The Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association
  Celebrating the Dead
by Jim Josephsen


In response to the inscription found at the base of the Statue of Liberty; “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” immigrants have made their journey to this land of freedom. By the millions, over the decades, those seeking liberty from distress, from want and persecution in their native countries, have come to the United States of America.


History will forever record the facts that this great nation, built by grateful, humble, dedicated people, driven to fulfill honorable causes, with an unbridled desire to succeed, seeking the American dream, moved by compassion, dedicated to hard work, inspired to charitable kindness, is a nation unmatched by civilizations before it, nor nations concurrent to it.


From Asia, the Middle-East, Central and South-America, from Europe, from all directions, hither and yon, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse have come, bringing with them strength of mind, dreams, hopes, desire for achievement and unavoidably their old world’s ways, their established traditions, their religious beliefs, their customs. 


The United States of American truly is a melting pot, composed of hundreds of nationalities. The United States is fast emerging as a pluralistic nation, a cornucopia of diversity; a nation of assorted ethnic, racial and social cultures, divergent religions; each one given acceptance, none considered problematic.


            Given this reality, with protections guaranteed by the Constitution, the United States has no choice but to provide consent to behavior, customs and old world traditions which on the face of it would, by many, be considered odd, foreign to logic or plain old stupid. From traditional Sunday-morning worship to the religious practices upheld by those who keep the seventh-day Sabbath, to behavior unique to Islam, Buddhism; to the practice of Jainism; all are protected by the U.S. Constitution.  Still in this traditional Christian nation, the many foreign customs and religious practices which are now tolerated, now accepted, now promoted are, from a spiritual Christian biblical perspective, an affront to the God who truly has so blessed this nation with the talent, resources, wealth and the might it for now, still possesses.


As more ethnic customs are allowed to take foot within America, as the various cultural diaspora are given greater freedom to practice their traditions, America is losing focus, is beginning to aimlessly wander. If nothing is wrong, how can anything be right? Historically, pluralism has been the downfall of many nations and civilizations.


With October 31st nearing, the custom of Halloween will again be observed across this country. Its origins reaching back some 2000 years, in a region now called Ireland, the custom of All Hallow’s Eve (the night of the 31st) was given sanction by the Catholic Church as a night commemorating All Saints Day (November 1st). As the pagans practiced centuries ago, Halloween is still a celebration of the dead, of demonic frenzy. In their effort to convert Celtic pagans to a belief in Christ, the Catholic Church fused their pagan practices with Christological dogma, obfuscating the truth of God.


The logical mind, and certainly the mind of one who confesses Christ (as so many in this Christian nation claim), should ask, why would anyone partake in such a corrupt, demonic practice? Just what is good or wholesome, honorable or righteous about Halloween? This custom has no origin or approval from the Bible. How does Halloween glorify the God of creation?


If not already anesthetized by the deception of Halloween, here comes an even more illogical custom, creeping into the fabric of American life. Witness: El Dia de los Muertos.


Translated, the Day of the Dead, this observance finds its origins some 3000 years ago, as Aztec and Meso-American civilizations first practiced a religious ritual dedicated to the goddess of death, Mictecacihuatl. Evolving over time, this religious custom was maintained by the indigenous Indian peoples of Central America. Centuries later, when Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they witnessed a strange custom of celebrating the dead.


Once a year, during the ninth month of the Aztec calendar (corresponding to our August), Day of the Dead festival activities were observed, primarily celebrated with meals and drink honoring the departed loved ones. These indigenous peoples believed the dead would annually come back for a visit among the living. Meals, libations and gravesite vigils; the presentation of flowers, candies and candles would highlight this annual festival. 


The Spaniards considered this practice to be barbaric and pagan. Trying as hard as they could, the Spanish, with the aid of Catholic missionaries attempted to eradicate the practice, but to no avail. Unable to convert these peoples, the Catholic Church, in order to make this pagan ritual more Christian and keep these people in the faith, influenced these indigenous people to incorporate their Day of the Dead customs with All Saints Day observances (which the Catholic Church legitimized back in 835 AD). As a result, the Day of the Dead is now commonly observed on November 1st.


The Day of the Dead is celebrated primarily in Mexico but now increasingly by Latin Americans in the United States. From Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, within Texas and Arizona, Utah, North Carolina, Day of the Dead celebrations are observed. This year in Oceanside, California on November 1st, Day of the Dead celebrations will be held with full splendor, rich in Mexican tradition.


