I Hate Halloween

halloween-jack-o-lanterns-650264-mHalloween has never been my favorite holiday. For one thing, it wasn’t a real holiday–I never got out of school, as a student or teacher, because of Halloween. For another, it meant disruption–going to strangers’ houses or having strangers come knocking at my door. Then, for those of us who put only a little last minute thought into a costume, there was the embarrassment of people saying, “And what are you supposed to be?”

Add to this the growing emphasis on horror and fear-inducing entertainment–things I do not like–and Halloween is less to my liking than ever.

Beyond my personal issues with the day, however, I’ve come to hate Halloween because of the attitudes of different Christians. Again this past week I heard on the radio a Christian pastor telling his listeners about his book exposing all the pagan roots of Halloween.

There’s plenty to expose, too, but of course, there are believers who argue that the true roots of the holiday lie in Christian tradition.

Others accept it for what it has become–a day to dress up, to pull spooky pranks, to have parties, to get or give candy. In other words, in the culture at large, it has no particular pagan or religious significance.

Several years ago, I did a three-day series on Halloween (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), but in the end I came to a different conclusion than what I’d intended when I started. Here’s the bulk of the final post of that series. I based much of the article on a comment asking shouldn’t we have some agreement within the body of Christ?

I think that might be the problem–we’re all coming at this hotbed topic from different points of view, and yet we’re expecting agreement.

We aren’t going to find agreement because our past experiences and our present influences–all of which differ from person to person–affect what we think.

Because of my childhood background, I thought the school I taught in, by banning all Halloween trappings and celebrations, was behaving a bit like Chicken Little crying that the sky was falling–until Charles Manson and his “family” who had gone on a killing spree shaved his head and said “I am the Devil.” Suddenly I got it. Paganism, in stark rebellion to God and His law, was in our culture.

The students I taught needed to know.

But what did they need to know? That carving a face in a pumpkin was sinful? That dressing up like a princess and going door to door for candy is sinful?

That having a party called a Harvest Festival is OK but having one and calling it a Halloween Party is sinful?

Too often I think we Christians, in our zeal for the truth, forget why we’re teaching what we teach to children, and why we believe what we believe.

Would any of us disagree that Satan is real, and he is to be resisted? I suspect evangelical Christians see eye to eye on this point.

Would any of us condone participation in Wiccan celebrations? I imagine we would uniformly say we would not.

At the core, I believe we would be united in those points because we believe in Jesus and do not want to give any quarter to the enemy of our souls.

But from that point on, our agreement splinters based on our experience. Which is why I believe grace needs to reign. Grace and our oneness in Christ.

Scripture is clear how we are to treat one another though it says nothing about carving pumpkins or bobbing for apples or, for that matter, pretending to ride a broom.

As I see it, Halloween is a great opportunity for Christians to witness to the world, not because we all should give out tracts that night but because we can stand up and say, I love my brother in Christ MORE than these other things. I will respect my brother’s decisions and not ridicule or judge or accuse. I will not insist he does things my way. And if necessary to keep from offending him, because he’s got a weakness in this area, I won’t do things my way either.

Now that‘s what I think we Christians should agree on.

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21 Comments

  1. Well said!

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  2. Grace, grace, and more grace. I appreciate the way you thoughtfully sorted through the different aspects of a topic that has been the source of much disagreement in the Body of Christ.

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    • Thanks, Taryn. Thanks, Judi.

      I think well-meaning people on both sides of the argument get caught up in their convictions and think they must make others look at the issue in the same way they do. But that doesn’t seem to be the way God works! He uses us for our differences and works through us because we aren’t like everyone else. As “toes” we can reach people who “livers” would never reach. 😉

      But when we function as a unified body, well, that speaks to far more people than any one part ever could.

      Becky

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  3. Hi, Rebecca.

    I love your blog. I have no idea where you find the time to write as much as you do, but I love that all your posts are rooted in theology.

    I happen to love Halloween. Probably because my birthday is Oct 26th, but also because I love dressing in costumes and I’m a spec fic writer as well. It’s the kid experience of pumpkins, black cats, spiders and the like, but I draw the line at the scary costumes. I absolutely hate to be scared. I don’t do haunted houses, and refuse to dress up as something that glorifies the enemy (or let my kids do it). It’s too much like rooting for the wrong team.

    In the end, it’s where your heart is. Much like Christmas with trees, presents, and Santa, people are going to be across the board on the issue. I don’t want to cause anyone to fall. Instead, I want to ground my faith in truth and be the tea light shining in the darkness.

    Enjoyed your post. Grace is key.

    -Lisa

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    • Thank you, Lisa. Blogging has replaced my journal writing for the most part. 😉

      Yes, I believe grace is the key. We aren’t coming at a day like Halloween with the same experiences or understanding, so why should we expect everyone else to bend to what we’ve lived through and what we know? When Scripture is silent, we would be wise to run from dogmatism, I think.

