Halloween: Let’s Enjoy it!!

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When I first entered full time ministry as a youth pastor, I vividly remember the tension — our church had to have an alternative to Halloween, a “Harvest Party,” — even though there was almost no one in the church who was doing much harvesting. This created a dilemma for my Senior Pastor who had a home in the backyard of the church but didn’t want his kids to miss out on all the trick or treating. He snuck his kids out the back door, hoping that nobody at the “Harvest Party” would see him and the kids all dressed up ready to participate in what some were convinced was the devils holiday.  The hysteria over Halloween was intense with some insisting that to participate was to do something spiritually dangerous.  I never did figure out how the alternative “Harvest Party” was spiritually safer. Years later I’m glad that the level of hysteria has calmed considerably in most churches. But still from time to time I get asked, “Hey Doug, what do you think about Halloween?”  So to those who have been asking more recently, here’s something I wrote back in 2009 that I’ll re-post for Halloween 2013 …

Keenan Halloween 13 10 27

The Keenan “S’Mores” – Halloween 2013

• The word “Halloween” itself is not an evil or bad word. It simply comes out the old Christian church calendar used by mainline churches including the Anglican church that comes from All Hallows Eve, or the Night Before All Saints Day, with the word “hallows” meaning Christian “saints”. It was a time when we celebrated great Christian leaders who God used to change history. Over the years the concept of “venerating” or honouring saints, like we honour great heroes of the faith today, took on some unbiblical baggage that contributed to the Protestant Reformation.

• Martin Luther chose Halloween in the year 1517 as the symbolic day that he would nail 95 Theses to the Door of the Church at Wittenberg that started the Protestant Reformation. In essence the Protestant Church was born on Halloween. Luther was not opposed to the celebration of the heroes of the faith, but he was opposed to how that celebration had developed into something like “praying to the saints”, that they might intercede to God on our behalf, when we have direct access to Christ in prayer.

• The pagan practices of the Druids that some connect with Halloween were not initially associated with Halloween. They happened around the same time of year (late October/ early November) and over time the “days” did end up both being October 31st. But the Druid Samhain festival eventually came to compete with Halloween and in many places overtake it. But Halloween, from All Hallows Eve, is still a Christian not a pagan word, even if Samhain practices now take place on Halloween.

• The fact that some folk do bad stuff on Halloween, mimicking the Druid Samhain festival, is no reason for Christians to withdraw and not have a great party full of fun, costumes and the like. When we withdraw and condemn the Devil wins. Far better for Christians to take the day back and turn it into a great God honouring party. And as we know from Scripture, Jesus was not party adverse!! In fact he would turn up at parties that the religious’ folk thought were too pagan for good believers to be at.

• You may remember the old Larry Norman phrase, “Why should the Devil have all the good music?” He pioneered the use of rock music in the church at a time when you could statistically show that there was a connection between rock music and drug use. In some ways you still can. God used him to redeem something that devil was using. Just because the devil uses it, does not make it wrong. So too we can participate in Halloween in God honouring ways and again take it back from the Evil One.

• December 25th, the day we celebrate Christmas on, was originally a pagan festival to the Sun god, that Christians decided would be great day to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. But the day was originally very pagan. And it still is in some parts. Would we withdraw from celebrating Christmas if Satanists decided to revive old pagan Sun god practices on Christmas day, and police stats went up on that day??

The bottom line is we simply will not allow the Devil to win by taking what is good and positive and fun about Halloween. The colour, the candy, the costumes, the games … Jesus loves them all. And I’m convinced He’s right there in the middle of the party with us. I’m looking forward to All Hallows Eve – both enjoying the colourful party and remembering the birth of the Protestant tradition.

 

9 Responses to "Halloween: Let’s Enjoy it!!"
  1. Hi Doug. A few comments if I may-

    Typically speaking, I have not been against Halloween. I have always celebrated it, and always planned to take my own children trick or treating. While I have not yet made up my mind on the matter, lately I have been thinking long and hard about it. Most of the anti-Halloween arguments that you brought up have likewise also not been convincing to me, and for that reason I dismiss them like you do. As I thought about it when it came up. It seemed to me that if you weren’t revelling in some of the darker stuff, but rather were just dressing up as fun things like animals and clowns and super heroes, that there wasn’t much harm in the matter.

