It's that time of year once again - Halloween. This time of year I'm always asked if Christians should celebrate Halloween. Some people will say that it's just an innocent night, the kid's are having fun getting candy. Others will say it's a pagan holiday and no Christian should go anywhere near Halloween.
After all isn’t it a pagan holiday? What about Christmas – isn’t that a pagan holiday? The same goes for Easter.
We’ll talk more about all that in a moment….
As for Halloween, retailers rejoice. They receive an average of $80.00 per household in sale of decorations, costumes, and candy. Halloween will bring in approximately $8 billion in sales this year.
Back to the question, how should Christians respond to Halloween? Is it irresponsible for Christian parents to let their children trick-or-treat? What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season - are they overreacting?
On one side you can have a very legalistic view. On the other end you can have a very liberal view. Is one view more right than the other?
First of all let’s talk about the origin of Halloween. The name "Halloween" comes from the All Saints Day. All Saints Day is a day of celebration which the early Christian church set aside for
the remembrance of martyrs, those who died because of their faith, in the last year. All Saints Day was recognized on November 1. The celebration began the night before and was referred to as All Hallows Eve, hallow meaning holy. "All Hallows Eve" ended up becoming a secular celebration and was shortened and became "Halloween."
The root of this is European. As Christianity moved through Europe, it collided with the pagan cultures and confronted certain customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched in the culture that new believers found them to be a stumbling block to their faith.
So the church responded with a direct challenge to each pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But in reality all the church did was "Christianize" a pagan ritual - which was still pagan, but now mixed with Christian symbolism.
For example, November 1 was the Celtic New Year. It was also known as the day of the dead.
People believed that on November 1, souls who had died the previous year roamed the earth looking for a place to settle.
The church responded by turning November 1 into All-Saints Day, a day to remember those who were martyred for their Christian beliefs.
Major celebrations were commonly marked by the seasons. At the end of the year in Europe, people made preparations for the cold winter by harvesting the crops and bringing in the animals from the fields. Animals that wouldn't make it through winter were slaughtered. Often skulls from these slaughtered animals were left out in the elements. Over a course of time these skulls became the backdrop to celebrating the day of the dead.
With the end of harvest, life slowed down as winter brought darkness (shortened days and longer nights). The imagery of death was symbolized by skulls, and the color black. These still remain prominent in today's Halloween celebrations.
Some embraced the season by engaging in occult practices such as communicating with the dead. They sought "demonic" spirits regarding weather forecasts for the coming year, crop expectations, and even romantic prospects (a practice strictly condemned by Deuteronomy 18).
As for the spirits of those who died in the previous year it was believed and celebrated that these spirits were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff with treats, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably "treated" would & "trick" those who had neglected them. Thus the beginning of our modern day trick-or-treating. Trick-bent spirits were believed to be gruesome in appearance.
Some believed that wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits. If they weren’t fooled, costumes made from animal heads and wild beasts may scare off any evil spirit.
What about the idea of jack-o-lanterns? Before pumpkins there were turnips. The tradition of setting a light on your porch started with the carving out of turnips. It was believed that in the morning, in daylight, the roaming spirit would still be in the turnip or pumpkin and could then be disposed of. The jack-o-lantern became a resting place for a lost or damned soul. As believers, our desire should not be to dispose of lost souls but to win lost souls!
Fast forward to today, Halloween is really an American secular celebration. Hollywood has added to the "fun" by promoting characters such as demons, monsters, mummies, vampires, and werewolves.
That’s not promoting the love of Christ but it sure is making someone a lot of money.
Back to the issue at hand…
How should a Christian respond to this?
Is it innocent?
Is it harmless?
Is it evil?
In Acts 13, Paul is confronted with a sorcerer. He responds this way…
Vs 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right!”
And in Acts 16, Paul confronts a fortune teller and casts the evil spirit out of her. This causes trouble because said “She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling”.
To me Halloween is not an issue of is it innocent or is it evil. It becomes an issue of does it honor God? If something is innocent but does not honor God should a believer participate in it?
Joshua 24:15 says “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”. As for your house, does celebrating Halloween help your kids draw closer to God or does it add an element of confusion?
Why is it okay to dress up on this day but not others? Why is it okay to celebrate with those around me who will be dressed as werewolves and vampires and witches?
1 John 2:15-16
Do not love the world or anything in the world. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.
Well if we aren’t going to celebrate Halloween what about Christmas? Do Christmas and Easter have pagan roots? Yes. However, Christmas is a time I can display the nativity and I can tell the Christmas story, the birth of Christ. I can explain how Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth down to Bethlehem and fulfilled the prophecy of Micah 5:2. I can explain how the visitors from the east came and bowed down and worshipped the new born king.
I realize that Christmas is extremely commercialized. I saw some stores have Christmas items for sale in AUGUST. However it’s a time I can still share the hope and love of Christ.
Easter is a time I can tell of the death and resurrection of Jesus. I can explain the betrayal in the Garden and the illegal trial at night. I can tell of the beating and the nailing to the Cross. Most importantly I can explain the empty tomb!
With Halloween I can’t do any of that. It’s based around darkness and fear. People who attend haunted houses want to be scared. They are scared with images of blood and violence. Just the idea of “haunting” goes against the truth of Scripture.
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble!” One of these little ones…” this is someone who is young either physically or spiritually.
I saw someone with a catalog of Halloween costumes. I asked if I could have it and I now keep it in my file. As a parent I was bothered by the message these costumeswere sending, especially to teenage girls and younger.
Here’s an example of what you could purchase:
Gothic fairytale princess – who says a fairy princess always has to be good? Little Miss Red – Big bad wolves turn into harmless pups when you appear in this costume. Can Can girl - be a show stopper in this sassy (sexy) outfit. Red Minnie – you can always be in a playful mood. Scary Mary- scare your friends in a sweet way. Devil Ready- give her devil-may-care attitude an outlet.
For young girls (ages 6-9) there is:
Rockin out witch
Kandy korn witch
Do we want our little girls imitating witches? Is it just harmless and fun? Where is the boundary drawn?
What about churches and harvest festivals? As believers we are called to be “salt and light to the world”. It does not say we SHOULD be it says we ARE. A good question for churches to ask after a harvest festival is “How many did we reach?”
Can you reach the world by mimicking the world’s culture and events?
While in Ephesus – did Paul witness at the temple of Artimus?
OK, let’s come back to the question we began with…
What should Christians do about Halloween?
The legalistic view is you can’t do anything at all
The liberal view is it’s a harmless event
What is the goal? What is the purpose?
To have a good time?
To let kids have candy?
Are there other ways to accomplish those goals and honor God at the same time?
What is the goal?
To honor Christ. To not be a stumbling block to believers especially young believers.
NOT to open a door for things commonly associated with Halloween (violence, darkness, fear) that will hinder one’s spiritual growth (Movies, video games, clothes, attitudes that parallel the elements of Halloween)