Contrary to popular belief, the most prevalent emotion of the Halloween season is not fear. It's guilt -- guilt, guilt and more guilt. As parents, we either feel guilty because we're depriving our children of the holiday or we feel guilty for not depriving them when our convictions tell us we should. It isn't always self-imposed guilt, either. There's no shortage of people ready to give an opinion or make a judgment about how the Christian family should deal with Halloween.

Our own family is not foreign to this nagging guilt. We never felt peace that we were making the most God-honoring, spiritually profitable choice when it came to this controversial holiday. It seemed as if no matter what decision we made -- from participating in all the festivities of the holiday to turning all the lights off and hiding in our home - we never felt the Halloween issue was fully resolved.

All of that changed when a friend and I decided to do some in-depth research on Halloween to put our questions to rest once and for all. What we learned was more surprising than we'd imagined. The story we discovered strengthened our faith, humbled us before God, and revealed anew the glory of Jesus Christ. The story begins at the foot of the cross.

Historical Origins of Halloween

There, some 2000 years ago, began a new age in history when men, women and children who embraced a relationship with Jesus Christ would be called upon to lay down their lives for the sake of their Savior. During the first 300 years after Christ's death and resurrection, the Roman government set about on a campaign of extermination. Defenseless Christians became the target of the state's cruelest and most persistent crusade. Christianity was an affront to the deities of Rome and Christians were the easy target of blame whenever an unfavorable situation arose. If there were a drought, the Christians had offended the rain god. If fire, earthquake, or flood, the gods were angry at the Christians' unwillingness to sacrifice to them. Even military misfortunes were these stubborn people's doing.

Beginning with Nero, wave after wave of persecution swept over the budding church. Eventually no excuse was needed. Christians subverted the state religion — paganism — and became a thorn in Rome's side. The empire's answer was torture. The believers' response was faith.

Amazing stories of devotion to Christ emerged during those dark days. A young mother, Perpetua, refused to deny the name of Jesus. Ignoring the pleas of her unbelieving father and frantic appeals to think of her young baby, she chose death and the promise of eternal life.

A group of 40 Roman soldiers stood together in their refusal to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods. The furious Roman governor condemned them to be stripped and placed in the center of a frozen lake, surrounded by soldiers and tubs of hot water. Taunted to deny Christ and climb into the warm tubs, only one of the forty weakened. When one of the guards saw this, he was grieved for that man's denial and he was converted on the spot. "I am a Christian," he shouted, stripping off his uniform and taking the man's place on the frozen lake to die with his new brothers.

Many hearts came to faith, not in spite of these stories, but because of them. Rome's plan was backfiring and the church, even under unspeakable horror, was growing. At last, by A.D. 311, there was no denying the supremacy of Christianity. That year, an edict of toleration was issued, calling not only for an end to persecution, but also for the protection of Christians to meet together in worship. Its security was truly sealed, however, with the public conversion of Rome's emperor, Constantine, in the year A.D. 313. Within a short time, Constantine would declare Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, and thus the known world. God, indeed, had a plan.