Publisher’s Note: Gospel Today is here to to help you live out the Gospel today. We do this by providing content from a distinctively urban Christian perspective but what about the times when well-meaning Christians have different convictions on important topics? Well, in that case, we strive to present the best arguments for each perspective and trust you to prayerfully search the Scriptures and make your decision. In that spirit, enjoy this “spirited” discussion of Halloween!
Every year Christians wrestle with whether or not they should participate in Halloween. This time of year is especially hard for believers with children. Many Christian parents struggle with whether or not they should allow their children to attend harvest festivals and costume parties and whether or not they should permit them to go trick-or-treating.
The History of Halloween
The origins of Halloween trace back to the Irish Celtic tradition of Samhain (pronounced sah-ween) which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter and was celebrated from sundown on October 31 to sundown on November 1. Samhain was a time when the Celts believed that powerful spirits could more easily invade their world. To placate them, the Celts would leave offerings of food and drink for them to consume. Folks would dress up in costumes as these powerful spirits to “trick” the malevolent spirits into leaving them alone by appearing to be one of them. As they went door-to-door they would play tricks on others and recite various sayings in exchange for food. Samhein was also believed to be a time when the spirits of their dead would come back to visit their homes.
Later, in efforts to convert the Celtic people, the Catholic Church introduced All Hallows’ Eve to be a missionary tool to draw in those who observed Samhein. According to The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, in 601 A.D., Pope Gregory the First admonished Catholic missionaries to use the native people’s customs and traditions to convert them rather than trying to do away with them.
All Hallows’ Eve has been celebrated for over 4,000 years and is still kept by those who have rebirthed the Old Religion through neopaganism, Wicca and other branches of the occult but does Halloween’s dark past automatically mean that it is off limits for Christians?
Does the history of Halloween mean we should NOT celebrate it?
Some would argue that how you celebrate Halloween is what matters. After all, how harmful is a 4-year-old in a “Frozen” costume or an eight-year-old dressed up as Spiderman? Besides, as the argument goes, in just a few months, we’ll be pulling out our Christmas trees and stocking caps which have no Scriptural basis, so why act so religious about Halloween?
Others would take a hard stance against Halloween as the Devil’s holiday—historically and currently. This argument says that the pagan roots of Halloween should not be overlooked and that the Catholic Church’s attempt to redeem the holiday was really just a way of appeasing idolaters.
For me, I think that most people today know little of anything about the history of Halloween beyond their own personal experience. However, we would all have to admit that the prevailing images of Halloween include Dracula, haunted houses, cackling witches, mischievous haunting spirits, poorly made up zombies—and of course, sweet little children dressed up as Disney characters going from door to door with plastic pumpkin baskets.
For Christians, there’s the annual “Fall Fest” which inevitably gives rise to that awkward moment when your sweet little one gets frightened by the neighbors who didn’t know that your church’s version of Halloween was different than their version of Halloween. And herein lies a problem…
What direction does the Bible give us on this topic?
Prevailing thoughts on Halloween come at this issue from two extremes. Those who say Christians should join in on the Halloween fun point to the complete victory Christ has won over Satan and demons as proof that there’s nothing to fear. On the other side, those who believe it is wrong for Christians to participate in Halloween will show you Scriptures that warn of Christians participating with witchcraft or will appeal to the Scriptures command that believers be sanctified and not partake in pagan rituals.
I believe both of these positions can be lifted from Scripture but for me, the crux of the issue comes back to something different. Keep reading…
The Bottom Line
The Bible makes it clear that demons and spirits, ghosts and ghouls are all powerless before Jesus Christ! As His redeemed Church, we share in His authority and have a spiritual seat of dominion over the powers of the fallen world. Therefore, the elements of Halloween such as jack-o-lanterns, costumes, black hats or black cats don’t pose any sort of taboo that Christians could somehow be contaminated by.
However, the Bible is clear that such sweeping freedom was purchased at the highest cost—the cost of the life of the Son of God. Therefore, as His delegates on the Earth, we are stewards of the freedom He has given us. We are to use it to build His Kingdom and bring Him glory. He commands us to love our brothers and sisters and to act in a way that would never tear them down but build them up. Our great freedom is hemmed in by our mutual imperatives to give God glory and to love our neighbor. Anytime you encounter a text that illustrates the incredible freedom we have in Christ, keep reading and you’ll find our incredible responsibility to live for the glory of God and the good of others.
I don’t believe the Bible gives one answer for all Christians when it comes to Halloween but I do believe the Bible gives three guiding lights to help you honor God with your decision:
- How will my celebration of or abstinence from Halloween glorify God? If the result of your actions is not likely to glorify God, don’t do it.
- How will my celebration of or abstinence from Halloween show love for those who see me? If the result of your actions is likely to confuse a brother or cause him to fall into sin, don’t do it.
- Will I grieve the Holy Spirit by my celebration of or abstinence from Halloween? If the result of your actions is likely to grieve your conscience, which is God’s gift to you for your good, don’t do it.
What About Alternative Approaches to Halloween?
So, say that you are committed to having fun during Halloween but without the ghosts and goblins? Any problems there?
Some would argue that the “Harvest Festival” or “Trunk or Treat” model is the way for Christians to go as this allows our churches a great opportunity to meet neighbors and love on them while giving their kids a safe place to enjoy Halloween.
As for “trick or treating,” again, the opinions range from “Go, but don’t dress like a bad guy” to “Don’t go under any circumstances or you’ll lead your children into participating in a dangerous and perhaps demonic celebration.”
My thought is that Christians are not called to isolate and so become an insulated, ineffective subculture that has no influence on our neighbors. Neither are we called to cave in to whatever society says is the norm. Yet, these two responses are our default.
Instead, I challenge you to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance on what it would mean for you to be faithful to your King this Halloween. For some, that will mean setting up the lawn chair to pass out candy and meet the neighbors with the love of Christ. If that’s you, be looking and listening for the Holy Spirit to open doors for you to spread the aroma of Christ on a day filled with the stench of Satan.
For others, honoring God on Halloween will mean pulling away from the noise to model for your kids that it is ok and sometimes mandatory to be different. Talk about the unpopular stance of Daniel in Babylon. Affirm in them the conviction it takes to be set apart and to bear the reproaches of Christ rather than searing their consciences so that they can bathe in candy.
What are your thoughts? Do you think Christian parents should allow their children to participate in Halloween? How and why? What is your church’s stance?
NOTE: I am indebted to two very helpful writers whose research, input and opinions on this topic helped me frame the issues discussed here.