I have been asked by several to share my thoughts on Halloween. As the day came and went this year, I reflected on the issue quite a bit. It seems to me there is a group of Christians who say something along the lines of, “It’s an evil holiday. If your kids eat candy or wear costumes, you’re sinning.” And another group of Christians say, “It’s fine. It’s just kids having fun. Don’t take it so seriously.” Honestly, I’ve never found myself in either of these two camps. Here are my thoughts on Christians celebrating Halloween.
Where Did “Halloween” Come From?
Most people would probably be surprised to find out that Halloween is as much a Catholic holiday as it is anything else. The Catholic church, in the Eighth Century, declared November 1st to be “All Saints Day” (a day to remember all the martyrs and “saints”). So the night before, October 31st, became known as “All Hallows Eve” and later “Halloween.”
Halloween may also have some influence from the the Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts believed that on the night of Samhain, ghosts of the dead returned to wreak havoc on their crops. They would light huge bonfires, dress in costumes, tell fortunes, and offer sacrifices to their deities.
As with most Catholic holidays, like Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day, modern celebrations have evolved over the centuries. Aspects of paganism, like the decorating of a tree, the bunny rabbit, and the Roman god Cupid get mixed together with a particular Catholic celebration. Then you throw in a few centuries of superstition and regional traditions. And finally businesses capitalize and commercialize the festivities, and you eventually get the celebrations we have today.
This is the way Halloween has evolved to be what it is today. The costumes, the celebration of the dead, the trick-or-treating, even the bobbing for apples have evolved from secular, pagan, and Catholic origins (Source).
Does Halloween’s Pagan Roots Mean We Shouldn’t Celebrate It?
When Christians say we shouldn’t celebrate something because it has roots in paganism, I wonder if they realize how inconsistent they are being with that line of reasoning. The name of every single day of the week comes from pagan roots (ex. Monday = Moon Day, Thursday = Thor’s Day) and I’ve never heard anyone say we need to come up with new names for the days of week. Furthermore, wearing a wedding ring has pagan origins; yet every Christian wedding I’ve ever been to has incorporated this tradition into the ceremony.
We don’t realize where traditions come from for the simple reason that they lose their original significance over time. If we can recognize the second day of the week as “Monday” without being moon worshipers and we can wear a wedding ring on our “ring finger” without believing it has magical powers, then I think we can have a cultural festival on October 31 without being pagans.
Why Are We Making Light of Evil?
That being said, I still have some problems with what happens on Halloween in our culture. The first problem I have is that we treat evil like something fun. I have a problem with costumes and decorations of things like witches and devils. Evil isn’t something to laugh about or treat lightly. But I guess it isn’t just at Halloween that we treat evil lightly, many high school sports teams have “devils” as their mascots.
I don’t think people are unleashing Satan’s powers when they dress up like the devil. But I do think it is a reflection of the fact that parents don’t take seriously the reality that Satan wants to spiritually “devour” them and their children (1 Peter 5:8).
It breaks my heart when I see the children of Christians – at Halloween or any other time – treating evil as something fun. And it’s no wonder that people who are mentally unstable, or who have a fascination with Satanism or the occult, have been drawn in by the festivities of Halloween. Personally, I don’t want to contribute to that in any way, shape, or form.
Why Are We Treating Death Like a Game?
The second problem I have with the festivities is treating death like a game. The older I get, and the more loved ones I bury, the more amazed I am that our culture gets pleasure from treating death, gore, and dismemberment like a big joke. Every year, the costumes and the decorations get more gruesome and gory.
There have been several incidents where people’s dead bodies have been mistaken for Halloween decorations and have sat undisturbed for days. In October 2009, Mostafa Mahmoud Zayed (75 years old) shot himself in the eye and his decomposing body sat in plain view on his balcony in California for three days. All of his neighbors assumed it was a Halloween decoration (source). This should be a huge indication that something is seriously wrong in our culture.
Death is very real and it’s not a joke. I always wonder how hard it must be for families who have just buried loved ones to make it through Halloween. I think our insensitivity to the issue of death, and our treating it like a game, is something that should bother us greatly as a society.
Is There a Middle Ground?
I think there is a middle ground between boycotting the whole thing and erecting a haunted house. I think there is a way to participate in the cultural festivities of days like Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and even Halloween without being a Catholic, a pagan, or a satanist.
As for me and my family, we will use Halloween as a time to have fun, wear cute costumes, and eat lots of candy in a way that neither glorifies evil nor makes light of death. But you must decide for yourself. You must consider whether or not you can participate with a clean conscience. But whatever we do, we need to do it thoughtfully, intentionally, and with a desire to please our heavenly Father.
I love you and God loves you,