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Introduction

 

As America becomes an ever more secularized nation, religion has been caricatured. Among the most humorous caricatures has been one of the most devastating: the repositioning of Satan as a good-natured, hardworking, I-don't-get-no-respect, vilified being. Humorists, social commentators, educators, politicians, even some religious leaders, have had a hand in the new portrayal of the devil. To the average man, Satan's new persona has made him less threatening, a character whose struggles we can relate to in a world filled with pain and suffering.


The end result of the new image of Satan is that today, barely one-third of our adult population believes that Satan is a living being.1 In fact, six out of ten Americans agree that Satan is not a living being, but merely a symbol of evil. Even among born-again Christians, one-third believes that this is the case. In fact, "some people scoff at the devil's existence, assuming he is nothing more than an evil character contrived to scare kids on Halloween."2


Celebrated generals from past wars have invariably concluded that the only way to fight a war successfully is to know the enemy intimately. In America, we not only lack knowledge of the mind of the enemy, we are more likely than not to deny that the enemy even lives. That, my friend, is exactly what Satan wants.


Perhaps that explains why the Church is no longer the voice that heralds the difference between right and wrong. Perhaps that's why so many "believers" end up in cults or active in the occult. We as a church no longer symbolize to the world that we are, indeed, representatives of the Truth. And, what's even more alarming is the fact that those issues that should be crystal clear to believers are no longer crystal clear. In fact, in many members' minds, the biblical instruction to be "in the world but not of it" is becoming increasingly less important. In the minds of many today, they see very little difference, if any, between themselves and the world. They eat at the same places, shop at the same places, seek entertainment from the same places, and even celebrate in the same ways. Why, then, should we think twice about celebrating Halloween?



 

I. A Haunting History

 

We begin by taking a look at Deuteronomy 18:9-14. When Israel entered the Promised Land, God commanded them to refrain from imitating the detestable ways of the nations there. Those who practiced sorcery, witchcraft, made human sacrifices, and on and on the list goes, were detestable to the Lord God. He would not put up with it. He refused to tolerate it. He was calling them to be in the Land but not of it; to stand out, not to stand with; to stand up and be counted with those who feared the Lord. According to verse 12, these things were so detestable to the Lord that "whoever did this was an abomination to the Lord, and it was because of this abomination that He rooted out the Canaanites before Israel."3 According to verses 13 and 14, "Israel, on the other hand, was to be blameless,"4 set apart, different.

 

One thing I appreciate about the Bible is the fact that it addresses directly so many of the things we face daily as believers. And even those things that it doesn't address directly, it addressed indirectly. Abortion is not directly addressed, but the beginning of life is. We don't practice abortion as believers because we understand the spirit of the teachings of the Bible. The issue of euthanasia is not specifically addressed in the Bible, but we accept that all life is sacred and we take no one's life in obedience to the sixth commandment.

 

Though the issue is not directly addressed in the Bible, the Bible addresses the spirit of the frightful night we call Halloween. Why is it so detestable to the Lord? Because Halloween is that day of the year when we, the people, permit everything that is evil to have a chance. At all other times of the year, we fight against it. On every other night of the year, we are appalled by the things we accept on this one night. On this one night, we, even as Christians, let down our guards and partake of the sinful nature, telling ourselves it is just a little innocent fun. The Bible tells us in Romans 12:9, "Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good."5 In some passages of scripture, the apostle Paul used certain forms of the Greek word for "hate" that are mild. But here, Paul chose a word that meant to hate violently, to deplore, to flee from the evil that leads us astray and to unite together with, and join closely with, the good that leads to everlasting life. "The words Paul uses are strong."6

 

Because there is a high level of biblical illiteracy in America today about the things of God and that which is evil, perhaps we would do well to shed light on the controversial subject of Halloween with a brief look at its origins.

