During this time of the year, the subject of traditions comes to the forefront. As a nation and culture, we acknowledge Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas within a two-month period. The question is how important are traditions? If you ever watch the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, which is very consistent with how people perceive traditions especially passed down by family and religion, they are everything.
It is for this reason back in 2008 on the campaign trail, Michelle Obama stated that we must do away with our traditions if we are going to change our society. Without traditions, much identity is wiped out, common grounds become non-existent, and people lose a sense of belonging and identification. Whether we like it or not traditions are often times the glue that keeps us together.
Growing up I never questioned why we considered these three events such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas as being noteworthy, and why we celebrate them in the manner we do except for the fact that like many Americans, it is a matter of tradition. I liked candy for Halloween like the rest of the kids, and I looked forward to Thanksgiving because it meant I would see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Christmas had a special sentimental note to it because according to the Christmas story a special baby was born that day, but as a child my focus was on all the activities from sweets to gifts and decorations along with family gatherings.
It was not until years later that I learned we accept traditions because that is what we do. We assume such traditions are special, but we often don’t know the meaning behind them. We presume they must be true because everyone else does it without thinking about the real implications behind them. We don’t understand their origins, purpose, and whether they have been adjusted to fit the culture. After all, they are traditions.
And, why would we question them? Traditions are everywhere. There are national traditions where the people of the nation can come together on a common ground and celebrate, such as the fourth of July. There are cultural traditions that identify people to certain festivals and ways of doing something, whether it is dress, food, or practices. There are family traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, where there is something binding that the family shares and recognizes together. There are religious traditions that must be alright because they are attached to religion. And, last but not least, people can take national and cultural traditions, add to them their own practices in order to own them personally and then pass them down to the next generation as being right and acceptable.
The one thing about traditions is that there are reasons for them, but within a couple of generations those reasons are often lost. The history of some has become so adjusted to fit certain preferences to make them acceptable to such an extent that most have no idea that behind the practices could be Satanism, paganism, and pure greed which is idolatry.
Take Halloween for example. Halloween or Hallowe’n (less commonly known as All Halloween, [All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve). This celebration is observed in many countries on the 31st of October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day, which is officially celebrated on November 1st. Like many traditions and celebrations, this day has a religious connotation to it. As mentioned before, if religion is behind it, it must be okay, but is it? We must ascertain if religion has been tacked onto certain holidays to make them acceptable while covering their real intent. It is also important to point out that the innocence of children is used with certain holidays to cover their real origins, while cleverly conditioning our children to accept that which is abominable to God.
Consider the word “Halloween.” The first part of the word, “hallow” points to something that should be considered sacred or holy. Is Halloween sacred to God? This is where religion is tacked on, or used to cover the real origins of some holidays. Supposedly on this day, people should be preparing themselves to pay tribute to the saints of old from the Catholic church, but keep in mind, they are dead people. In such a celebration we must ask what are people celebrating–death or life? We are clearly told by the LORD to choose life and not death and any fraternizing with the dead is prohibited by God’s Word. Such association is called necromancy which is associated with witchcraft and points to pursuing after, inquiring, and corresponding with the dead. In fact, in the Old Testament delving into any type of witchcraft is an abomination and resulted in the judgment of death on those who participated, proving it is not innocent, nor is it child’s play. Paul was clear that witchcraft was one of the works of the flesh and no flesh will inherit the kingdom of God. Keep in mind, we think it may be innocent enough but Satan plays for real and for keeps. (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; 30:19-20; Galatians 5:19-21)
There is nothing in the Bible that immortalizes the dead or condones that which produces a culture of death. Whether it appears innocent is not the issue: it is what spirit is behind it, and in what way are our children being used to hide its evil, while conditioning them to see nothing wrong with the darkness that is attached to it. Consider the costumes. How many have to do with witches, ghosts, goblins and fantasy characters? Remember Halloween is meant to be spooky and a time to play pranks on people. According to a documentary about Halloween, it was because of pranks that a woman started giving candy to defuse hoodlums who defaced her property on that night. This is how we get the popular declaration, “Trick or Treat?” We can see that this move on the woman’s part proved to be successful and caught on in the rest of country, but is that not rewarding bad behavior or even bribing our young people? Is that how we challenge wrong attitudes and behavior with a treat (Proverbs 8:35-36; 1John 4:1)?
OUR GOD IS NOT THE GOD OF THE DEAD BUT THE LIVING. We are not to celebrate death for it is the great wage that is required because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When you dare to look further behind the dark curtain of Halloween, it is one of Satan’s great holidays where hallow is mocked with abominable profane activities along with the sacrifice of animals and people. Regardless of how children enjoy the activities, the spirit or intent behind it is dark and wrong (Matthew 22:32; Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
I am not trying to rain on anyone’s “parade” but parents must be sober as to how they handle this event. I get it that to deny their children from enjoying this time as the children of others do will often cause rebellion. Parents must be wise in discerning what a child should know, while leading them towards a right attitude about the sinister side of Halloween.
We all know that the first Thanksgiving was recorded when the pilgrims invited the Indians to share in their feast. It was a feast that acknowledged the bountiful yield of crops that was provided by God and to give Him thanks for the successful harvest that would see them through the winter. The reason they invited the indigenous people is that they would have perished their first winter if it was not for their kindness. I am sure the pilgrims recognized God’s hand of grace and intervention in the pity and mercy the indigenous people showed them. After all, these people did not have to help them in their plight, and they clearly showed grace to them in a very vulnerable state. THEY COULD HAVE DONE NOTHING AND LET THEM PERISH.
