With the success of popular TV shows like AMC's The Walking Dead - our fascination with death and corpses is on the rise. Based on a comic book series by the same name, The Walking Dead focuses on a post-apocalyptic world where flesh eating zombies rule.
Night of the Living Dead was a popular horror movie made in 1968 featuring zombies, and still boasts a cult following today. So what fuels our culture's obsession with death? Could part of it be denial of our own mortality?
Halloween seems to bring out the worst in morbid costumes and decorations. Death and gore are glorified. Zombies, demons, witches and spooky monsters abound. What are Christians to do with this "holiday" that is celebrated from infancy to adulthood?
First of all - a little history lesson on Halloween: It was a Celtic pagan festival, and then became the Christian holiday known as All Saints' Day, but later morphed into the secular celebration of today.
Halloween activities include trick-or treating, wearing costumes, carving Jack-o'-lanterns, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, committing pranks, telling ghost stories or other frightening tales, and watching classic horror films.
In traditional Celtic festivals, large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces and placed in windows to ward off evil spirits. The carving of pumpkins is associated with Halloween in North America where pumpkins are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips. Many families that celebrate Halloween carve a pumpkin into a frightening or comical face and place it on their doorstep after dark.
The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, originating in Ireland and Britain. Poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1st), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2nd).
The early Christian church moved a festive celebration called All Saints' Day from May to November 1 and renamed it All Hallows' Eve, from which we get the word Halloween. This was an overt attempt on the part of believers to infiltrate pagan tradition with the truth of the gospel. It was a bold evangelistic move designed to demonstrate that only the power of the resurrected Christ could protect men and women from the destructive ploys of Satan and his demons.