Halloween – The Great Omission?

 

If you’re looking for another Halloween-hating post, you should probably stop reading.

The Origins of Halloween

Is it bad that I don’t care? I don’t know who was the first person to throw a birthday party either. They may have had ill intent. You’ll have a hard time finding any holiday or activity that hasn’t had some unsavory aspects along the way. Does that mean that you affirm mistreating Indians if you celebrate Thanksgiving, or that you worship bunnies on Easter? (For that matter, we had better not say “Easter”, because that word has a bad origin.)

“Is Halloween evil?” I think that misses the point. No day on the calendar holds any power. Doesn’t it always come down to actions and intentions? So here’s the real question: When you see the ninjas and pirates at your door, do you think they know the origins? Are they advocating evil? Didn’t think so. Now relax and give them some candy.

 

The Religion of Halloween

If you find a kid who is enamored with Druids and celebrates Samhain ritually, feel free to be concerned.

The thing is, I just don’t think they’re out there. I suspect that fear of Halloween is something like fear of backmasking. I think it is something only Christians are aware of. I think the only negative power that Halloween holds is imposed by fearful Christians.

When you see a kid opening presents on Christmas, do you believe they are practicing Christianity? If not, why would you believe that asking for a piece of candy makes them fully immersed in a pagan ritual?

If you want to talk about a religion surrounding Halloween, how about consumerism? How about entitlement? How about adults who see it as a free pass to dress as hookers. Feel free to be irritated with them. But don’t accuse the tots of celebrating Pomona, or the Feast of the Dead.

 

It’s Inconvenient

Ok. I get this. You know what else is inconvenient? Football games that screw up the television schedule, and parades that mess up traffic. Are we really this easily upset? I get that you might find it annoying to have people knock on your door, but this is what happens the last night of October. You can always turn off your front light. If it’s still unbearable, why not go to the cinema and make October 31 your family movie night?

 

The Great Commission

Jesus said to go and make disciples, and we have come up with thousands of excuses to ignore this and stay home. And then, on one night of the year, the world comes to us and many of us are still making excuses to hide from them.

I don’t get it. It’s a few hours out of your life. You don’t even have to leave home. You can avoid them, or you can spend a few hours getting a jump on the disciple-making process. It’s a whole lot easier than a mission trip!

 

The Christian Response

You can choose to avoid or you can engage.If you avoid, I get it. I’ve done it plenty of times myself. I’m just wondering if that’s the best response. For me, I’m not sure how “love my neighbor” includes hiding from them. And I don’t think judgment is the most welcoming first response with our neighbor’s kids. If you choose engagement, what are you going to do?

If you absolutely must hand out tracts, please give the kid a bag of candy with it. That is, unless you want them to get the message that Christianity is all about disappointment.

Kids are out for one reason only – to get candy. You can either give them candy, or not give them candy. But if you’re planning on handing out apples, pennies, or tracts, why not just lock up for the night. If your door is open, understand that you are planting seeds in those pillowcases and jack-o-lanterns. What message are you sending? Are you telling them that you are a happy neighbor that likes kids, or a mean neighbor that wants to rain on their parade? I know you may not mean it that way, but this is the message they will receive. Whatever you drop into their hands will likely determine whether they will talk to you again, and if so, whether you are seen as friend or enemy. And it’s not just the kids. Parents are watching. If I disappointed or offended your kid, how would you feel about me? What if I welcomed your kid and made them feel special at my house?

Please don’t make Halloween a hill you are going to die on. Jesus had plenty of opportunities to preach at us, yet he didn’t. Do we have a higher standard than Jesus? At the wedding feast, did he turn the water into milk? When he met prostitutes, did he explain how inappropriately they were behaving? Did he give Matthew a pamphlet about the evils of taxation?

C’mon. Give people a break. The world will act worldly. Stop acting surprised.

Regardless what we do on October 31st, I’m concerned that the world sees two options: acceptance and rejection. If we open our door (literally and metaphorically), there is a chance we can eventually have meaningful conversations with our neighbors about things that matter. If we close the door, I wonder if it doesn’t come across as judgmental, making it very clear that “I am a Christian and I don’t want to dirty myself”.


Should I celebrate Halloween?

I suppose that comes down to what you mean by celebrate, doesn’t it? And it also has something to do with what Halloween means to you.