The last statement should bring a type of wake-up call. If God did nothing, we would all perish. If man does nothing, souls will perish. It is for this reason we are thankful for God’s great intervention on our behalf when Jesus died for us, but we need to remember that we have been commissioned to share the bread of His redemption with others so they might live. If we are thankful, why are we not sharing it with others? If we have benefitted greatly from God’s gift of life, why wouldn’t we share that with others? If great kindness was shown to us by God, why would we not share kindness with others? The truth is, to do nothing means souls will perish (Mark 16:15).
At different times there was a day of Thanksgiving called by different leaders of this nation, but the most famous one was that of President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. He called for such a day to thank God for His providence and blessings. He understood that without first offering thanksgiving for what God had done, even in wartime, you couldn’t expect to effectively intercede on behalf of the nation.
As you consider what occurred to declare this occasion, Thanksgiving was usually called during a crisis. The first Thanksgiving came out of a crisis of death and starvation, and during Abraham Lincoln’s day the carnage of both sides was unspeakable as brother fought against brother and kinsmen against kinsmen. It was obvious that this nation needed God to intervene. We also see in the case of the Leviticus priests of old that they had to offer a Thanksgiving with the sacrifices as well (Leviticus 7:12; 22:29; Psalm 116:17).
If I could describe Thanksgiving today, I would call it “Football” Thursday. People are more interested who wins the game then soberly recognizing the blessings of God, knowing that without His intervention they would have nothing. The problem for most is that they have no idea what they have, who gave it, the sacrifices behind it and probably never will until they no longer have it. It is clear many have lost the attitude of gratitude long ago.
Finally, there is Christmas. Christmas has one of the most pagan histories you can imagine. It affected the attitudes of cultures worldwide. It started in Europe and was known as Boxing Day in such places as England. It was where an exchange took place between lords and serfs. It also became a day set aside for the poor of the land to come to the homes of wealthy people and feast on what they would provide for them. In fact, those who participated in it would travel from house to house to partake of food and liquor. Those benefiting from the bounty would offer good-will in exchange for these gifts by wassailing or singing songs along the way, but sadly as in most cases, the day turned into a free-for-all where various abuses occurred causing dread of the day by the benefactors who had to contend with thugs, bullies, drunks, chaos in their homes, and even violence where the activities often ended in some type of destruction.
Even though in some places it was outlawed, Christmas came to America. Instead of a day, the pagan celebration eventually extended a whole week creating a Mardi Gras atmosphere in some places. It involved rebellious teenagers locking the schoolmaster out of the school until certain terms were met. Not only were abuses occurring, but as in all cases where folly takes place, destruction follows. There were various mischiefs exerted on the unsuspecting public such as snow-balling. To combat this contemptible folly, certain leaders tried to make it about family, locking their doors to enclose their family into a personal celebration. Even though pastors preached against the practices, some decided it was a time that they could change it by inserting their own observance. Although they knew he was not born at that time, they surmised they could recognize Jesus’ incarnation. Instead of the streets filling with foolishness, perhaps the churches would become sanctuaries and places of intercession for believers. Later, children were emphasized, opening up the way for gifts that started with books that encouraged them to act properly. Since society as a whole desired to protect children and keep a lid on teenage foolery, the original celebration of Christmas began to change, thanks to newspaper editorials and advertisement. Keep in mind, this battle had to be fought in every major city in America such as New York and Boston because each city determined to what extent Christmas could be observed. THE THING THAT FINALLY DEFINED CHRISTMAS IN AMERICA THE MOST WAS A BOOK.
I wish I could say the book was the Bible, but it was not. The book was, The Night Before Christmas. This book described and promoted the central character of Christmas to every child. As we know, that central figure was not Jesus Christ, but Santa Claus. (The information about Christmas was taken from the book, The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum.)
Christmas has changed, and the traditions vary according to how and what is emphasized. However, it seems all of practices of past Christmases are present today in our society. There is the partying, the gift giving, the religious recognitions, the singing, and family gatherings, but sadly it remains mainly pagan because the abuses and hardships put on family by commercialism, which is pagan at the core and motivated by covetousness and greedy people, is what often drives Christmas. James 1:17 tells us all wonderful gifts come from the Father above and not some fictional character. The abuses are also present in different ways and sadly, those who have abundance can prove to be misers, the poorest people in the world because of their attitude towards God, life, and genuine giving.
As you can see, Thanksgiving stands between a Satanic holiday and Christmas, a holiday with grave pagan origins. How we approach each holiday is our choice. Whether we observe it or denounce it is based on our understanding and preference. However, whether we observe it or not will depend on whether we make it our tradition. Christmas is one tradition that one can own for self. The truth is every practice outside of Christ is pagan, every holiday outside of finding the life and sacrifice of Christ in the midst is useless. Every day that is not dedicated to the Lord will prove vain, and every activity that is void of godly honor will prove a disgrace in the end.
The reason some of the religious leaders years ago decided they would set aside December 25th to celebrate the fact that Jesus was born into the human race was clearly their way of taking back one day that had been hijacked in a destructive way. Were they wrong? I believe for the most part their hearts and motives were in the right place, and I also believe if people’s hearts are pure and right in celebrating Jesus’ great entrance into the world on December 25th, that they are not wrong either.
My heart this season of peace and good-will to all men is that we cease from looking backwards, arguing over dates, and getting caught up in unprofitable debates. As believers, we can all agree that Jesus came into this world, sent by the Father to redeem us, and because of His great gift of love, our lives have been forever changed. It you memorialize Jesus’ Incarnation on the 25th of December, I bid you a blessed Christmas and if you do not, we together can still rejoice, for it is the day that the Lord has made.