How Should Christians Think About Halloween?
Well, it’s that time of year again! Halloween is probably the most debated holiday among Christians, and understandably so. Believers fall from one end of the extreme to the other on how to think about Halloween – some seeing it as pure evil and locking themselves inside, and others dressing up and going door to door for treats – and everything else in between. There is the popular “harvest party” and “trunk-or-treat” alternatives. What’s all the excitement about, and how should we respond?
Halloween has origins as old as 2000 years. The day has morphed over the centuries and has even been mish-mashed with other holidays. The elements of Halloween come from various time periods and traditions. For example, dressing up in scary costumes was a way to ward off evil spirits who were believed to walk the earth one day a year. The tradition of going door to door started in England where poor children would seek food, and the saying “trick or treat” meant that if you don’t give me something to eat, I’ll prank you later as punishment. For a while, Christians adopted the day as a celebration of deceased saints. On the reverse side, it also became a favourite day for those associated with the occult.
So what’s the deal? Is Halloween Christian, or pagan, or demonic, or non-spiritual, or all of the above? The answers are not as clear as some might suggest. As I see it, here are a few things to think about:
1. Satan doesn’t have more power for one day a year. I think this is the biggest point I’d like to drive home. Satan is active and powerful all year round. What makes this day seem especially dangerous? Don’t let the painted on blood and false vampire teeth make you think that somehow Satan gets to roam free on Halloween, and that his power is somehow boosted on this night. He is still under the sovereign rule of God. And besides, Satan likes to work in disguise – he is far more effective in destroying the world through weak churches, lazy Christians, quick tempers, lousy parents, bitterness, gossip, and a whole host of other “normal” sins that are easily more demonic than some kid dressed up like a witch.
2. Elements of Halloween can be redeemed. In 1 Corinthians 8, the Bible hits a similar issue. There, Christians are wondering if they are allowed to eat meat that has come from sacrifices to idols. An interesting dilemma, isn’t it? Some farmer chops up his ram to his fake god, but then sells the meat in the marketplace. Can a Christian eat it? The answer was that Christians could eat it as long as (1) they weren’t participating in the sacrifice or eating the meat in pagan temples (2) they believe that there is actually only One True God and that he is the giver of that meat, even if others don’t acknowledge it and (3) eating the meat didn’t cause other Christians to stumble.
The big idea here in terms of Halloween is that you can participate in the parts of Halloween that are not evil. Dressing up isn’t evil (though it could be depending on what you were wearing). Eating candy isn’t evil. Having family get-togethers isn’t evil. You can do those things as long as in your heart you are not honouring Satan. Doing witchcraft, ouija boards, getting drunk, watching disgusting horror flicks and breaking the law is an entirely different story.
3. Go with your conscience. Romans 14 gives a great description about how Christians should act based on their consciences. This means that even if something is Biblically permissible, it may not be right for every Christian to do it. In the case of Halloween, it is not necessarily a sin to participate. However, it still does not sit well with some Christians, and for them they should go with their conscience. The key however is not to judge other Christians who do not share the same convictions as you. We all have liberty to live according to our own beliefs, so long as they are not explicitly sinful.
4. Halloween has much bigger issues than these. I see some significant issues with Halloween that has little to do with black cats or demonism. For example, I wonder how safe it really is to be taking candy from complete strangers…the very thing we teach our kids NOT to do! I still can’t bring myself to withhold that fun aspect of Halloween from my own kids, but deep down I also don’t feel 100% good about it either.
Another issue with Halloween is how it has morphed from a day for kids into a day for adults. I read some statistics recently that showed how more money is spent on costumes for adults than for kids. I’m torn on this one too. It’s fun to dress up, and though I hardly spend any money on a costume (maybe a prop or two), that is not the case for others. Most costumes that I saw this year were between $40 and $80, and some even more than that! For just one day a year, does that seem a bit crazy? I think it’s pretty hard to justify, especially for people who might already be struggling financially.
Yet another issue is that, at least around these parts, trick-or-treating has become something that a lot of high school kids do. I’m not in support of that at all. It’s one thing to take your little sister out door to door. It’s another to go out as a group and ask adults for free candy. Seriously, let’s grow up people!
I also am concerned at how seemingly every costume for girls is sexually suggestive. As a parent, it isn’t an issue yet (my daughter is 3) but one day it will be. Halloween should be good, clean fun, but girls who try to take that approach are stuck wading through most costumes just to find something that has decent coverage. Not to mention, the costumes for guys are often based on sexual “humour”. How badly I wish things were not this way!
In the end, Halloween is a day that doesn’t have to be seen as evil or sinful. There are ways to participate that are perfectly acceptable as a believer. But that also doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give careful thought to it either. Just because something is permissible doesn’t mean it might be the right thing to do. Take time to think through some of these things, discuss with your spouse (if you are married), and pray over it. And whatever you do, remember that you are not “off duty” as a Jesus follower just because of this holiday. Look for opportunities to bless people, share Christ with them, and shine your light wherever you may be.