 

A. The Druids of Europe

 

Many years ago, there was a people-group in Europe known as the Celts. Druidism was the religious faith of the Celtic inhabitants of Gaul and the British Isles from the 2nd century BC until the 2nd century AD. The Druids were well versed in astrology, magic, and the mysterious powers of plants and animals; they held the oak tree and mistletoe, especially when the latter grew on oak trees, in great reverence, and they customarily conducted their rituals in oak forests. Archeologists believe that the Druids probably used as altars and temples the stone monuments known as dolmens that are found throughout the areas where Druidism flourished.7 Most of the demonic practices celebrated on Halloween began with the Druids.8 At that time in history, November 1st had several meanings, the primary one being New Year's Day, "in both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times."9 But also on that day, the Druids held a joint festival honoring the Sun god and one by the name of Samhain (sow-in), the lord of the dead.10

 

These men and women who worshipped Satan dealt often with the dead and the celebration of the dead. This holiday is "associated with death and the supernatural."11 Satan, of course, has influenced all of this because he, as the Bible tells us, is the prince of this world (John 12:31) and the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2). That is no secret to the readers of the Bible.

 

B. The Name Halloween

 

But what is the significance of October 31st? In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III moved the church festival of All Hallows, or All Saints' Day, to November 1st and in the following century, Pope Gregory IV decreed that the day was to be a universal church observance.12 The night before, obviously, is All Hallows E'en, or, contracted, Halloween.13 The Druids believed that on that evening, the spirits of the wicked dead had liberty, and the "world of the gods was believed to be made visible to mankind."14 But what did they do?

 

The most evil people living during these very dark days of human history were the Druid priests, sometimes called "men of oak."15 These men were so filled with demons that some had strange, frightening powers, believed to be not unlike those in the book of Revelation who will demonstrate those powers during the tribulation. People literally lived in terror of the Druids. And that leads to the origin of the Jack-o-Lantern.

 

C. The Jack-o-Lantern

 

On Halloween, these Druid priests demanded blood sacrifices. "Sacrifices and propitiations of every kind were thought to be vital, for without them the Celts believed they could not prevail over the perils of the season."16 On Halloween, they demanded human blood sacrifices. Male slaves or Roman soldiers would be burned alive in cages while in the background one could always hear their music. On Halloween, these Druid priests would go from house to house, castle to castle, playing trick or treat. The treat from the castle demanded by the Druids would be a princess or some woman for sacrifice. If the treat pleased the Druids, they would leave a jack-o-lantern, originally made from a turnip instead of a pumpkin, with a lighted candle made of human fat to protect those inside from being killed by demons that night.17

 

When some unfortunate soul could not meet the demands of the Druids, then it was time for the trick. A hexagram was drawn on the front door of the house. That night, it is reported, Satan and his demons would kill someone in that house through fear.

 

It was the Romans who finally conquered the Druids. As I mentioned earlier, living alongside the Romans were the Celts, tribes who followed the religion of the Druids inhabiting Wales, Ireland, the Highlands of Scotland, and the promontory of Brittany.

 

As part of their New Year's observance, the Celts believed that the sinful souls who had died during the year had been relegated to the bodies of animals. They believed that through gifts and sacrifices, their sins could be forgiven and their souls freed to claim a heavenly reward. They believed Samhain (sow-in) judged the souls and decreed in what form their existence was to continue, whether in the body of a human being or in an animal.

 

D. The Bon Fires

 

As part of the worship of the lord of the dead, bon fires were lit and thought to rejuvenate the sun and banish evil spirits. Various groups had differing customs, but the common thread running through it all was the hope of banishing evil in the present and the hope of a good year in the future.

 

E. The Costumes

 

But why the costumes? The Celts believed that on this last day of the year, all the spirits of those who had died during the year returned. So, out of fear of running into one of the spirits of the dead, they wore hideous masks and costumes to frighten the spirits of the dead. In reality, Halloween has always been laced with fear, superstition, demonism, and the worship of Satan.

 

Since Halloween is not a Christian holiday, it was not widely observed for the first 200 years of American settlement. It wasn't until the 1840's that a great potato famine in Ireland sent thousands of Irishmen across the Atlantic and they brought with them these hideous practices. Even today, most of the customs have their origins in various ancient Halloween and New Year's festivals.


