Since childhood, I can’t remember a time when the hottest debate amongst Christians in the month of October wasn’t Halloween. Christians lose their minds over this issue (see any social media platform for proof) almost as much as they do any of the other biggie’s of late like Trump, the NFL, same-sex marriage, and the second amendment. I digress.
Many in various evangelical circles have argued for complete exclusion from any sort of participation in Halloween. While others have tried to engage the second largest grossing holiday in America, viewing it as an opportunity to connect with their neighbors on one of the only days of the year their neighbors are outside their homes for more than a second. And then there is a third category of Christians who don’t care to think about the spiritual implications of the holiday, and approach the day as culture around them approaches it (unintentionally celebrating death under the guise of candy).
Most American Christians probably fall under the third category. Halloween is an opportunity for their children (and themselves - You know who you are!) to cop copious amounts of candy. They aren’t intentionally celebrating death or demons or evil. They’re just here for the candy.
For those that push the eject button on Halloween, would you please at minimum consider what it would look like to redeem the holiday, since it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I get that you are not of this world, that your citizenship is in heaven but that doesn’t exclude the fact you have been sent into this world as an ambassador of the grace of Jesus.
We will get into that more in a moment but for now, here’s a brief history behind Halloween to catch you up:
Halloween’s roots began with an ancient Celtic festival called “Samhain” that ushered in the darkest part of winter, where spirits of the dead were believed to show up and damage crops and play “tricks” on the living. There were even animal sacrifices the Celtic priests would offer up to pagan gods.
The Roman influence then came into the picture 2,000 years ago with a day of celebrating the dead that would take place towards the end of October. It was essentially a day to celebrate and worship those who had died.
The rise of Christianity in the Celtic areas around 800 AD saw the institution of a new holiday called “All Saints Day” which took place the day after Samhain as a day to honor saints and martyrs. The selection of the day was intentional by Pope Boniface IV to serve as a holier alternative to Samhain.
All Saints Day eventually became known as “All Hallows Day” and people began calling Samhain, “All Hallows Eve” which was shortened to “Hallowe’en.”
All of the festivals involved costumes or dressing up. For example, men in Scotland for Samhain would dress up as the dead, explaining many of our modern day halloween attire. Others for “All Saints Day” would dress up as saints or angels. But if you’re keeping score, Halloween isn’t exactly rooted in a Christ-centered reality.
Like anything, culture (and evil human hearts) has twisted the day, making it all about consumerism, gluttony, and even borderline demon worship (all idolatry is demon-worship - including gluttony and consumerism), with many Christians falling into the first two categories, and even the third unknowingly.
Also of note, Halloween happens to fall on the exact day of the Reformation’s inception. 500 years ago this coming October 31st, Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church, ushering in one of the greatest gospel-centered revivals in 1400 years, since the inception of the church age. Modern Day protestantism exists by the grace of God because of that moment and the many moments and men that followed.
Listen (and please receive this knowing that I am in this for your good), but for those who struggle with celebrating a day of the dead (and I feel you, I really do), you need to likewise struggle with Easter and Christmas, since (like Halloween) both holidays are a hodge podge of pagan and Christian wrapped up in a tidy box of self-indulgence with a tidy bow of consumerism and gluttony on top. If you boycott one, you need to be logically and spiritually consistent by boycotting all three. It seems hypocritical at its core to boycott one and not the others.
Also, evil isn’t sourced externally (i.e. a holiday). It’s roots are found deep in the hearts of men and women (and children). We need to be much more concerned with the evil in our homes (because of the sinful hearts of the men, women, and children who live inside them) than we do the evil outside our homes. Consider Mark 7:21-23:
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Here’s my hot take on this issue:
Since Jesus hung with tax collectors, prostitutes, murderers, thieves, and every other sordid person, my guess is that he would be all in on Halloween (not at some church fall festival alternative). Now I do believe Jesus wouldn’t necessarily be all in on the candy-grabbing or sexy-costume aspects, but rather because it is one of the few times out of the year where non believing sinners knock on the doors of believing sinners. This quote by George Robinson is so captivating:
“The reason I propose that good Christians celebrate Halloween and stay home from the 'Christian alternatives' is that Halloween is the only night of the year in our culture where lost people actually go door-to-door to saved people’s homes . . . and you’re down at the church hanging out with all your other good Christian friends having clean fellowship with the non-pagans.”
How about a new (or renewed) vision for Halloween?
Instead of receiving or rejecting Halloween, let’s commit to redeeming it. Nothing says “you hate me” more to the world than a Christian who secludes himself and puts signs up on his home that say: “We don’t observe holidays reserved for Satan worship!” (Yes, that was on one of my neighbor’s doors last year).
Instead of attending a church alternative (trunk or treat) that encourages you to bring your unsaved neighbors to (but who will never come because they are all about that trick or treating life - and can you blame them?), set up shop in your driveway, and hand candy out to your neighbors all night long.
Instead of buying the small, miniature versions of various delectable candy treats, roll on over to a wholesale store (Cosco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s) and purchase $100 worth of full-sized or even king-sized candy bars. Our family did this last year and it was the best $100 we’ve ever spent.
Instead of throwing massive budget-busting Halloween parties at your church, invest that money into the small groups within your church, so that they can in turn throw epic Halloween block parties in their driveways.
Instead of just sending your kids out trick or treating to further promote consumerism, have pre-made goodie bags made with the best candy (hint: not salt water taffy, tootsie rolls, and black licorice) and an invite card to your church or a card with Romans 5:8 printed on it (“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”). We’ve done this in years past and it always catches people off guard.
Instead of putting a bowl of candy at your front door with a sign on it that says “Take one!” be ready for the door-knockers, engage them, talk to their parents, take a moment to get to know them if you don’t already, ask them where they live etc.
Ultimately, the question is this: Do we want the world to know us by our love or by our segregation?
I think the answer is simple. God is never displeased with you taking something that culture has twisted and distorted and bringing the beauty of the gospel into. So I say go for it! Dress your kids up as Reformers (jk).
Engage Halloween intentionally. Not with consumerism in mind. But for the sake of the gospel - for the glory of Christ and for the good of the world around you!