Well, we have come to that annual day of questioning for Christians: do we celebrate Hallowe’en, ignore, or try to redeem it? Friends of ours from another culture were recently visiting us here in Canada and they were, frankly, appalled, by skeletons on people’s doorstops, entire front yards turned into cemeteries, advertisements on the media and elsewhere obviously intending to scare young children. They questioned what is going on in Canadian society that this obsession with the forces of evil and darkness is being observed so openly and markedly? It is a good question.
In part, the entire Hallowe’en obsession may be due, at least in part, to the power of a good marketing campaign by those companies that gain to financially benefit from it. Or it could be that – as is seen in Hollywood – evil has become mainstream and accepted (while, Christianity and things pure widely mocked and ridiculed). The question for Christians is what to do with Hallowe’en.
When I became a Christian at age 19, I still carried on as I had in my childhood, dressing up as Dracula and having fun, collecting and sharing candy. Our children would dress up for their friends and our church would have parties in which candy was shared and games were played. I still enjoy seeing little kids proudly showing off their Hallowe’en costumes and I am happy for them to receive candy, to carve up pumpkins, and to have fun. But I am gradually souring on the entire enterprise, in part because of what I see happening in our society where (as the Bible says) “what is good is called evil, and what is evil is called good”.
With the Protestant Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestant Christians reacted to (and Catholic Hallowed Days such as All Saints’ Day on November 1st (thus, Hallowe’en is the Hallowed Evening of the next day, All Saints’ Day) on which prayers are made to the “saints”, and All Souls’ Day on November 2nd in which prayers are made for the souls of those who haven’t quite made it to heaven yet (thus, the Catholic teaching about “purgatory”, that “in-between” state of existence between death and eternity). Those 16th and 17th century Protestant Christians thus rejected the entire tied-together package of Hallowe’en, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. So, the choices before we modern Christians are three, I now contend (and, these are based upon the writings of Jessica Wolstenholm in the October 22nd, 2022 issue of the online magazine, Minno Life):
1. Reject Hallowe’en entirely. There are many Christians today that look at Halloween as a pagan holiday during which the devil is worshipped and evil is glorified. They want nothing to do with the evil out there and will do everything in their power to shield themselves and their children from this devilish holiday. Many churches have replaced Halloween with Fall Festivals that are more family-friendly and allow a more safe environment and a fun alternative to trick-or-treating. Some choose to celebrate Reformation Day instead because they believe Halloween is something that must be rejected as a pagan holiday.
2. Accept Hallowe’en and have fun. Halloween, some Christians say, is a fun, harmless opportunity for kids to dress up, get lots of candy and have a good time. It’s a time for cute decorations, parties, pumpkin carvings, lots of laughter, and enjoying going trick-or-treating with their neighbors. Halloween is, for many, a non-religious festival altogether so some Christians don’t mind assimilating and being no different.
3. Redeem it. If we as Christians believe that Jesus came to redeem all things; to make all things new, we must answer with a resounding YES! Jesus says in Revelation 21:5, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Certainly, all things include Halloween. But how? We are sometimes quick to pass judgment or skip over the topic instead of pausing to investigate and have conversations about it. If we are quick to reject Halloween altogether, we might miss out. After all, Jesus did say that we should be IN the world, but not OF it, right? Right. But what does that mean? Does that mean that evil is out there and as long as we close our doors and turn the lights out, evil will stay away? If we can look at Halloween, not as ‘us versus them’, but rather as an opportunity to engage with the community around us, maybe we can approach the holiday with more compassion and grace, rather than judgment.
Personally, I will not stop Christian parents from dressing up their kids and letting them have fun. But evil cannot be celebrated and so cuteness for me is fine, spooky is not. Thus, my answer is a little bit of each of the three options.