The Halloween season will once again bring little ghosts and goblins, superheroes and princesses to our door. For most Americans, this tradition is all in good fun. Some people like being “spooked” and taking the kids out trick or treating. However, given its disturbing theme, Christians are divided in their view of how we should respond to Halloween. Many see no harm in all aspects of Halloween, while some choose to participate in alternatives that don’t include the pagan elements. Others simply want nothing to do with it.
To be honest, when I was younger I didn’t give it much thought, but as I grew older I began to reflect more upon the implications of this holiday, and even more recently had conversations with Christians with vastly different views.
I think it’s a good discussion here, but first a little background on Halloween: The name for “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian Church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of martyrs. Like any other holiday, All Saints Day became tainted with pagan rituals. This included a belief that the separation dividing the living and the dead was lifted, allowing spirits to mingle with those on Earth. This brought superstitions and fears. They began to develop rituals that sought to appease these spirits by offering them food and drink, and even dressed up to look like them in order to confuse them in an effort to avoid being haunted. To deal with the culture, the organized church sought to counter these influences by clinging to the origin intent of the holiday, but most often only succeeded in “Christianizing” a pagan ritual. Thus, All Saint’s Day became the original Halloween alternative.
Fast forward to today. We see much of the darker images of those pagan traditions. For the Christian, this aspect of Halloween is easiest to discern against as we read and reason through scripture. Most obviously, the Bible condemns witchcraft and sorcery. (Lev. 19:31, 1 Samuel 1:23). While no one is implying that they practice witchcraft by dressing as a witch or warlock, it is appearing to align with the forces that celebrate it. Let’s not forget that Halloween, with all its spiritual elements, such as casting spells and black magic, taps into the deceptive appeal of this dangerous realm. Children are impressionable, and you have to wonder if even a small bit of intrigue could potentially hook them in, even under the guise of make-believe.
Scripture also guides us in this area as we simply focus upon our Savior and His attributes. We know that Christ had no sin in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, God did not allow His physical body to decay or to decompose. His body celebrated His holiness, pure and without blemish. (1 Peter 1:19).
We know that the wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23), both spiritually and physically. Christ came as the Holy Lamb of God to take away our sin — the disease that infects us inside and outside, so that we may ultimately live to have a holy, clean, fully alive and fully perfect body in heaven. (Phil. 3:20-21)
I wonder, then, why would we celebrate the ugliness within each of us (the fact that we will all physically die and decay), by transforming our bodies into gaping wounds and gore? Why would we display death and horror by walking around like zombies and ax-murderers? Why would we please Satan as He sees God’s redeemed dressed to align themselves with darkness? After all, do we see any of his followers celebrating Christ’s birth at Christmas? Indeed, the opposite ought to be celebrated. The born-again Christian will share the same resurrection as our Savior. (Eph. 1:19-20). He is our life abundant and life eternal! (John 10:10).
If there is still any doubt about the biblical view on this aspect of Halloween, note the words of Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things”.
So, if you have kids, are there better alternatives? Some churches offer “Harvest Festivals” that allow children to dress up as wholesome characters…bible characters, princesses, and “fun” costumes. Others would argue that neighborhood gatherings are an opportunity to share the gospel, since it offers a chance to interact with the neighbors, given your costumes are innocent and your actions glorifying to God. This view contends that guiding children involves careful instruction while not shielding them from the world. It’s a view to exercise our freedom to reach out to a world that needs to hear the Gospel. Halloween, to this point, can be used as an evangelistic effort by passing out tracts or connecting with others in an effort to share the faith. Rather than hide from the culture, many say, we are to redeem it.
Still some other believers consider aligning with Halloween, even as nothing more than an innocent costume party, is giving a nod of approval to all of Halloween. We are a unique people, set aside from the world and the culture around us. As such, our participation in Halloween, or the lack of it is good cause to examine our hearts on the matter. The challenge is not what is acceptable, but what is best. It is a reasonable and thought-provoking appeal: Why must we participate in anything associated with Halloween? Is Halloween in the form of a “Harvest Festival” setting ourselves far enough apart from the culture? Why not decide to have a church service instead? Is our participation in “toning down” Halloween simply another attempt at “Christianizing” a pagan holiday? Is Halloween that important that we can’t hold on loosely? More food for thought.
For families with children that may feel left out or deprived, it is essential to explain not just the conviction, but the reason behind that conviction. To instruct that child in a biblical foundation of any decision is to help him/her internalize it themselves. With prayer and guidance, their confidence and identity would be grounded in the support of their parents in the midst of ridicule.
Ultimately, the level of (wholesome) participation is a wisdom issue, and one that should never be held in judgement against a brother, (Romans 14), nor become a stumbling block or harmful in our witness for Christ.