What About Halloween?

My post at Speculative Faith yesterday was a reprisal of an article I first posted here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction more than two years ago. One commenter asked about the original piece I alluded to that had spurred my thoughts. So this morning I went to work with Google search (did you know you can customize the dates of your search? I just learned that today 😀 ).

In the process of hunting down the article that said disparaging things about C. S. Lewis, fantasy, and Narnia, I came across a host of other similar pieces. It was a little daunting.

One was written by a man who referred to himself as a former witch. He explained in some depth what certain scenes or lines from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe meant to those steeped in witchcraft.

Because of his past experience, I admit, I gave him much more latitude than some of the others. One woman said she’d been a Christian only five years when she saw the same book on the shelf of the library at her son’s Christian school and felt a “red flag” in her soul.

In case I haven’t admitted this here yet, I had a similar experience as a teacher. I saw a student reading a certain book (not one of the Narnia chronicles), and a “red flag” went up. The problem was, I was completely and utterly wrong. The book was not what I feared. At all.

But back to C. S. Lewis. The point that both these bloggers, and others I ran across, were missing is C. S. Lewis’s beliefs about myth. He loved myth before he became a Christian, and one of the tipping points in his conversion was a realization that Christianity told the True myth, that all the others were shadows of the Real story—hints, suggestions, partials, not the Complete. More than that, he believed that the True story redeemed all the other partials.

Consequently, Bacchus, a pagan figure used to symbolize winebibbing, among other things, when redeemed became an example of reveling in God’s creative work, His generous provision. He represented joy and laughter and celebration as God intended.

What does this have to do with Halloween? While I was running an errand (do we still say running when we drive? 😉 ), I was listening to a Christian radio station and the announcer or speaker (you can tell how closely I was listening) mentioned a pamphlet (I think) that discusses Halloween and magic. (Here’s where I became attentive).

Halloween, he said, is second only to Christmas for kids, but it is much more than dressing up and getting candy. This pamphlet would explain the pagan origins of the holiday and the meaning of much of what’s behind the celebration.

So there I was, thinking the people opposed to Narnia and these people peeking into the history of Halloween are thinking the same way. They’re thinking where it came from, not what God could make it.

I understand the Halloween issue from both sides. I grew up believing it was an innocent (though rather stupid) dress up day when you got candy. After all, witches were pretend and so were ghosts (my first costume was an old sheet with eye, nose, and mouth holes cut out).

But I also understand from the other side because I taught at a Christian school that had a strict policy against promoting Halloween. And the rationale was to keep kids from dwelling on the all-too-real dark arts that were fast making inroads in the culture.

Here’s my conclusion. This is a genuine, Biblical gray area. Some people really are in jeopardy because of their understanding and/or past involvement with paganism. For me to pooh-pooh where they are and to tell them how silly it is for them to be afraid of the pretend world of make-believe, is wrong. For them, putting on a witch mask may be too close to reality.

So if I’m right, and celebrating Halloween is a gray area, how then am I to behave? And what does all this have to do with reading books like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? I’ll try to address those questions next time, but please feel free to voice your opinions in the interim.

5 Comments

  1. I’m not too keen on Hallowe’en, although we used to enjoy it when our son was little. We stopped the year our local grocery store displayed sick and disgusting masks, and implements of violence down at our son’s eye-level. (he was 7) He did a double-take and backed up. And it suddenly stopped being any fun!

    I also heard that year about a group of godly women who fasted and prayed in our city for bad weather on the holiday.

    I could say more about this, but I am reluctant to. How you choose to see it, Becky, is no skin off my nose, but Hallowe’en has stopped being “gray” for me and gone completely black.

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  2. I don’t feel very qualified to comment on Halloween as a community practice since I live in a country where it was virtually unknown when I was growing up. It’s getting bigger, though, now. However, I think we need to give more credence to the affect of the original meanings of festivals and even the words associated with them. Poisoned roots don’t yield good fruit.

    The point that you make about Lewis and myth is more significant than just his love of legendary stories. Words, including names, often go back to myth. In fact they go back so often that Lewis’ friend, Owen Barfield, quoting Max Muller, called ‘myth’ the disease of language.

    I don’t believe that what you see in Lewis is witchcraft but a struggle with it; I believe you see the author wrestling with the power of his own name and rededicating it. Lewis derives the Welsh name, Llew, meaning lion which goes back to the Celtic god of light. His rededication of his own name to the Lion of Judah is subtle – it walks a razor fine line between faith and magic.

    I don’t find a problem with that. Because for some of us, given the names we have to wrestle with, we have no other choice if we want to remain faithful.

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  3. Where does Halloween come from? It comes from America. It is spread by American movies and TV series. Like Annie I never encountered it while growing up. Only once in my life have children dressed up come to my door asking for lollies.

    Last year in November I saw a group of kids with trailing adults in an area outside Sydney where lots of bogans live. We all know that bogans have no culture of their own. They are just a blotting paper for whatever media fashion is running at the moment. November is almost summer and daylight saving. It can be light up to almost 9 o’clock, so there’s a lot of scope for kids to roam the streets. Not much inner meaning to the event, though.

    I’ve heard local Wiccans talk about relocating Halloween to April 25. Since this is Anzac Day it would be monstrously offensive and I’m not sure they would ever get away with it. Community reaction would be too strong.

    Halloween does have a dark side. It represents the boganisation of local cultures and their replacement with a kind of generic media Americanism.

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  4. Halloween’s dark side has never been far from the surface. Much of the modern symbolism goes back to the ‘ghost fences’ of the old Celts, designed to keep malevolent spirits at bay. It’s about death and, in that sense, I can see why the local Wiccans would want to claim ANZAC Day as a neo-Halloween.

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  5. I grew up in a family where Halloween was evil: I knew all the background for every practice and was taken out of school on that day. My husband came from a different background: he did not become a Christian or even hear the gospel until he was in his teens (he went to church once and thought it was stupid… his words, not mine lol), so Halloween was a day for dressing up and eating candy.

    When we were first married, we had a huge fight about Halloween because of our different backgrounds. I told him all the awful stuff it was. Then he told me a story. He remembered there was one house on his block that would put out a sign that said “We’re Christians. We don’t celebrate Halloween.” All the lights would be turned off. In his little boys eyes, he didn’t see Christians, all he saw were grumpy people who didn’t give out candy.

    His story struck me. These people could have taken an opportunity instead of turning kids away because “We’re Christian, we don’t celebrate Halloween” to instead be good neighbors and start building an opportunity to share the gospel. My view on Halloween completely changed.

    We dress up, we eat candy, we will be letting our kids participate in the local neighborhood Halloween parade (which funny enough starts in front of our house). Our kids are not old enough to understand some of the more scarier rituals of Halloween, so we only have the rule no scary stuff around the house (not even friendly looking ghosts).

    All this to say I think we’re missing an opportunity to reach people with Halloween. I just read Acts 17 yesterday where Paul used the Athens’ paganism to share Christ. Why not Halloween?

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