for the link to John Sanidopoulos’s essay on Hallowe’en.

    It was an interesting read, but JS took entirely too many words to get to the main point, which is that the night before western Christianity’s commemoration of all the saints was originally a prechristian holy day, but that the pope ‘baptized’ it and children began to dress up as their favorite saints. The fact that a completely baseless neopaganism has attempted to misappropriate the long-extinct celtic festival of Samhain for their own distorted purposes is beside the point, as is the dollar-driven horror industry in Hollywood and in your local haunted house fearfest.

    So, if the customs and costumes of our contemporaries will forego the demonic death-and-gore themes which I, among others, find so objectionable, and — can we hope — come back to some sort of reverence for the saints, well, then, I suppose I couldn’t complain. Other historical figures or pop personalities probably wouldn’t make the cut, though, even if they’re ostensibly less malevolent than the killers and ghosts and demons.

    On the other hand, I profoundly disagree with GM about the appropriateness of our using ‘Easter’ instead of ‘Paskha’ for any reason.

    Regardless of anyone else’s opinions on the matter, it should be enough for us to accept one of only a very few early attestations in English: St Bede the Venerable’s learned observation that ‘Easter’ is based on the name of a pagan goddess of Spring. Modern etymological studies support Bede, and connect the word to prechristian observances of the vernal equinox, marking the return of longer daylight hours, acknowledging the fact that the sun rises in the east — at least from our geocentric point of view. The connection between ‘east’ and ‘Easter’ seems obvious, but it’s a bit more complicated than that, and that story is grist for another mill.

    Then, there’s the Authorised Version’s blooper (Acts 12:4) where the anti-septuagint protestant translators render the greek-transliterated aramaic paskha (‘Passover’) as ‘Easter’. And thereby hangeth a tale, I’m sure. I have no use for the KJV except as a monument, a milestone on the journey of the english language; I don’t want to hear it in church, replete with errors as it is.

    Now, does our esteemed moderator think that the Jews would buy the argument he posits for the purported cultural relevance of ‘Easter’? I suspect not, but neither the Jews nor we orthodox Christians ought to sell our heritage so cheaply or even for some greater price. ‘Paskha’ is scriptural, and is just as available to heterodox Christians as it is to us. And it’s orthodox.

    BTW: Spelling ‘Paskha’ with a ‘k’ makes it almost impossible to mispronounce. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s heard ‘pasha’….

  7. Michael Bauman says

    But George the holiday is all about the vulgar and the demonic now. At best it sends a mixed message at worst, it encourages demonic experimentation. Plus the demonic context was there long before Anton.

    The old Scottish prayer: “From goulies and ghosties and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night: good Lord deliver us.”

    Does Mr. Saindoupolous address the reason the RCC moved the celebration of All Souls day to October?

    In any case the current state of the affair makes it unsuitable and we have much better things to do.

    Not a fan. Haven’t been since I found out demons are real and use anything we give them to do us nasty.

    Now if we want to hold vigils and prayer services for the departed and celebrate harvest that’s great but that is not Halloween in anybody’s mind.

    • Back when JS allowed comments to his posts, I posted a news item about a Greek Orthodox parish that was vandalized and desecrated with satanic symbols including “666” on the night of October 31 that year. Though highly relevant to the discussion at hand, for some reason, JS blocked it. I still wonder why.

    • “Not a fan. Haven’t been since I found out demons are real and use anything we give them to do us nasty.”

      Probably the most succinct and to the point sentence in the thread.

      I mentioned in my response why Halloween in it old form, with a vague air of spookiness appealed to me as a child. I was always convinced that demons were real. In the church in which I was reared, there was a lot of hard-core (flawed) Calvinist theology, none of which gave one anything of practical spiritual use.

      I encountered the charismatic world, which claims to offer lots of practical tools for dealing with the unseen realm, but because their theology is jumbled, flawed, and increasingly nonexistent, I believe they end up getting fooled and misdirected by demons more often than not.

