As a general rule I have tried to avoid controversial topics on this blog because I want it to be a place of support and encouragement and not division. I find that, in general, we Christians can get too hung up on the little things and let them divide us, instead of coming together as a unified voice for spreading the good news. And I fully believe that the enemy uses our tendency to argue the little points to bring division and prevent us from being more effective disciples — because a house divided cannot stand.
That being said, I have been called out recently by a few family and friends for my observance of Halloween, and I feel compelled to respond to their questions as to how I support or justify celebrating this holiday as a Christian.
In this house we do Halloween. We dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating. We carve pumpkins and have even been known to hang up a few decorations when I can find the time to drag them out of the storage closet. And here’s why: it is a little dose of make-believe fun in a very serious world. But I’ll get to that more in a little bit. Firstly, I think it’s important to recognize why there is a debate over Christians celebrating Halloween in the first place.
The roots of Halloween can be traced back over 2,000 years to the merging of All Hallows Eve (the day before All Saints Day), a celebration within the early-Christian church, with that of an ancient pagan festival celebrated by Celtic people, in which the Celts believed that the dead could walk among the living at this time (source: World Book Encyclopedia). While most historians agree that it was never the Christian church’s intent to merge the two, but instead an attempt to replace the pagan tradition by moving All Hallows Eve to be the same date, what has emerged as the modern October 31st holiday is in fact a bit of a co-mingling, and dare I say blunder of the early church. (For more on the history of the two, here is a well-researched, factual article written from a Christian perspective by Travis Allen).
The reality is that most people who participate in modern-day Halloween activities are neither attempting to honor the Saints by observing All Saint Day, nor are they intending to hide from the walking dead by dressing in costumes. Certainly there are still people practicing pagan religions that use Halloween as a time to practice witch-craft and necromancy. But I dare say that is not the intent of most of the parents dressing up their little darlings as Disney Princesses or comic book super heroes and taking them door-to-door looking for candy.
Often this verse from Deuteronomy 18:10-12 is referenced as a valid reason for Christians to distance themselves from Halloween. It says, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you” (NIV). I certainly understand and respect why some Christians are anti-Halloween, or really anything loosely associated with any of the pagan practices mentioned in this verse. But, let me offer a bit of different perspective.
As I mentioned above, I don’t think the majority of families observing Halloween are promoting or engaging any of those activities mentioned in Deuteronomy. I can certainly attest that in my house we are not practicing sorcery, engaging in witchcraft, or consulting the dead on Halloween. In fact, there is nothing remotely religious about our observance of Halloween — Christian nor pagan. It is entirely a silly, secular holiday that we participate in because my kids love to pretend. They love to play dress-up and get to wear silly costumes. They love an excuse to come together with their friends and have fun. They most definitely love candy. And as a parent, I don’t blame them.
We live in a very serious world with a lot of grown-up issues. Issues that my kids are very aware of. We discuss poverty and crime, hunger and violence, divorce and death with my kids because these are the things they see and hear about every day. I don’t even allow my kids to watch TV during the week, but still they know these things, they hear about them and they ask questions. We talk about how we can put our mark on the world to end these things, to help people, to spread the love of Jesus.
Life is serious and being a Christian comes with a lot of responsibilities in today’s world. My kids carry this with them, certainly much more than I did 30 years ago when I was their age. My kids are growing up fast, too fast for my liking. So when we have opportunities to just be silly and have fun, to let loose and embrace a little make-believe, to pretend for a few moments that we are a little yellow minion, a gorilla fresh from the jungle, or a pirate hunting for buried treasure, then we take it. And for us that’s really all it boils down to.
Could we do this some other day of the year that doesn’t have pagan roots? Sure. And we do play dress-up other times. But we choose to do it on October 31st, too, and fill our plastic pumpkins with candy that will be rationed out in small doses until December arrives and we have to dump the left-over Halloween candy to make room for the Christmas candy. And yes, we hang stockings for Santa to fill in this house, too, but I won’t go there right now.
It’s OK if you disagree with this. I know we won’t always see eye-to-eye on our approach to parenting. And it could very well be that I’m getting some of this wrong. But when I see their happy faces as they skip from house to house, arm-in-arm with their friends, when I look back at photos of them dressed up as ducks and butterflies and bumblebees (both the kind that transform and the kind that go buzz-buzz) from year’s past, I don’t see anything un-biblical. I don’t see any recognition of pagan acts or dark magic. I see kids being kids, exercising their imaginations and delighting in a little make-believe. I look into my heart and ask myself “am I going against biblical teachings and promoting something unsafe or allowing evil to invade my house?” And the answer is no.
If you look into your heart and have a different answer that’s totally cool. Absolutely no judgement here. If you want to turn off your porch lights and not answer the door when we ring your bell tomorrow, we won’t begrudge you that choice. In fact, I will respect that you are doing what you think is right. I just ask that you show me the same courtesy and not assume that I’m uneducated and ignorant to the history and roots of this modern-day-secular-holiday.
And please, can we not let something like this divide us? Let’s not create a situation where non-believers can point at us and say, “See those Christians? All they do is fight among themselves and point fingers, I don’t want to be a part of that.” Instead, let’s show tolerance and respect the same way our Savior did and each take our own conscience before God. And then, let’s come together in unity and get to work on the really important mission of being disciples of Christ.