Obviously, you can choose what you do with your own kids. Trick or treat, go to a movie, or do something different altogether. There is no reason that we must participate in a holiday after all. When it comes to your home you have a choice too. You can hand out candy or not. Neither choice makes you a bad person. However, I think the typical Christian responses on both sides are more reactionary than they are reasoned. Fear is a lousy response, but so is licentiousness. I’m suggesting that whatever you do this Halloween, be intentional about it. Don’t decide based on tradition or social pressure. Think about whether your decision honors God, your family, and your neighbors. Come to think of it, isn’t that good advice for any day?

 

Question: What will you be doing this Halloween?
  • Doug Peters

    Amen, brother! 😀

  • Thanks Doug!

  • Sharon

    This article completely
    trivializes why people might want to discourage others from
    participating in a pagan holiday that celebrates evil. Have you ever
    thought that some parents aren’t particularly trying to be
    ‘fun-killers’, but would rather that their children do not become
    desensitized to all the pagan elements being pushed on them in our
    culture??

  • Totally cool Sharon. Parents
    should absolutely follow their convictions with their own children. I’m
    with you. My only point is that judgment isn’t the most welcoming first
    response with our neighbor’s kids.

  • Sharon

    Scott, I’m not judging them,
    I am simply being honest. I frequently have many neighborhood kids at
    my house, and when they ask, I tell them that I don’t like witches and
    goblins and scary things. I ask them if they do. It makes for a good
    discussion. The rest of the world tells kids that scary is fun, and
    evil is good. This gives me a chance to tell them otherwise, and I
    think they appreciate the honesty.

  • Bonnie

    OK, so where did you get the
    wholesome-looking trick-or-treaters for the picture, Scott? They don’t
    look like anything I’ve seen in the last 10 years. How did you manage
    to avoid the scullies and all the murderous horror-figures. This
    picture looks like kids used to dress for Halloween back in the late
    50’s. Just sayin’…

  • I agree. There’s a lot I
    don’t like either. Kids trick or treat that are way too old for it. And
    when they do, they are often very scary costumes. (Don’t even get me
    started on adult costumes!) In my neighborhood, the kids look
    very much like the pictures posted. I can drive 10 minutes and see a
    very different scene. It will vary widely I’m sure. Here’s my
    question though: Where are the murderous horror figures and witches
    welcome? There are actual kids inside of those costumes. Sure, many of
    them are misguided. Perhaps they aren’t getting good direction or
    attention at home. Is it better to shut them out or to welcome them in?
    Sharon – if you’re welcoming them in and they are coming back –
    fantastic! That’s all I’m suggesting. I’m looking at my own situation
    and asking, how can I make my corner be the welcoming place in my
    neighborhood? I want my neighbor to know they can stop by, cigarette and
    all, to chat about life. I want them to know they are welcome to borrow
    my mower. I want them to know that my yard is a safe place for their
    kids to play, and after school if no one is home. they can come hang
    here. So when it comes to an event like Halloween, I’m not looking at
    what aspects are distasteful to me, because there are plenty! I’m
    looking at it and asking – is what I am doing more or less likely to
    make them feel welcome to stop and visit some other day of the year.
    After all, if they never come back, what have we really accomplished?

  • John Paul

    Scott I love this site and I’ve only read two things you’ve written. I am a Christian and while I get upset when my beliefs are attacked, I don’t know why so many Christians want to beat people with their faith. I don’t believe that’s Jesus’ call on my life. I believe He calls me to love everyone and to let them know how precious they are in His eyes. I don’t believe anyone ever started a relationship with someone by trying to become their enemy first. We are not enemies with the lost, we used to be lost! God bless. John Paul

  • Thanks John Paul – I appreciate you reading!

  • You hit this right on the head!! Great article and GOOD advice! 

  • Thanks Keli!

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you for the well thought out, well presented article. I think you hit this nail right on the head.

  • Thanks Robert!

  • Walters8416

    Such a great article! I really liked the discussion about the costumes. For 18 years, I lived in a big city and in a safe neighborhood. In fact it was so safe that parents all over the city would drop their kids in the  neighborhood to trick or treat. The costumes were  gory and about 200 kids would stop by the house.  Some years, I opened the door, but most years, I kept the lights off cause it was too much for me to visually handle.Other years, I would have harvest parties at my home for my kids and the neighbor kids so that I was engaging with my neighbors but not the whole city!  Now I live in a small town where the costumes look like your picture above and I actually have Fun and it gives  me such joy to give out candy. It reminded me of how fun it was to dress up and get tons of candy when I was a kid and it gave me hope that not every place in the U.S. looks the same for Halloween.  Do what you have to do, but it is a holiday that can build bridges with your neighbors and love their kids. 