      Roman Catholicism to me is a weird mixture of hard-core but unhelpful scholastic intellectual theology and a sanctioned popular piety that at times is as unsettling to me as… well let’s just say that I never felt particularly safe in the world of Marian apparitions, Siennese visions, bleeding extremities, and Iberian doll-statue processions. Not questioning anyone’s piety, but it felt unsafe in the same way that the charismatic world felt unsafe. None of it felt connected to solid and sound theolgy. And the post-Vatican II world seemed to find a belief in demons to be as embarrassing and distasteful to them as a Latin high mass.

      Orthodoxy hit me like a breath of fresh air, where there is lots of practical help for unseen warfare, all within the context of sound theology and the services and Mysteries. Liturgical theology, dogmatic theology, mystical theology and practical piety were of a seamless whole. I have heard a priest talk calmly and matter of factly about the demons and about the meaning and implications of the Christology defined by the ecumenical coucils — in the same sermon.

      I drifted afield from Halloween there, but I think that Orthodoxy sharpened my sense of what is spiritually safe. Without being dramatic about it, Halloween (certainly in its current manifestations) just doesn’t feel safe. I never tried to indoctrinate my children about Halloween, but I hope that along the way they learned to use their own spiritual senses, and will instinctively turn away from however the demons may manifest themselves in their lifetimes. Which may or may not include taking their kids trick or treating in their neighborhood.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      It is a mistake to take this too seriously. If you minimize it, so will your children. Channel their expression by helping them to exemplify the values of our Church.

      Kids who are “trick or treating” are not summoning up demons. The demons are too busy with you and me to bother with kids dressed as pumpkins and ladybugs who ring doorbells for candy with mom and dad waiting for them at the end of the walk.

      • Evil should not be depicted as if it were friendly or harmless. It is not a good thing for children to learn. And if our children dress up as something benign, they are still in an atmosphere of the occult symbols that are so prevalent during Halloween—-which lends support to the whole thing. We may believe that we “mean no harm” by participating in Halloween, but uncritical behavior regarding invisible realities( that we don’t understand), often invites demonic activity.

    • MomofToddler says

      I have to admit I only skimmed your post as I am familar with the Mystagogy post and am passionately anti-Halloween. As the origin of the secular holiday may be debatable, I prefer to focus on what it is now. About five homes in my tiny neigborhood have scary occult, what I have nicknamed “death altars” in front of their homes…I have had to keep my two year old boy from seeing these things as he is just toooo young for this stuff. No playing in the front yard, nightly walks were possible when only a two houses had decorations, but by the last week I didn’t even want to hang out outside. Not because that stuff has power over us, but there is a reason we have icons of Christ, Theotokos, and the Saints in our churches and homes…icons are healthy for our nous, and evil images are not. What a blessing it will be if my son does not have to endure nightmares and fear of the dark because he was protected from this stuff at a young age. In his current state, he still loves to sleep in the dark as he has not been exposed to scary images yet. I have a blog entry on Halloween I wrote last year if anyone is interested: http://ponderingsaboutorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/on-not-celebrating-halloween/

      • Michael Bauman says

        I wonder what the reaction would be if Orthodox placed Cross outside our home along with Ressurection icons. Perhaps an motion activated speaker that broadcasts the Paschal Troparian in several languages.
        One Orthodox family I have heard of has a sandbox with votive candles and an icon of the Theotokos.

        Many possibilities other than acquiescing to the consumer-nihilism of the dominant culture and passively allowing our children to be indoctrinated by “fun”.

      • I like your practical and non-ideological approach to this. (Not surprising given my own approach that I described.)

        Good blogpost — worth reading. The same parents who carefully try to make sure their kids eat healthy food seem often not to care what goes into their heads spiritually. When one wants to err on the side of caution, which is more important? I would rather take my chances with junk food than with potentially opening them to unseen malevolent forces. Best of all is healthy food for the soul, healthy food for the brain, and healthy food for the soul. And avoiding potential toxins of any kind.

        Again, this does not necessarily mean not dressing your little girl up as a princess and going to a few doors in a tame neighborhood. We didn’t do it, but I didn’t feel that parents who took their kids were doing something wrong, especially when they were ethnic families trying to fit in — in ways I never had to worry about.