F. Fact or Fiction?

 

Are all these "facts" really fiction? Is this just a bunch of gibberish someone put together to try to give Halloween a bad name?

 

Having lived in Western Europe for more than three years whiles serving as missionaries with the IMB, having seen the influence of spiritism and other demonic religious practices that many of the African immigrants brought with them to Portugal, having seen the impact of demon possession on the human mind, and having seen the castles and fortresses constructed to protect the people from invaders influenced by malevolent beings such as these, I believe they are probably more true than many care to admit.

 

G. Arguments

 

"But Pastor," some would argue, "don't you think that your experiences in the area of Spiritual Warfare have influenced your thinking in this area?" Perhaps, but even more so, I think that my, and my families', experiences in the area of Spiritual Warfare have done more to heighten our awareness than to taint our perception.

 

"But Pastor," others would argue, "all those things happened so long ago, centuries ago. Why should we consider their influence on Halloween today?" I'm glad you asked. Think with me secondly about why Halloween should be taboo for you.

 

 

II. Taboo For You

 

It's important to understand that God's will for your life is for good, and not for evil (Jeremiah 29:11). The implications of our text are that we not only avoid evil, but we refrain from even the appearance of evil. God desires that those who are His be fully His and not flirt with evil, for our own good and protection. But what it all boils down to is that Halloween is evil at worst and gives the appearance of evil at best. Involving ourselves as believers in the celebration of evil, death, and the demonic is a direct violation of our covenant relationship with God, but so many want to see how close to the edge they can get without falling over the cliff.

 

I once heard the story of a king who wanted to hire a chariot driver. He tested three men. One of the men was too cautious. He refused to take the risk of getting close to the edge of the high cliffs along the roads that the king traveled. The next driver was too reckless. Almost as though he were trying to impress, or frighten, the king, he drove the chariot right on the edge, taking unnecessary risks. Finally, the king tried a driver that knew the importance of balance. He knew when risk-taking was appropriate and when not to throw caution to the wind. The latter was the driver he chose. But unfortunately, when it comes to Halloween, too many of us imitate the second driver instead of the last.

 

Many people fall off the cliffs of faithfulness to God because they throw reason to the wind and choose to live life on their own terms. When you and I became Christians, we supposedly laid aside everything that gave the appearance of evil, trading it for a life that honors God in every respect. No, the Bible does not specifically forbid Trick or Treating or even the observance of Halloween. But it does demand that we avoid even the appearance of evil, and Halloween certainly smacks of evil. I would never try to force my personal convictions on you. It is my conviction that I should not smoke. Does the Bible tell me that I shouldn't?

 

Directly, no, but indirectly the Bible says that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and that I should do nothing to harm it. It is my conviction that abortion is wrong. Does the Bible speak directly to the issue? No, but it does tell me that life is sacred (Genesis 9:6), that life begins at conception (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13), and that I must not murder (Exodus 20:13). It is my conviction that celebrating Halloween is wrong and has no place in the believer's life. Does the Bible specifically forbid it? Directly, no. So how did I arrive at that conclusion?

 

A. Scriptural Considerations

 

Read Leviticus 19:26, 31 - Does this passage command us to forego the celebration of Halloween? Directly, no, but it does drive home the point that God despises anything and everything that smacks of evil. Divination, sorcery, mediums, and spiritists are listed in this passage and Halloween employs them all. Halloween is the celebration of evil whether or not that is the emphasis you or your family gives to it.

Read Deut. 18:9-13 - Since we've already considered this passage, let me just add that it is our obligation as children of God to avoid psychics, hypnotists, astrologers, horoscopes, mediums, witches, soothsayers, sorcerers, and spiritists, for these are an abomination to the Lord, and His children will not go unpunished.