    But then a few weeks ago I was at a store and I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of gaudy and grotesque costumes and decorations that they carry. And it wasn’t just the one store, but all of them. This seems to be an accurate snapshot of what our culture celebrate on Halloween. Even a cursory walk through the aisles will tell you what this holiday is about; Evil. Horror. The Occult. Blood. Ghouls. Fear. Darkness. Ghosts. Demons. Witchcraft. Gore. Vampires. Promiscuity. These things make up the fabric and essence of Halloween, at least for the teen/adult demographic, with few deviations. And let’s face it, most of these things are completely evil and contrary to the things that Christ would have us us celebrate and focus on.

    But because the evil celebrated is general in nature, and not specific, I wonder if this is perhaps why it does not offend our sensibilities and our sense of holiness as much as it should, as the Bible is clear on the morality of these things, and the great I wonder if that’s why we don’t think to ourselves “That is sick. What a horrible wickedness all around us.” We don’t. Instead these things are broad and delineated and vague and ubiquitous, and it’s sprinkled with inoffensive things like pumpkins, princesses, farm animals and cartoon characters.

    But what if the evil was specific? What if Halloween was a celebration of something like abortion? What if our society celebrated abortion by dressing up as doctors, nurses and pregnant women? What if kids went door to door, knocked and shouted, “Roe v. Wade,” and were given candy? What if the e stores were filled with pro-abortion decorations such as MVA’s, uterine currette, embryotomy scissors, cranial perforators, cephalotribes and decapitators? What if advertising was centred on abortion?

    If that were the case, would most Christians still have their kids dress up as alternative characters [farmers, princesses, bible characters] and go seeking candy just like the rest of society?

    Just some food for thought

    • Cara Stapleton says:

      Any holiday can be evil if we allow it to be. Halloween doesn’t need to be “wrong”. We have an opportunity to choose wisely in how we exemplify our fun on celebratory occasions. Through those decisions we can show others that they too, have choice.

    • Zoe Woofman says:

      Most of these costumes are used only for the purpose of satire; how many children running around with witch hats and candy cauldrons are going to be holding demonic ceremonies later that evening?
      I do agree that (although there’s nothing wrong with being pro choice) the scenario of abortion-celebrated holiday is rather grotesque and is a good example to point out that there is some desensitizing involved in Halloween. But maybe instead of shielding our kids entirely from the horrors in the world, this could be a great opportunity to teach them that there is a choice in whether or not it needs to be wrong, that there isn’t necessarily more fun in participating in the gorier side.

      • Hi Zoe. I wouldn’t really call it satire. A little 8 year old dressing up as a witch with a painted green face, broom and fake warts regards the representation as essentially meaningless, this is true. She has no understanding of how much Christ hates witchcraft and sorcery. In the Bible,under the old covenant witches and sorceresses were to be executed on the spot. God calls them and their deeds an abomination and there was no tolerence for their detestable practices. In the new covenant, witchcraft and sorcery are considered likewise as an affront to the holiness of God. They are a work of the flesh, likened in nature to orgies and sexual immorality. I know that I don’t have to convince you that being a witch is bad-surely you would agree.

        But if being a witch is a really bad thing, then why is it ok to have our children dress up as witches? Is there any material difference in having our children dress up as witches or abortion doctors or prostitutes? There’s not. The only really difference is that our sense of holiness has drifted to the point where it doesn’t even phase us.

        As far as your pro-choice comment, there certainly is something wrong with being pro-choice. Abortion is the murder of a baby, plain and simple. Life begins at conception. This salient point is one of the occasions where there is unanimous support from the scientific and medical community, and yet is framed and argued by pro-choice individuals in unanimously emotionally-driven arguments, because they know they don’t have the high ground on it. Am I to suppose that a child in the womb up until delivery is an inhuman collection of cells and fetal tissues with no rights, personhood, humanity or soul, but then 30 seconds later after it has passed 6 inches through the birth canal suddenly like magic-poof, its a human now? Again, from a pro-choice perspective there cannot be any material difference between killing a child in the womb, and killing it 30 seconds after it has come out of the womb, and yet they all want to say there is. The pro-choice position is a pro-death position. Its murderous and hypocritical, and I definitely think there’s something wrong with it.

        As a last note; I don’t think we should shield our kids from Halloween. Like I said, I wrestle with this, because I want to know how I can lead my family in a practical way, and I want to interact with this holiday in a way that honors Christ, and takes into account all I know about him and his will and his character, which includes the knowledge that he hates witchcraft, sorcery, the dark arts, murder, and the vast majority of things that go along with this holiday. I want my kids to be counter-cultural, not acquiesce and collapse to the consensus of a rebellious and carnal society and their open acceptance of things that grieve and offend the heart of God. Is there a way to be a part of Halloween that doesn’t compromise? I’m not sure there is, but I’m open to finding out.