        We were xeni on Sunday — they were xeni all the time. And if the Scripture is to be believed, God has a special protection for the xeni — and the proselytes (in case we were the ones over-reacting).

  8. Halloween was my favorite “holiday” as a kid in school. There was a spooky otherworldliness that penetrated an otherwise sterile Protestant world.

    But then it became the realm of axe-murderer and demon possession television marathons. The haunted houses became full of serial killer and Freddy Krueger themes. I maybe overdid it in not observing Halloween with my kids, but it really did feel like a lot of the basically harmless spookiness had been replaced by something more malevolent.

    It really wasn’t an ideological choice so much as a practical judgment call. My kids will be responsible for deciding about their own children.

  9. It is your choice to like Halloween. God gave you free will. Aside from all the stories about Anton LeVey and Samhain etc…….I still believe that Halloween is demonic. And of course I have free will to believe this. Stores are decorated with demons dripping with blood. Witches and demons hang from trees and adorn the windows of porches of homes. For more than a month every year, my child is horrified by these demons which are paraded around in every corner of the American marketplace. We don’t celebrate this unfortunate event. And thank God we are surrounded by a spiritual father and many clergy who believe likewise.

    The popular and often heard catch phrase for Halloween is always described by proponents as “harmless fun.”

    We don’t think it’s harmless. And we don’t think it’s fun. And I really can’t see any of the Fathers and saints of the Church recommending people to participate in such things.

  10. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    Whatever the origins of Halloween, our congregation decided some decades ago—before we were received into the Antiochian Archdiocese—that our children would not wander the streets of Chicago on the Eve of All Saints.

    Instead, they masquerade as either biblical characters or calendar saints and do skits or recite riddles or poetry having to do with the characters thus portrayed. Some of these productions have been extraordinary, and all of them are entertaining.

    In preparation for that special evening, the parish publishes a small booklet of biographies of a dozen or so saints, to be used in our homes for bedtime reading. Over the years we have published at least 30 of these booklets, I believe.

    There is a political aspect to the event, inasmuch as we VOTE for the “saint of the year.” This year, for instance, St. Maximus the Confessor is a heavy favorite. This being Chicago, there is some suspicion, alas, of vote-fraud.

    The evening’s skits are accompanied by competitive pumpkin-carving, gourd-painting, bobbing for apples, and so forth.

    At the end of the evening every child gets a large bag of candy and other goodies.

    We will be doing this tomorrow evening, and all of you are invited.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Father Pat: Wish I could come. Sounds like wholesome fun.

    • Jeff Beranek says

      our congregation decided some decades ago—before we were received into the Antiochian Archdiocese—that our children would not wander the streets of Chicago on the Eve of All Saints.

      That’s probably good advice for ANY evening of the year in Chicago.

  11. From St. Nikolaj (Velimirovic) on Halloween:

    As Orthodox Christians we must carefully examine every aspect of our involvement in the world, its activities, holidays and festivals, to be certain whether or not these involvements are compatible with our Holy Orthodox Faith. For a while now everything in the outside world is reminding us that Halloween is near: at school our children are busy painting pumpkins, cutting and pasting bats, ghosts and witches and planning the ideal costume in which to go trick-or-treating.

    Most of our schools, local community organizations and entertainment on television, radio and press will share in and capitalize upon the festival of Halloween. Many of us will participate in this festival by going to costume parties, or by taking our children trick-or-treating in our neighborhood after dark on October 31st. Most of us will take part in the Halloween festivities believing that it has no deeper meaning than fun and excitement for the children. Most of us do not know the historical background of the festival of Halloween and its customs.

    The feast of Halloween began in pre-Christian times among the Celtic peoples of Britain, Ireland and Northern France. These pagan peoples believed that physical life was born from death. Therefore, they celebrated the beginning of the “new year” in the fall, on the eve of October 31st and into the day of November 1st, when, as they believed the season of cold, darkness, decay and death began. Instructed by their priests, the Druids, the people extinguished all hearth fires and lights and darkness prevailed.