Books such as Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead detail the history of this day. In her recent book, entitled Day of the Dead in the USA, author Regina Marchi straightforwardly explains just how Mexico’s tradition for remembering the dead is fast becoming a new American holiday.


A nation that is fast becoming rich in religious diversity, as more tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free; wretched refuse are filling its borders, traditional Christian principles are no longer respected, in fact no longer considered reasonable. This nation’s youth and many adults are being inculcated to give respect to and encouraged to experience the customs and practices of all cultures. Diversity training within the institutes of higher learning as well as many businesses and companies, encourage full embracing of other cultures, customs, practices and behavior. Such is life in America.


More American Christians are eager to experience other religious tenets, customs and rituals, as they are becoming less faithful to their own doctrines and teachings of their namesake.


God warned His people in the days of Jeremiah; “Learn not the way of the heathen.” That warning should full well be acknowledged today.


The Bible teaches that complete faith in Christ requires one not to seek the living among the dead.  The Bible teaches the dead are dead. Once dead, that individual knows nothing, is conscious of nothing; no longer interacts with the living. The dead have no more involvement with the living (Ecclesiastes 9: 1-10).


Complete trust in God and full knowledge of His truth, assures a Christian that the dead will be resurrected at determined times yet ahead.  Those who lay claim to “Christian” beliefs are aware of a higher standard, a sure way of life. Not to be destroyed by the ways of paganism, those who claim Jesus Christ should full well understand the deceptive practices prevalent in the Day of the Dead rituals.


What is becoming more prevalent, beyond this November 1st holiday is a curious custom, an absurd custom, practiced by more Americans every year. Practiced by more than just old world Catholics, there is an increase of individuals, many claiming Christianity as their faith, who, going to the grave-sites of their loved ones, celebrate a meal, drink a toast, sit and talk to the dead. These practices have their origins in El Dia de los Muertos.


Going beyond Day of the Dead rituals, more non-Latin Americans are engaging in cemetery rituals of eating, celebrating a birthday or anniversary with their dead loved ones. In an effort to honor the deceased, perhaps even to assuage their guilt, it is becoming more prevalent for families, spouses and friends to “party” or “picnic,” to celebrate with the dead. Throughout the thousands of cemeteries dotting this country, you can easily witness this custom.


It is one thing to keep a cemetery plot or headstone clear and clean of debris, but what is becoming more practiced is families, spouses, friends and significant others sitting down at the grave plot, laying out a blanket or even a checkered table cloth and eating with, perhaps even opening presents for the dead.


Of this behavior, would Jesus Christ be quick to say, “Let the dead bury their dead”?  There is clearly no scriptural justification for this behavior. Satan, the Lord of the Dead, would easily have us obsess over the dead.


Just as the Apostle Paul admonished Christians in Thessalonica, “I would not have you to be ignorant concerning those who are dead,” his words need to be fully understood in Christian America today. It seems so many today are ignorant of the dead, of death, and of God’s promise of a future resurrection, of the true hope of eternal life.


Rather than accepting and promoting customs which have their roots in ancient pagan ceremonies, of traditions from the old country, it is high time for this so-called “Christian nation” to start taking seriously the truth and teachings of God, as only found in the Bible.


Celebrating the dead is an affront to God; doing so dishonors the God of the living.


Mark Armstrong

Breaking News Stories
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Further reading:
Our booklets:
Hallowe'en Is Pagan
Did God Create a Devil?
Witchcraft, Sorcery, and "Harry Potter"
Our Commentary
Halloween – From Paganism to Acceptance
21st Century Watch
Hallowe'en--What's It Really All About?
Quote by Garner Ted Armstrong:
"No true Christian with common sense, and a desire to OBEY God, would ever be involved in a hideous "celebration" of Satan, demons, witches, and death."  21st Century Watch - Vol 1, Number 8
Our Feature page: Hallowe'en Is Pagan!!
Day of the Dead in Mexico
Origins of Hallowe'en
How Stuff Works: How Hallowe'en Works
Samhain: Season of Death and Renewal
Halloween and Samhain

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catrina, popularized by José Guadalupe Posada, is the skeleton of a high society woman and one of the most popular figures of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. [courtesy Wikimedia Commons]