Read Psalm 101:3-4 - Though this passage is pretty self-explanatory, I appreciate the emphasis on the heart in verse 4. So many things in the Christian life are matters of the heart, dealing with attitude and mindset. It's interesting to note that back when Rome forced Christianity on the general population, making it the state religion, so many of the people accepted it because they had to, not because they wanted to.18 Their hearts weren't in it. Instead of giving up their wicked beliefs and the worship of other gods, they added their gods to Christianity.19 Halloween is one example of a past tradition they wanted to hang on to. When the rulers of Rome tried to stop their observance of Halloween, the people became angry because they saw nothing wrong with mixing their false beliefs with the worship of Jesus.20 But what does God say about it? Look again at verse 4: He holds them far from Him.

Read I Thessalonians 5:19-22 - So far, we have seen just the Old Testament verses that help us to understand that the spirit of Halloween is an abomination to God. But here is one of many New Testament passages that reminds us to hold to the good and run from evil. Halloween centers around evil. One reason it is such a concern for God is that the witches, ghosts, goblins, and other hideous creatures are representative of the enemies of God. If the Bible tells us not to have anything to do with evil, how can we dress up to look and act like His enemies when the Father wants us to be like Jesus.21 God is not concerned because He fears that the combined forces of evil will be able to overpower Him. The Bible assures us that all power in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18). His concern is for your heart. His concern is that you might develop an insensitivity to the Spirit of God, that the things of God will diminish in importance, and that the enemy of God will deceive you into thinking there's nothing wrong with a little hell on the side.

 

Once upon a time, there was a king in Israel named Saul. He walked with God and followed the ways of God. But little by little, the enemy, Satan, began whispering in his ear, telling him that there really wasn't anything wrong with the things that God said He abhorred. And little by little, Saul began believing it. A day came when he became desperate for information and, so, consulted a medium. 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 says, "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David, son of Jesse."22

 

You see, it's the heart that concerns God. If Satan can persuade you to take lightly today that which God despises, beware of Satan's subtle persuasions tomorrow. Whether you really, honestly see what's wrong with Halloween or not, think with me next about a few practical considerations.

 

B. Practical Considerations

 

There is the sense in which these are the very things from which the Lord Jesus set us free. Why in the world would we want to enslave ourselves to them again? Let's consider three practical considerations to keep in mind when contemplating observing Satan's holiday.

 

It Harms Our Witness - Most of us work with people or have neighbors who are lost. They are watching us. They want to know, more than anything else, if Christianity works. They long to know if Jesus really makes a difference in life. They are desperate to find hope and peace which, at times, they see displayed in our lives.

 

What kind of witness do we present when we claim to have been changed by the Light and yet we gleefully participate in the darkest night of the year? Is it any wonder that our nation is confused? Is it any wonder that our witness has lost its effectiveness when we live no differently than the world? As the difference between light and darkness becomes more and more blurred in American life, the need to stand out and stand up for Jesus becomes increasingly more important. The people need to see that there is something real and different about being Christian.

 

It Harms Our Spirit - I have always appreciated the book of James. James is one who shoots straight and chapter 4, verse 17, is no exception. He pulls no punches here when he says, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."23 Now, could that be any clearer? We know what is right and we know the right thing to do, but when we don't do it, we sin against God. That hurts our spirit and grieves His Spirit. Sin ruptures our relationship with God. We are simply hurting ourselves when we ignore the quiet little promptings of God's Holy Spirit.

 

It Causes Others To Stumble - Let's just say, for instance, that you have absolutely no problem with a believer celebrating Halloween. Let's say it doesn't bother you in the least to parade around in a devil's costume and observe this one annual day of evil. If it is no big deal for you, why should you even consider not observing it?

 

Concerning meat offered to idols, Paul said that if him eating meat made others stumble, he'd gladly give it up (1 Corinthians 8:13). In relation to the observance of Halloween, there are some in the church and in the world who take offense to your "dabbling in darkness." They can't understand the paradox. And so I, and the Apostle Paul, would encourage you to consider the seriousness of offending those around you and causing others to stumble. Jesus, Himself, said, "But whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea"24 (Mark 9:42). If we do something to cause someone else to stumble, we'll have to answer to God.

