Every year, this one included, I receive emails through philipmeade.com asking about Halloween and whether or not Christians should acknowledge and celebrate the controversial holiday. In previous year’s I have posted a history of Halloween, which I will provide briefly here, but I also want to address in greater detail how I believe we as Christians can have fun on Halloween and not violate our Christian conscience. I hope this is helpful.
First, we should ask ourselves what about Halloween makes us concerned? That may seem like a fairly obvious question, but I think our response to it is important. The reason is because many good Christian folks will object to Halloween because either 1) it’s origins were sown in “The Lord of the Dead” otherwise known as Samhain, or 2) it simply is a holiday built on pagan origins.
Concerning issue #1, the idea of “The Lord of the Dead” is historical nonsense and I hold, in part, the Church responsible for perpetuating this myth. Samhain, pronounced sow-en, simply was a term used to describe the Celtic New Year in Ireland and most literally means “summer’s end.” Now, there certainly was a pagan understanding of deities in ancient Ireland and many of the rituals performed during the time of Samhain were to protect the living from the perceived blurred line between the living and the dead that occurred on that night. Those are legitmate historical claims that can be processed. But the notion that the Celts worshiped and celebrated the “The Lord of the Dead” has been created in part by pop culture and then latched on to by the church. This, thankfully, may be diminishing in our churches, but you can still walk into any bookstore, pick up their pamphlet on Halloween, and the first thing you will see is “Samhain – Lord of the Dead.”
Concerning issue #2, the fact that Halloween is based on a pagan holiday should not give us too many problems. Yet, one of the more respected websites for answering Christian questions cites this as the prime reason to avoid the holiday. The Roman Catholic Church, instead of “doing away” with the Celtic festival, attempted to replace many of their misguided interpretations with the Christian holiday “All Saints Day.” They did the exact same thing with Christmas, which was a time of year marked by the Roman pagan celebration of Saturnalia. Thus, if we object to Halloween solely on the premise that it is built on a pagan tradition, we must also object to Christmas.
With those two things aside, the real issue is to consider what the holiday has become, and in fact has been for a good while, in our contemporary American tradition. Although a correct historical assessment of Halloween is important for us to know and ponder, when it comes down to whether or not our children should trick-or-treat, we have to consider even greater what the celebration is all about in our culture and time. And is on this consideration that I believe we can have some differences of opinion. And that is great.
Paul in Romans 14 speaks about Christian brothers or sisters holding to different opinions in some matters, such as food or one day being more sacred than another (probably referencing the Sabbath). The point Paul makes is that, based on their convictions of their own personal relationship with God, sometimes we have to be accommodating to others opinions, even when they stand in contrast to our own. I believe something like trick-or-treating falls into this category. I should never, ever preach on the acceptability of trick-or-treating from the pulpit or even try too hard to convince my fellow brother if they have truly reached a conviction on the issue different than mine. Just the same, someone who keeps their family from participating in Halloween should not judge or condemn other Christians who have a fun, safe time with the holiday.
So, what do I say to parents who believe that the spooky costumes, haunted houses, and things that go bump in the night should stay well outside their front door and they decide to keep their children from trick-or-treating? I say amen brother and sister. What do I say to parents who think that trick-or-treating is exciting and they enjoy a little scary fun during Halloween? I say amen brother and sister. So long as our enjoyment of the holiday does not turn our gaze from Christ Jesus. And that goes for anything else in our life.
For me personally, Halloween has been a favorite time of year since I was a small child. My mom would decorate our house, we would enjoy the change in season, and I loved dressing up. None of it was ever done apart from good fun. To this day, I love going to haunted houses, I even build a “home haunt” for trick-or-treaters to have a good time in. The fact of the matter is, Halloween night is the one night I will have more parents standing on my front porch and in my living room than any other night of the year. Although I don’t want to pound them over the head with the Bible when they arrive, I nevertheless can demonstrate the love and example of Christ to them, and provide some material for them, all while scaring their children!
At the end of the day, what is important is that those who are opposed to Halloween are opposed for the right reasons and that those who have fun with the holiday have fun for the right reasons. And with that, Happy Halloween!