One dark night two guys were walking home after a party and decided to take a shortcut through the cemetery. When they got to about the middle of the graveyard they were startled and stopped moving. There was a terrifying noise, a “tap-tap-tap” coming from the shadows. Trembling with fear, they spotted an old man with a hammer and chisel, chipping away at one of the headstones.
“Holy cow, Mister,” one of them said after catching his breath. “You scared us half to death. We thought you were a ghost! What are you doing working here so late at night?”
The old man grumbled, “Those fools! They misspelled my name!” Scary!
Halloween is one of those holidays that can be problematic for Christians to observe. In Bill Bennett’s “The American Patriot’s Almanac” e-newsletter, he notes that Halloween has ancient origins that have been gradually Americanized. Historians trace its roots back more than 2,000 years to Samhain, the first day of the Celtic New Year which was observed around November 1. Samhain, meaning “summer’s end,” was both a harvest festival and a time when souls of the dead were believed to travel the earth. Kind of reminds me of “The Walking Dead!”
Seriously, Halloween celebrations weren’t widespread in the U.S. until the great waves of Irish immigrants caused by the potato famine of the 1840s. The Catholic Irish brought both their observance of All Saints’ Day (celebrated Nov. 1 to honor all the saints of the Church), as well as remnants of the older Celtic traditions. Their festivities gradually mixed with other Americans’ harvest customs to become Halloween as we know it (celebrated Oct. 31).
The American tradition of trick-or-treating echoes the ancient Celtic tradition of leaving food on doorsteps for the souls of the dead. In Britain, people went “souling” on All Hallows’ Eve, walking from house to house asking for “soul cakes” in exchange for prayers for the dead.
So Christians sometimes wonder, “Should we participate in this holiday which is associated with ancient pagan religion?” Personally, I do not see a problem with kids dressing up in costumes and trick-or-treating. That being said, however, it does seem wise for followers of Jesus to strike an intentional balance about the matter.
On the one hand, Scripture is clear that we are in a real spiritual battle that should not be treated whimsically. The Apostle Paul states, Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:11-12). Being intentional about one’s participation in Halloween might mean avoiding costumes that are demonic or sexual in nature, as well as avoiding parties that tempt poor choices.
On the other hand, Scripture directs us to love our neighbor (Luke 10:27), and to be a positive influence in our neighborhoods: Jesus said that his followers are the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). Showing kindness through Community Christian Church’s Trunk-R-Treat event by passing out candy to children and providing a space to warm up and use the restrooms is a way to engage our neighbors positively without losing our identity as the church.
Once when Jesus was talking to his disciples about the fact that he is the only way to God the Father, and that he would send to them the Holy Spirit after he was gone, Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…(John 14:27). He was talking about replacing their fear and insecurity with boldness and confidence. Maybe when it comes to Halloween, Christians can do something similar by replacing the holiday’s darkness and fear with Jesus’ light and joy. How you do that is up to you…just make sure it includes candy!
Working together to win together,