        • Brenda Human says:

          I think you already know the answer – no, there is no way to take part in Halloween that doesn’t compromise a Christians beliefs.
          Not only does it desensitise us to the dark crafts, but our children get rewarded for taking part in it.
          There are no “grey areas” in the bible. Don’t try and put any there!

  2. Bruce Taylor says:

    Doug, I appreciate your desire to bring balance to this discussion. However if you look into the history further you will find that before any “christian” celebration took place on this day it had been used by a variety of occult groups like the druids. So the origins of the ghoulish side of things is where ti begins. The record of the Church using the same day is far more modern and I believe based more on the same principle as your friend and the harvest party. The Roman Catholic Church attempted to establish festivals to take those days and turn people away from the pagan tradition associated with them.

    Myself I do not agree with Christians diving in and celebrating Halloween. There is too much that is against our faith being celebrated. The notion from many that I am a legalist or over reacting is not true. I believe each of us must know the facts and follow the conscience the Lord has given. It is God we will answer to for our actions. If some people are ok dressing up in occultic costumes and feel it makes no difference to their faith, then they can deal with the Lord on that.

    We have typically abstained totally, however there have been times where we did hand out candy. We never decorated the house, carved pumpkins or dressed up. In fact the only reason we did candy at all we because we desired to reach our neighbors and felt that we could improve our connection with them in this way. I am not advocating that anyone else need do what we have done but rather for each to do their homework and then prayerfully consider whether your actions honor and glorify God.

    Thanks for the discussion

    Bruce

  3. Brenda Human says:

    God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and His instructions are clear –
    1 Thessalonians 5:22 *Abstain from all appearance of evil.

    James 4:4 *Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

    We celebrate Christmas for what it means to us today…. the birth of Christ.

    I don’t celebrate Halloween, because of what it means today – celebration of evil!

    Getting free candy is just another way that the devil lures the kids. Which kid is not going to beg, plead and manipulate their parents to take part in this activity?

    Christians need to make a stand and stop being so “wishy washy”, stop making compromises and excuses – just because we may be missing out on “fun”. Since when is it a good thing to conform to the world?

    There are many other ways we can have fun, ways that will be pleasing to the Lord.

    Another thing to add – why would a Christian wear a symbol of death? Just because it’s “cool”?
    I think not. Does it edify or glorify God in any way? – quite the contrary – a skull symbolises death.
    John 19:17
    They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.

    I find this verse interesting.
    We wear crosses as a symbol of our LORD, and of course he was killed on a cross. He died at Golgatha.. the skull.
    Interesting comparison!
    I ask again – since when is it a good thing to conform to the world?

  4. Brenda, we need to be careful to avoid hysterics and reactionary Christian superstitions when we talk about Halloween, particularly with the talk of devils during children through free candy. That’s not helpful, nor is it remotely likely. As far as conforming to the world- we all conform in some ways- the trick, and I think what Doug is bringing up here, is trying to discern in what ways we are to interact with the cultural norms of the world and how that affects our desires to be relational and be a light to that world.

    Halloween and its meaning and representation in our culture is continually shifting as it inevitably evolves and constructs communities and identities in new ways, however, it does take on a new sort of power. In a way it’s spiritual, as it knits together the collective psyche. That’s why we Christians should be critically engaging it. The prioritization of gore, blood, violence and death cannot be vindicated merely by an appeal to unseriousness, nor can the immodest and lewd features that are continuously growing in popularity. Christians must retain their valuation of life, even when at play, and even when no one else is.

    • Brenda Human says:

      If we love the Lord our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we will want to do what is pleasing to Him. In every aspect of our life, every day, every hour, every minute of our life.

      As you say Bruce, if people are okay with dressing up in occultic costumes, or even pirate and princess outfits, they’re still knocking on the doors of houses decorated to portray the dark side, with decorated pumpkins – Jack o Lanterns -“often carved with grotesque faces to represent spirits or goblins”, monsters or evil looking faces – initially used to keep the harmful spirits out of one’s home. They can deal with the Lord on that….

      But, we do not need someone in high standing to influence or condone our decision to do what “might” be wrong (or right)…. let the Holy Spirit do that job. And I believe it is the Holy Spirit who is causing the stir within each Christian, and non Christian, urging us to make the right decision in every aspect of our life.

      There is no time to be politically correct…. people need to be informed.

      Hosea 4: 6 (KJV) My people perish from a lack of knowledge.

      Isaiah 5:13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.

      Let each Christian make a stand for what is right by God, and contribute to a better world, and a population explosion in heaven.

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