    According to pagan Celtic tradition, the souls of the dead had entered into the world of darkness, decay and death and made total communion with Samhain, the Lord of death, who could be appeased and cajoled by burnt offerings to allow the souls of the dead to return home for a festal visit on this day. The belief led to the ritual practice of wandering about in the dark dressed in costumes indicating witches, hobgoblins, fairies and demons. The living entered into fellowship and communion with the dead by this ritual act of imitation, through costume and the wandering about in the darkness. They also believed that the souls of the dead bore the affliction of great hunger on this festal visit. This belief brought about the practice of begging as another ritual imitation of the activities of the souls of the dead on their festal visit. The implication was that any souls of the dead and their imitators who are not appeased with “treats”, i.e. offerings, will provoke the wrath of Samhain, whose angels and servants could retaliate through a system of “tricks”, or curses.
    In the strictly Orthodox early Celtic Church, the Holy Fathers tried to counteract this pagan new year festival by establishing the feast of All Saints on that same day (in the East, this feast is celebrated on another day). The night before the feast (on “All Hallows Eve”), a vigil service was held and a morning celebration of the Eucharist. This custom created the term Halloween. But the remaining pagan and therefore anti-Christian people reacted to the Church’s attempt to supplant their festival by increased fervor on this evening, so that the night before the Christian feast of All Saints became a night of sorcery, witchcraft and other occult practices, many of which involved desecration and mockery of Christian practices and beliefs. Costumes of skeletons, for example, developed as a mockery of the Church’s reverence for holy relics. Holy things were stolen and used in sacrilegious rituals. The practice of begging became a system of persecution of Christians who refused to take part in these festivities. And so the Church’s attempt to counteract this unholy festival failed. This is just a brief explanation of the history and meaning of the festival of Halloween. It is clear that we, as Orthodox Christians, cannot participate in this event at any level (even if we only label it as “fun”), and that our involvement in it is an idolatrous betrayal of our God and our Holy Faith. For if we imitate the dead by dressing up or wandering about in the dark, or by begging with them, then we have willfully sought fellowship with the dead, whose Lord is not a Celtic Samhain, but Satan, the evil one, who stands against God. Further, if we submit to the dialogue of “trick or treat,” our offering does not go to innocent children, but rather to Satan himself.

    Let us remember our ancestors, the Holy Christian Martyrs of the early Church, as well as our Serbian New Martyrs, who refused, despite painful penalties and horrendous persecution, to worship, venerate or pay obeisance in any way to idols who are angels of Satan. The foundation of our Holy Church is built upon their very blood. In today’s world of spiritual apathy and listlessness, which are the roots of atheism and turning away from God, one is urged to disregard the spiritual roots and origins of secular practices when their outward forms seem ordinary, entertaining and harmless. The dogma of atheism underlies many of these practices, denying the existence of both God and Satan.

    Our Holy Church, through Jesus Christ, teaches that God alone stands in judgment over everything we do and believe and that our actions are either for God or against God. No one can serve two masters. Therefore, let us not, as the pagan Celts did, put out our hearth fires and wander about in the dark imitating dead souls. Let us light vigil lamps in front of our Slava icons, and together with our families, ask God to grant us faith and courage to preserve as Orthodox Christians in these very difficult times, and to deliver us from the Evil One.

    -St. Nikolaj (Velimirovic)

  12. “When you play with demons, it’s easy to get played, and to wind up under influences is no laughing matter.”
    – Father Vsevolod Chaplin

  13. I left the debate on the character of Halloween some time ago. Rather than take a side on the “holy” vs. “demonic” angle, I simply decided to look at it this way:

    “Halloween” is the eve of the Catholic (and Protestant, for those Protestants who celebrate it) All Saints’ Day, November 1st. They are welcome to celebrate it in any fashion they choose.

    The Orthodox commemorate All Saints on the first Sunday after Pentecost. I would suggest American Orthodox celebrate it in the “American” fashion at that time, but along with trick or treat, that would entail haunted houses, dressing up as ghouls and demons, and parties for scantily, suggestively costumed adults, all of which we can do without.

    However, for people with small children, so long as they go for angels or some other respectable costume and leave the gore, I suppose it’s not the end of the world.

