Friday, October 31, 2014

Redeeming Halloween

I originally posted this three years ago, but it seems worth revisiting. Happy snowy Halloween to my Illinois readers!

When I was little, I celebrated Halloween without thinking much about the spirituality of it. We had a great time dressing up, carving pumpkins, and decorating--just without witches and other scary things.

When I reached high school, I had a handful of friends whose parents were opposed to Halloween and refused to particpate in any part of it. That got me thinking about my own views on the matter. At the time I concluded that there was nothing wrong with Halloween if it was celebrated Christianly.

When I had kids of my own, I followed my parents' example. But I wasn't totally comfortable with the whole thing. I mean, if Halloween celebrates death, and Christians celebrate life, how can we participate with a clear conscience? Is that participating in deeds of darkness (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11)? If it had existed back then, would Jesus have celebrated Halloween while he was on earth? I sort of thought not. So even as I dressed my kids up and handed out candy, I sort of felt like a hypocrite. I felt like I was compromising with the world rather than being a light to it.

Well, this year I've found a great book on the subject, and it's revolutionized my thinking.

This is a Tyndale House book (where my husband works, so we usually get free copies of this kind of book), published in 2004, but somehow I'd never seen it before.

The authors start by talking about the history of Halloween. As you probably know, it came from All Hallow's or All Saint's day, the day that honored all the saints and martyrs. This Christian holiday was moved to October in an effort to reclaim the pagan festival called Sow-en. The point of all of this is that Halloween started out Christian, and became about death and witchcraft later. So in bringing the light of Christ to this holiday, we are taking it back to its roots. The authors write, "This book is not a plan for Halloween alternatives. We don't suggest you simply remake the world's version of Halloween. We hope to inspire you to take back the celebration that rightly belongs to the people of God and restore the purpose for which it was established." (p. 18-19). No more guilt!

Here are some of their practical tips to help Christians celebrate Halloween spiritually.

1) Have your kids dress up likes someone that represents a group they want to tell about Jesus. This can be interpreted very loosely: Ninjas represent Asia, a flapper represents people in dance clubs, sea creatures represent sailors. The point is not to limit your children, but to add a spiritual dimension to what they want to do. I'd still leave out witches and wherewolves, though. Then use the week leading up to Halloween to pray for those people.

2) Decorate in ways that show light, not darkness. Think luminaria, white lights, and harvest themes rather than witches and ghosts.

3) Jack o' lanterns were originally created to scare away evil spirits, but these too can be redeemed. The authors have great suggestions for using pumpkin carving to show spiritual truth: as you cut open the top, remind yourself to have the mind of Christ; as you clean out the seeds, think about confessing your sin to God and allowing him to get rid of all that yucky stuff; as you carve the eyes, think about ways you can avoid looking for the faults of others; as you carve the mouth, think of ways to use your words to bless others; as you light the candle, think of letting Christ's light shine in you. It might be fun to have your kids brainstorm all the spiritual truths they can think of that relate to pumpkin-carving, using some of these examples as thought-starters.

4) As you open up your door to trick-or-treaters, think of ways to be generous. Make your home inviting and fun, even wearing a costume yourself. And in my opinion, if you're going to give out Bible verses or tracts with your candy, you better have the best candy on the block. (And it better be candy, not pretzels or fruit snacks!)

5) To have fun with the "trick" part of Halloween, think of people who might need some encouragement. Help your kids make cards or buy little gifts for these people, and then leave them anonymously. Kids love sneaking around, and this is one way they can have fun and bless someone at the same time.

There are tons more ideas in the book for fun parties and more. There is a really good chapter of ideas for teachers to do with their classes.

This year I'm going to get into the true spirit of Halloween, not celebrate it halfheartedly and with a touch of guilt! I hope you will too.


  1. On a less spiritual, but still uplifting note, it's been pointed out to me recently that Halloween is perhaps the greatest neighborhood/community oriented activity we participate in all year, the only holiday we celebrate that brings us out into the neighborhood and encourages us to share the festivities with those around us. On most holidays we all huddle up into our family groups or hang out with our closest friends, but on Halloween, we go out and interact with our neighbors in a way that most of us don't for the rest of the year.

    In our neighborhood there is a Halloween parade and a big neighborhood cookout, and then all the kids leave from there to trick-or-treat. Lots of people hang out at the bottom of the their driveways to give out candy and talk to each other as the kids go by. I realize that may be an unusual amount of neighborliness, but still, if you steer away from the ghosts and witches elements, there is a lot of positive community-building that can go on by just being out and having fun with the folks who live around you.

  2. The problem in my mind, and the reason I will never ever celebrate Halloween with my kids, is that it is used in a much uglier and demonic way in our culture. This is evident where I live, and I have to be TOTALLY of Christ in this and not in any way participate. That is why, and our church makes this easy, we celebrate All Saint's Day, and this is just a big holiday for us. It's one of four baptismal Sundays, and the celebration of all those babies and new converts being baptized just eclipses it for us. I think our life in our town obligates us to be OTHER than any around us, for our children's health. I am in my own town responsible. I no longer look down on others that feel differently, thank God, but I can never ever go there with our family. In early marriage my husband and I dressed up as a saint and acted it out for the other, and that has colored our ideas ever since. Another perspective :) Maybe others could focus on heroes of the faith in their ideas too. I'll have to look up the Samhain All Saint's Day connection, though. I think where you live and how you were before coming to Jesus is part of how you have to obey on these days. I know I was too into fiction that utilised the occult imagination at one time early on before I received healing, so I am extra worried and careful as a result. MB