 

 

III. What Are My Options?

 

The trick about Halloween is that Satan is hoping to trick you into thinking it's just harmless child's play. It all starts so innocently, but remember, just as God has a plan for your life, Satan has a counter-plan. Even the Bible tells us his goal is to destroy your life (1 Peter 5:8). He wants you to get in over your head so that he can destroy you. Look what he did to Samson. Consider what he did to King Saul. And what about David? Satan told him that there was no harm in looking lustfully at Bathsheba, and yet we all know the terrible, destructive outcome of listening to that lie.

 

But God has a treat for you and it comes in the form of the Lord Jesus. When Trick or Treaters reach out to accept the gift being extended to them, they never know what they'll get. But when we reach out to accept the gift God extends to us, we can be assured that it'll be the greatest "treat" we could ever receive: the gift of eternal life. For those who have received this free gift and want to honor God with their lives, what can you do as an alternative to Halloween?

 

Understand Fantasy In Childhood - Children naturally fear the hideous and unusual. They're often frightened by costumed characters; some even scream at the thought of being hugged by Mickey Mouse or Chuck E. Cheese.

 

It's important to remember that imaginative preschoolers only vaguely grasp the difference between fantasy and reality. School-age children understand more abstract ideas as they reach the middle elementary grades, yet continue to weave very detailed fantasies. So, with that in mind, it's important that you guide your children's fantasies toward things that honor the Lord, not lead to eventual stumbling.25

 

Encourage Positive Creativity in Children - Holidays provide a healthy outlet for the development of creativity through pretend and play. Creative experiences develop sharp thinking and enjoyment in life. Music and movement, games, experiments, art, and storytelling all stimulate a passion for discovery. As you encourage their creativity, offer a word of instruction about the fact that your family doesn't believe in or celebrate Halloween. Instead, you believe in Jesus. Tell your children that because of your commitment to Jesus and because of the fact that He abhors your involvement in Halloween, you do other things to celebrate, just not that. 26

 

Avoid Evil Characters and Practices - All of us are constantly bombarded with New Age occultic enticements. Almost daily we are confronted by the psychic begging us to call or the horoscope clamoring for us to read it. It is important that you develop discernment in yourselves and in your children concerning the observances and behaviors God forbids. Teach yourself to recognize symbols and buzz words that are part of the lifestyle we deplore. 27

 

Celebrate Holidays in a Biblical Manner - Dr. James Dobson says, "Halloween can be traced to distinctly pagan sources. It is reasonable, then, that many believers find aspects of Halloween disturbing. I agree with them in that regard. The traditional emphasis upon the occult, witches, devils, death, and evil sends messages to our kids that godly parents can only regard with alarm."28 Instead of acknowledging Halloween at all, consider these alternatives.

 

Go Treating - Bake cakes or cookies and take them to a sick friend, a new neighbor, or someone in a nursing home. If you have children, allow them to help you bake and take the treats with you.

 

Throw A Harvest Party - Invite neighbors and church friends to a late afternoon cookout. Have adults bring part of the meal and specially wrapped treats for the children. Hand out treats with Bible promises on them. Do it on a day other than Halloween so as not to confuse the children or give them the impres- sion that you are celebrating Halloween, just in a different way.

 

Have A Theme Party - Ask families to come dressed as favorite Bible characters on a night distanced from Halloween. Also invite families that need to know that Christians care about them.29

 

Develop Unique Family Traditions - Some families are choosing to involve themselves in something called "Light the Night," where they light up their yards brightly on that dark and evil night, provide soft drinks and cookies to passersby, refrain from wearing costumes, and pass out Christian literature, tracts, and information about their churches. Whatever you decide to do, let your children know that each family has different ways of celebrating. Help them to understand that God wants them to respond in a way that honors Him.30

 

