Halloween is one of those holidays that many Christians struggle with in terms of how to address it. Should Christians participate or not, that is the question. Halloween became popular in America in the 1800s as more and more immigrants arrived from Ireland and Scotland. Much of the symbolism and customs associated with Halloween (costumes, trick-or-treating, Jack-O’-Lanterns, black cats, ghosts, witches, and bonfires) as it is practiced today in American culture comes from the Celts who immigrated here, introducing their Halloween customs.
The controversy over whether or not followers of Jesus should participate in Halloween festivities results because of the holiday’s origin and association with the pagan Festival of Samhain (pronounced “Sah-ween”). Samhain was the Celtic lord of death. It was believed by the Celts (sometimes called Druids) that on the last night of October Samhain gathered together the wicked souls (ghosts and hobgoblins) of those who had died in the past year, and for one day they could enter into our physical world. There was feasting at the Samhain Festival, and there were sacrifices of food, animals, and sometimes humans. Food was left for the dead (treat) since it was believed the dead would return on that night. And if you didn’t leave food for the returning dead, they would do terrible misdeeds to you and harm your property (trick).
C.S. Lewis in his book, The Screwtape Letters, made the observation through a senior devil who was mentoring a junior devil that one of the best ways to lure people into sin was to get them to either take Satan too seriously so that they are afraid of even their own shadow at every turn living in constant fear, or to get them to take Satan not seriously enough leading them to let down their guard underestimating the devil’s power to disrupt our lives.
That’s the crux of this issue for Christians. Do we take the pagan history of Halloween so seriously that we do not participate at all with our culture in this tradition? Or do we simply ignore the evil implications of the holiday and have fun with it like “everyone else.” Perhaps one can participate in the fun of the cultural tradition while not participating in its occult aspects. We must never forget that there is a real spiritual war going on “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Each family has to make up its own mind about the level of their participation with Halloween, but hopefully we can agree that we must be gracious towards those who disagree with our point of view on this topic, and I would caution all Christians not to get pushy with their opinion.
Our church has decided to use Halloween trick-or-treating as an opportunity to show kindness and generosity toward our neighbors and community by way of our Trunk-R-Treat event. Not only will we shower kids with lots of candy, but we will also provide a rest stop for families to get warm, use the bathrooms, and enjoy some refreshments while they visit. And while dropping candy into their bags, we can also drop in a written invitation to our worship services and children’s ministries. It’s a win-win. And it’s an opportunity to engage those who may be looking for a church home. I hope you will participate in this year’s Trunk-R-Treat outreach event.
Jesus Christ is our hope of salvation and eternal life, and because Jesus lives we have nothing to fear…not even on Halloween.
Because He lives,