Presidents’ Day and Other Pagan Observances

When I was young I celebrated Halloween. I dressed up, I went out to get candy in my neighborhood, and I had a wonderful time. Somewhere along the way, though, someone handed my father some literature dealing with the dangers of Halloween. I don’t know that he bought into it, because he didn’t put a stop to the practice in our house. But one day, while looking through his Bible, I came across the tract and read it. I immediately swore off Halloween, convinced I was un-Christian if I took part.

And as a good little eight year-old fundamentalist I stood firm against the pagan holiday. That pamphlet shaped the way I looked at holidays for the next thirteen years. I noticed a growing antipathy toward Easter, and then Christmas, as I listened to other well-meaning people reveal the “pagan” origins of the holidays. By 21 I believed you could not be a good Christian and observe Halloween (and I was starting to have serious doubts about Christmas and Easter). But there were entire passages of the Bible that I had missed in my quest for holiday purity.

“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2:15-17).

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks” (Romans 14:5-6).

Does the Bible forbid Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Presidents’ Day, or Taco Tuesday? No.

Does it forbid pagan practices? Yes.

Do we attach a pagan significance to Christmas trees, dyed eggs, or pumpkins as tools for idolatrous worship? No. So what is the problem?

We are told, “Halloween dishonors God!” Uh…only if we make it dishonor God. Regardless of its origins, today there is nothing inherently pagan about dressing up as Dora and Diego to roam the streets looking for Kit-Kats and Tootsie Rolls. If you bring witches and vampires into your home, that is a different story. It would be a matter of concern any day. But trick-or-treating is no more inherently evil than Presidents’ Day. And if you’re simply involved in fun rather than things that glorify darkness, violence, or death, the Bible is abundantly clear that we are not to judge our Christian brothers and sisters over things like the observance of holidays.

Now, I do not promote Halloween. It is, after all, a socialist holiday: children are encouraged to go to their neighbors and demand something for nothing by coercion. But, that aside, when it comes to our values we have more to fear from the Malthusian origins of Earth Day or the Marxist origins of Kwanzaa than the pagan significance of Halloween.

Bottom line: the Word tells us to leave each other alone about the significance we attach to different days, and we should learn to pick our battles.