Conclusion


I realize that some may think that all of this is an extremist's point of view. Some may even wonder if I, as a boy, ever went Trick or Treating? Of course I did. Every year I dressed up and went from door-to-door saying, "Trick or Treat?" Neighbors filled my plastic Jack-o-Lantern full of candy, gum, and homemade treats. I was as excited as a lottery winner when I returned home with my plunder. Begging my parents to let me eat just one more piece of candy, and them saying, "Tomorrow!" I reluctantly hid my stash from would-be thieves, namely my little sister. "But Pastor, wasn't that fun for you?" you might ask. Yes, I liked having all those goodies to eat. "So why did you stop?" someone might inquire. "What changed your mind?"

 

When I gave my heart to Jesus, He sent His Spirit to live within me. The Spirit of God began to speak to my heart about the obvious paradox of walking in the Light and flirting with the darkness. John 16:8 says that "When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment."31 I began to be convicted of wanting to live in heaven in the end but live like hell in between.

 

It was fun, but then so were many of the other things I left behind. It was fun, but it wasn't worth grieving the Spirit over and sinning against God. For me, that's what it boiled down to.

 

There are many people today who don't believe in Jesus. But still they exchange gifts at Christmas. To them, it's nothing more than gift-exchange. But to unsuspecting onlookers like us, we make the John 3:16-connection. We give because God gave. We view their giving in light of our understanding of the meaning of Christmas.

 

Likewise, those who see us observing Halloween view our "Celebration of Evil" from their understanding of the meaning of Halloween. And that can destroy our witness. They see us as being no different from them except on one critical point: we claim to be walking in the Light, as He is the Light, and we are celebrating that which even their spirit tells them is sinister. And so, I had to make a choice.

 

And now, you have to make the choice: to walk in the Light and bear witness for Christ, or to lay aside your Christianity so that you can dabble in darkness for a day. The choice really is yours. God will not force His will on you. But I pray that you will honor Him with your choice and with your life. Anything less than that is, indeed, frightening.




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NOTES


1Josh McDowell, Right From Wrong (Dallas: Word Publishers, 1994), 311-314.
2John McArthur, God, Satan, and Angels (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), 72.
3C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, translated by James Martin, Commentary of the Old Testament in Ten Volumes (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981), Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 393.
4Ibid.
5Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (Nashville: Zondervan Bible Publishers. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society), Romans 12:9.
7"Druidism," in Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia (Microsoft, 1999), 1.
8Robert J. Myers, Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1972), 257.
9"Halloween," in Encyclopedia Britannica (Britannica.com, 1999-2000), 1.
10 Robert J. Myers, Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1972), 257.
11"Halloween," in Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia (Microsoft, 1999), 1.
12Robert J. Myers, 259-60.
13Alice van Straalen, The Book of Holidays Around the World (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1986), October 31 (no page number given).
14"Samhain," in Encyclopedia Britannica (Britannica.com, 1999-2000), 1.
15Jack T. Chick, Spellbound (Chino, California: Chick Publications, 1978), 12.
16"Samhain," in Encyclopedia Britannica (Britannica.com, 1999-2000), 1.
17Jack T. Chick, Spellbound (Chino, California: Chick Publications, 1978), 12.
18Linda Winwood, Mommy, Why Don't We Celebrate Halloween? (Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 1998), 11.
19Ibid.
20Ibid.
21Ibid., 10.
22Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (Nashville: Zondervan Bible Publishers. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society), 1 Chronicles 10:13-14.
23Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (Nashville: Zondervan Bible Publishers. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society), James 4:17.
24Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (Nashville: Zondervan Bible Publishers. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society), Mark 9:42.
25Elaine Everett Atchinson, "A Tricky Question: How To Respond to Halloween," ParentLife Magazine, October, 1994, 25.
26Ibid.
27Ibid.
28Ibid.
29Ibid.
30Ibid.
31Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (Nashville: Zondervan Bible Publishers. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society), John 16:8.

 

2001-2013 Dr. Ken Lovelace - Ken Lovelace Ministries, Inc.

 

 



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