    Here’s a link with a nice icon:


  14. Tim R. Mortiss says

    Loved to trick or treat as a kid, my kids loved it, and so do my grandkids. I think it has become over the top many places. Around here in our old neighborhoods, it’s still fun.

    We usually have about 200 kids come by our house. I do most of the handing out of the candy, while my wife and kids are out with the grandkids. I wear my cowboy outfit from the Single Action Shooting Society matches.

    I smoke a cigar during the process, which I otherwise very rarely do any more, and the trick-or-treaters are more fascinated by that than by anything else: “Is that cigar real?”!

  15. I came acoss these at the local grocery store, a bag of “Demon Treats” from Hersheys, makers of the “Great American Chocolate Bar” (now made cheaper in Mexico – but that is another story). Check it out: http://m.hersheys.com/celebrate/halloween/productdetail.aspx?id=634

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t see how any Orthodox Christian parent could be comfortable with their children asking for, receiving and partaking of anything dedicated to demons. This is not the first year of this kind of promotion so obviously there is market-appeal.

    And so year after year, a major American candy corporation invites all to “celebrate” Halloween with “Demon Treats.” They cash in by selling this 125 piece bag of demonic treats. Who else benefits?

    For those Orthodox Christians who see no harm in celebrating Halloween, I want to ask you to try a little thought experiment. Hersheys’ Demon Treats are due to be discounted starting tomorrow, so what if you purchased a bag or two and showed them to your parish Priest and asked him if it was okay to serve “Demon Treats” for trapeza/coffee hour.

    Honestly, does anyone think any Priest would allow demon treats to be served to his spiritual children after partaking of the Holy Mysteries?

    Shouldn’t we Orthodox Christian parents show the same care in the “little Church” of our home?

  16. The Bible can be interpreted in many ways.

    My kid dressing up as a pirate and getting a few candies from the neighbors is quite possibly so far from harmful I don’t feel the need to review.

  17. Hi George,

    I tend to agree with you about the unitive and community aspects of the celebration, at least in the past. I have fond memories of Halloween as a kid in the South. Nevertheless, the parish here send out an official form letter to the parishioners asking schools etc. to excuse Orthodox kids from any part of it, as being contrary to the Christian faith. That’s the view of Fr. Victor Potapov, if not Abp. Hilarion as well. If I had young children here I would defer to the judgment of the Church while personally feeling sorry that my kids can’t experience the same kind of childhood that I did. That of course extends to today’s life in general, with so much of the culture being corrupted beyond understanding.

  18. Francis Frost says


    I find to hard to believe that the troops of children marching through my neighborhood dressed as cowboys, princesses and various Disney characters or comic book heroes represent a demonic invasion.

    Indeed, I find your own glorification of war as an honorable act in the previous thread to be far closer to a demonic delusion. After all, in war, the blood and gore are quite real. The tears and laments of the bereaved are all too heart rending. And the dead are dead indeed. As two women from Donetsk replied in a recent interview “My tol’ko za mir! We just want peace.”

    War is simply a continuation of the sin of Cain. Our Orthodox Church requires the same penance for those who kill in war that it does of any other killer.

    In the Divine Liturgy we pray first for the peace from above.

    As the prophet Isaiah said:
    And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war. 5Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD. Isaiah 2: 3-4

    As for the response from the “Ladder”, the Mystagogy web-site has a lengthy post about fictitious prophecies ascribed to Elder Paisios. Indeed, his contemporary, St. Porphyrios warned the holy Elder to restrict his prophecies as they were being mis-quoted and abused for political purposes. The prophecies about Russia, Turkey and the US cited by “The Ladder” are among those specifically refuted in that article.

    As for Halloween, I suspect that the real damage is more likely to be dental than spiritual. We are not obligated to agree with personal opinions, even those published by recognized saints. I respectfully disagree with St. Nikolai.

    First the pagan holidays were timed to celestial events. The pagan celebration of the autumnal equinox would have fallen on September 21 – 22, a full 5 to 6 weeks before Halloween. The idea that Halloween is competing with or covering for a pagan celebration makes no sense. Secondly the idea that a holiday is competing or ‘covering’ a pagan celebration is the very same argument that the Jehovah’s Witnesses provide to reject our celebration of the Nativity of Christ at the winter solstice.