  • THANK YOU for putting my feelings so eloquently into words! How terrible for the only Christian on the block to be seen as the grouch who denies candy and fun to kids, and who should be avoided at all costs.

  • Thanks Carma!

  • Staci

    I’ve gone through the same issues every October 31st and mulled over every argument I’ve heard about this celebration. 

    I think Christians need to take a little trip to Salem, MA where Halloween is to the witches there (yes, REAL witches) as Christmas is to Christians.  

    For example on the haunted happenings website for Halloween 2012 on Halloween Night they are having an event called the 21st Annual Temple of Nine Wells Samhain Magick Circle. And on the website for that event they have what looks like a poetic story about the Goddess and God . Also please take a gander at their Statement of Purpose page talking about the temple to magick they want to build in MA. 

    The point is that on Halloween people dress up as witches, who are people who worship MULTIPLE gods and goddessses (many build their own pick-your-own-gods altars since paganism allows this) and who worship the created, like nature and carvings of gods and goddesses, which does not jive with the  scripture of not worshiping the created and”having no other gods before me” of the Bible.  People dress up as ghosts, which in reality are demons masquerading as dead people and the Bible talks about in the story of Saul and the witch of Endor that there is a space between the dead and living people that cannot be crossed. The dressing up as skeletons,zombies,vampires etc. are all things that also don’t jive with the words of Christ when He said that He came to give life and life abundantly. Skeletons represent death, zombies are dead people who are cannibalistic, vampires drink blood which doesn’t work with the Bible as scripture talks about how the blood represents life in the old testament and there is also the blood of Christ that saves us. These are some examples. 

    Halloween is an event, not a holi or holy day, that does not celebrate anything Christ honoring or compatible with scripture. If you can find scriptures that do please let us all know. 

    No one forces Christian parents and people to celebrate the event. Christian parents who celebrate the event usually are doing it cause their kids feel left out due to the parties and candy. It’s really all about the candy and the children and peer pressure. Candy can be given any other day of the year to kids and parties can be had any other day of the year. Kids, and parents, won’t die if they don’t celebrate Halloween. 

    I just don’t know how Christian parents, Christian kids and other adult Christians can justify an event that has no Christ honoring background as the event  currently stands. 

  • Sarah

    I’m afraid I have to differ with you on this one.  Not only is Halloween totally annoying and completely stupid (and not only do I hate the idea of giving candy to children and smiling when I do it — why not hand out cigarets?) but I also think you kind of glossed over a major point.  Look around at the Halloween aisle at any Walgreens and what do you see?  I asked my 10-year-old son this question and he got it right:  Death.  That’s what all the images are about, that’s what the costumes are about, that’s what the evening is about.  Whatever your feelings are about the origins of Halloween, and the cuteness of the kids at your door, you’ve got to admit that it is an undisguised celebration of Death.  On one end of the spectrum, this is the opposite of honoring to God; on the other end, it is just plain boring and dumb.

    We tried, one year, to carve “I” and a heart for the eyes of the pumpkin and “Jesus” for the mouth, and we probably even had a Scripture verse on the door; I don’t remember.  That seemed just as stupid. Is it wrong to just want to ignore this day?  This day — when everyone thinks there is something we should all be celebrating.

    I don’t know — maybe I’d feel less resentful of this pathetic “holiday” if I were allowed to celebrate Easter at work — you know, decorate the cubicle with crosses and pictures of Jesus, maybe even run the Jesus film at low volume from my computer monitor for the passers-by — but no, this is considered to be unacceptable at work, yet at Halloween, Death reigns supreme, blood and gore and witches and all, none of that is considered to be unacceptable religious content for the workplace.  So I’ll take my opportunities for evangelism (or at least being nice) to children on every other day of the year, and on Halloween, I’ll find something else to celebrate. 

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  • gardengirl

    Staci said below: “Halloween is an event, not a holi or holy day, that does not celebrate anything Christ honoring or compatible with scripture. If you can find
    scriptures that do please let us all know.”

    My sentiments EXACTLY.

    The cuteness and appeal of little kids dressed in costumes is deceiving. We, as Christians, should not be encouraging our children to participate in something so worldly as this. ‘Do not conform to this world, but be ye separate… ‘ and sometimes that means things like this. (yes, I grew up celebrating Halloween. It’s only been in recent years I’ve begun to question this, as well as how I was celebrating Christmas, and Easter. Our perspective and expectations SHOULD be different)

    1st Peter says: Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:…” Even we even suspect or have doubts that our Father would not approve, then I think it would be better to forgo it. Too much of the world has come into the church, and many cannot even tell the difference anymore.

  • Love that attitude Walters8416. Thanks!

  • Hey Staci.

    I thought I addressed those concerns, but maybe I wasn’t clear enough. If someone is actually practicing the sort of evil traditions you mention, that is definitely concerning. However, I don’t think that your perspective on the history is enough of a reason to ban Christians from celebrating Halloween.

    For instance, you say that merely taking part in Halloween makes us complicit in the past traditions that are less than savory. I wonder if you think the same of Christmas. When non-Christians celebrate Christmas by opening gifts around a tree and singing songs about Santa, are they equally celebrating the birth of Christ simply because that is the origin of the holiday? It seems that this has to go both ways. Either we are judged by what we actually do and believe, or we are judged by what others long before us have believed and done.

    Do you think that birthdays have Christ-honoring backgrounds? Labor day? Independence day? That seems like an awful high bar for celebration to me.

    However, as I said, Christians will continue to disagree on this issue, and that wasn’t really my topic anyway. My point was that whether or not you choose to participate in Halloween yourself, there is still the issue of how you are going to respond to the people at you door. That’s where I think the opportunity to love your neighbor is a neglected aspect of the season.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  • Hi Sarah,

    I guess I don’t see it the same as you. Sure there are plenty of costumes and customers who play up the darker side of things, but that hardly represents the whole of the holiday. Other than teenagers and immature adults (neither of which ought to be trick or treating in my opinion), the vast majority of costumes I see are pirates and princesses and a huge assortment of Disney characters. You may see an “undisguised celebration of Death”, but I haven’t seen that myself.

    Regarding your last paragraph, do you believe that in being neighborly to children who knock on your door that you are “celebrating” Halloween?

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Hi Gardengirl.

    I appreciate your sentiments, but it sounds a bit out of proportion. For starters, take a look at my reply to Staci (and Sarah too) as it touches on some of the same issues.

    To add to that, must we have scriptural basis for everything we do? Does the bible tell us whether women should wear slacks or dresses? Does it say not to celebrate your wedding anniversary or your child’s graduation? I think there is plenty of liberty evident in the New Testament for Christians to honor Christ and live according to their conscience.

    If I choose to chat with neighbor kids at my door and give them a treat, is that conforming to the world and compromising Christ? I’m curious to hear.

    Thanks for writing!

  • Kirk Bianchi

    “I wonder if you think the same of Christmas.” Yes. Scripture nails it so, so that we won’t have to wonder or continue to disagree.

    Deuteronomy 7:26
    Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.

    Deuteronomy 12:31
    Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.

  • Hey Kirk. I don’t follow. What do those verses say about Christmas?

  • Sorry, but I really do not appreciate being held hostage in my own home simply because I cannot deal with the leftovers.

    I have another beef with it, back from when my wife was in the hospital discovering she had cancer on that night. She sent me home for something (after I begged her not to). I opened my garage door with kids all over the place and pulled my van in. Kids started to swarm at me. Almost in tears and fighting off a panic attack, I pleaded with them not to do that, because I wasn’t prepared (we had no candy) and I had to get back to the hospital. The kids didn’t understand nor did they care. Thankfully their parents were with them and hopefully explained, because I didn’t want to take the time to do so.

  • Absolutely Joe. Not holding hostage. I think it’s a matter preference. That was my goal abreast. Just offering another perspective to counter the view that it’s completely evil and something Christians cannot participate in.

  • What I meant by “held hostage” is the feeling that I cannot go outside of my home, or even turn on the lights, without being set upon by costumed kids.

  • Katherine

    Unfortunately there is so much more about the day and night of Halloween that was not mentioned in this article. Every person has to make decisions based on the information they have learned to be true and their conscience must be clear before God only. He is the judge. Spiritual warfare is real. “Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the Name of The Lord Jesus . . ” Colossians 3:17 Based on what I have learned about Halloween. I choose not to celebrate it.