    As for the defilement of the spirit in our culture; there is plenty of that, and most of it has nothing to do with children’s celebrations. When our Orthodox bishops repent of their blessing of war and the armaments used to murder fellow Christians, then we will be making actual progress against the demonic powers.

    • I respectfully disagree with YOU Mr. Frost. I will side with St. Nikolai and the many Bishops and Archbishops who concur with him. I am also very sure that there would be zero saints and holy fathers who would condone the celebration of American demonic Halloween.

      Here is another warning from a Serbian Metropolitan:


    • M. Stankovich says

      Mr. Frost offers an interesting perspective that is somewhat reminiscent of my own.

      I will say that Halloween in San Diego is second only to the intensity of the traditional parade in Greenwich Village, NYC. In my neighborhood, as many decorate their homes as at Christmas (I believe it to be the same individuals), and it actually appears a “competition.” One street in particular has block after block of such intense, hi-tech displays (in a hi-tech town) that people come from all over the city to see it. There was, for example, a massive display of the usual characters (skeletons, ghosts, etc.) perfectly synchronized to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, popping-up, forming a choir, etc. It truly was extraordinary. One house had a near-theater sized projection screen where children were sitting on the grass watching The Wizard of Oz. There were any number of Harry Potter inspired displays, other children’s book (e.g. Dahl, RL Stein) inspired displays, and obviously, the usual animated cemeteries and “customary” Halloween fare. Literally, hundreds of people were in the area, it was well-policed, and without incident.

      As we walked around, I casually spoke to a lot of people, and I asked a number of people as to their opinion & philosophy of the “holiday,” its meaning and origin, and specifically if they could identify “Anton LeVey” and his movement. The overwhelming majority of people knew about the Mexican “Day of the Dead” because of our proximity to the border, but otherwise, it was described in a totally secular, totally benign manner. The younger the person I questioned, the more association with “partying” (i.e. there are many colleges & universities here, so costuming & drinking was a popular answer and/or motivation) or collecting a ton of candy. Several Hispanics mentioned attending Mass the next day and having a traditional meal (several students from USD, a private Catholic University & law school also mentioned Mass on campus). 1 in 25-30 people had even heard about LeVey and Satanism, and while I expected someone to mention Marilyn Manson or some of the death metal bands, no one did in association with Halloween.

      I must, then, juxtapose this experience with the same area competing at Christmas, and I can only say that it is reminiscent of the trips to 5th Avenue in NYC to see the stores elaborately decorated, and of course Herald Square & Macy’s always amazing displays. Nevertheless, there is no more feeling in this same area of my neighborhood for the Nativity of Jesus Christ – with a few exceptions – as there was a feeling of a “demonic celebration” on Halloween. Personally, I do not find the average American sophisticated or well-read enough to actually consider the actual significance of the symbols and history involved, nor interested enough in pursuing the argument that this is not simply a social convention. It seems to me that Halloween is as “compartmentalized” every bit as much as the incredible energy and shockingly exorbitant financial commitment people in this city make to children’s birthday parties and the high school prom. This thread, it seems to me, gives a whole lot of credit to the intellectual & “spiritual” capacity and motivation of Americans who, from my latest observation, are as indifferent as they were last year.

  19. Tom Winters says

    All Christians would do well to cleanse their homes of anything that promotes false spirituality or false beliefs. For instance: toss all quija boards; toss all books on astrology; toss all materials relating to spirit worlds or magic; etc. This also goes for those things on the computer and video games. Now, some may say this is extreme, but the truth is that the devil and his workers wish to “CONFUSE” people telling them, “This is just entertainment; it’s just for fun.” Remember this, weak and impressionable minds are easily confused by the devil. Look at school shootings; look at those believing in jihad; look at those who believe homosexuality is acceptable and just another life choice; etc. Christ tells us to be vigilant; the fight in this world is a fight between powers and principalities; the fight is between evil influences creeping into our lives, silently, just for fun, entertainment and the Truth of living lives as God created us to live. Be vigilant; the devil and his followers are attacking and many times under the guise of something else!

  20. Will Harrington says

    I must say that it is interesting that so much is known about Irish pagan religious practices on the internet that is unknown to scholars. Druids did not write down their beliefs and what has been passed down was first passed through the minds and hands of Christian monks who passed on old stories that even St Patrick himself is reported to have loved to listen too. What do we really know about Hallowe’en? It marked the end of the year. It may or may not have been the new year depending on if Winter was considered part of the year. In pagan times, the stories tell us that people huddled inside because it was dangerous out there. There were evil spirits and the always unpredictably dangerous Tuatha de Dannan out on this night when day and night were equal and the walls between worlds were thin. After Christianity? Kids went from house to house all dressed up begging for money, or treats or playing pranks (though this may really have been St. Stephen’s day and the practice among boys of dressing up in crazy outfits or women’s clothing, killing a wren, and going about collecting money for the funeral. The one thing that should be noted about post christian halloween is that it can only be seen as a celebration of triumph over dark forces that are no longer considered dangerous enough to need to be appeased or to keep people inside.
    What Halloween has become over the last thirty years or so is another issue.

  21. our parish used to have Halloween parties …… it was an American thing and nothing else .

  22. Can Sanidopoulos or any of his fellow pro-Halloweeners explain why their wholesome-n-Christian-rooted holiday is the “prime time” for the release such satanic movie-fare as this year’s “Ouija” and others of such ilk?


    Because there is a market for such films at Halloween. People are especially receptive to the idea being entertained by evil during Halloween.

    What are the Christian-roots (if any) of these appetites?

    • I wasn’t going to delve into this aspect too much, but my sense is that Sanidopoulos simply likes Halloween and that’s that. He does make some effort to rationally defend it from the most severe criticisms (devil worship) and perhaps has a point or two.

      However, the truth is that scholars seem to differ on its origins. One can separate out the Christian religious origins of All Saints’ Day from the darker facets associated with the holiday Halloween. Thus scholars attribute some of the practices of Halloween not to worship of a god named “Samhain” but to the Celtic festival of Samhain/Calan Gaeaf as a time that the veil between the ghost world and our world is thin and penetrable.

      Rogers, Nicholas. “Samhain and the Celtic Origins of Halloween”. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night
      Anglo-Saxon Spirituality: Selected Writings, Robert Boenig, ed.
      Santino, Jack. The Hallowed Eve: Dimensions of Culture in a Calendar Festival of Northern Ireland.

      The unfortunate thing is that Sanidopoulos seems to condemn the detractors of Halloween quite vehemently (see the section on “Hyper Religiosity and Halloween” where he compares Halloween detractors to the Jews who killed Christ). I’m sure Saint Nikolai and others who wrote against it did so on the basis of what they thought was the historical reality given their resources and context. This is part of the danger of basing religious convictions on the latest scholarship. The latest scholarship is merely shifting sand. Also, I sense a sort of anti-traditionalist animus there but that’s another matter.

      Perhaps Sanidopoulos should be a bit more candid and just say he likes it and is not willing to give it up rather than make it a big “expose'”. Or he could search for a consensus of scholars to explicitly debunk “myths” point by point (like Halloween’s partially pagan Celtic origin, which seems to be a standard opinion among scholars). Or he could just celebrate it himself and cease the polemic.

      I don’t think it’s that big a deal, myself. I don’t celebrate it for the reasons I’ve already stated and if someone asked advice I would say, “Probably not a good idea, but don’t sweat it.” Yet I would also refrain from condemning those who believe it is sinful to celebrate it. After all, whatever else we know about the holiday, it is certainly not Orthodox and has acquired lots of ghoulish connotations.

  23. A society of Catholic exorcists that met at the Vatican recently said that reports of demonic possession always increase around Halloween. Whatever its origins, Halloween in the 21st century has become an occasion for experimenting with the occult. Teens who have outgrown trick-or-treat still want to experience the spookiness of the holiday. The association of demons with Halloween might not be authentic, but it has become all too real.