      And honestly, I think Halloween looks like fun. I just never had the kinds of positive experiences with it that validated what I perceived it could be. So I ended up concluding it was more trouble than it was worth. But for those that make it work, YEA! 😀

      Becky

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      • I just tweeted you! Love this: “When Scripture is silent, we would be wise to run from dogmatism.” Yes!

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  4. When is Halloween exactly? We don’t really do it in Australia. There are some places where attempts are made, but with storms and bushfires I suspect it will be low key again this year. A couple of years ago there were news stories with scantily clad models holding placards promoting Halloween. It turned out to be a demo put on by the owner of a party costumes shop. And he was Indian. I have in the past seen a rack of costumes way at the back of the supermarket. When I noticed it the main people looking at it were Asian and African migrant families. That’s when I realised that the event was seen by them on TV and movies, so when they came to the Western societies they expected to get involved. Some schools put it on for a kids activity, but it is not universally welcomed.

    I was watching an old movie from 1941 (The Ghost of St Michaels). It is an old British Will Hay movie set in a castle where a school has been relocated during the war. At one stage the boys are having a midnight feast in the dormitory. When the master catches them they explain that this is an old Scottish custom called Halloween. Some people put around the idea that Halloween has always been a common celebration, but this movie is suggesting that it was unknown in England in the 1940s.

    Some pagans in Australia want to fit their celebrations to the southern hemisphere. This would have them putting Halloween in April. On April 25 Anzac Day is celebrated, so any pagan events would not be well received. At least it is an attempt to give the event an actual religious meaning. n reality modern Halloween is spread among the young via American movies and TV shows.

    And you may suspect, Becky, that I find that more frightening than witches!

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    • Ken, Halloween is October 31. It’s become a big money maker for retailers–next to Christmas, they say–so I’m sure that’s why businesses are trying to take advantage of it down under as well.

      The big debate about its origins is whether it sprang up from All Hallows Eve or from a pagan Celtic festival. Those clinging to the Christian origin say the name itself tells the tale: “Halloween falls on the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints’, Hallowmas or Hallowtide) on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2, thus giving the holiday on October 31 the full name of All Hallows’ Eve” (“Halloween,” Wikipedia). Apparently there’s much debate even among Christians–apparently the celebration of this holiday goes back centuries. Anyway, traditions were re-interpreted after the Reformation.

      Apparently its introduction into North America came with the waves of immigration in the 19th century.

      Those convinced of the pagan origins aren’t any clearer: “Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while ‘some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain,’ which comes from the Old Irish for ‘summer’s end’ ” (Ibid).

      Is media spreading it abroad? Well, the students at Hogwarts celebrated Halloween, and how many people all over the world watched the Harry Potter movies?

      I suppose it’s inevitable as we become more global for cultures to share with one another. Here the in thing is accents, including Australian accents (one of the favorite, it would seem). What I object to is when they are clearly put on and not genuine. But the point is, it seems that anyone from anywhere else is better than someone from here. 🙄

      Becky

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  5. Since I was born on Halloween, I always loved the day. I thought it was all about me until I went to school. Imagine celebrating your birthday by dressing up and visiting all the neighbors who loved to give you candy. As a Christian, I started out not giving out treats at the door, until I realized what a mission field I was missing out on. So now I give out candy, along with a tract that has my church’s name on it and a handwritten note on each tract. I also include a candy cane and the story of where the candy cane came from. I give out nice treats, and exclaim over the children. I carve “Jesus Loves You” into my pumpkins, and year after year, the kids come and they mention last year’s treat or the candy cane or the pumpkin. Last year, I gave out drink boxes and granola bars. One little girl said, “Oh, now I can have breakfast tomorrow.” That broke my heart, and I gave her double. That’s what true evangelism is all about. And isn’t that what we’re here for? We’re called to stand against the enemy, not run and hide in our basement on this one night a year. The enemy has no power over me, and the children coming to my door need to know the truth.

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    • Donna, your story is the perfect example why Christians should not be dogmatic on a subject about which the Bible remains silent. How could anyone say you are participating in a pagan holiday by doing what you’re doing?

      I become suspicious when we have to teach people the history of something to prove that it’s wrong. Wrong in the past does not mean wrong in the present. What we should be concentrating on is what we are to do with the day in the present, and you seem to have a great handle on that issue.

      Thanks for passing along the examples of the things you do to bring God glory on Halloween!

      Becky

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  6. Well said, Becky! About 15 years ago, a friend of mine left a 14-year marriage when her husband became physically abusive, and then she started going to a non-denominational church “looking for answers.” Unfortunately, it was right before Halloween. The minister preached an entire message denouncing Halloween. My friend was shocked that he came down so hard on what she saw as a sweet, fun children’s celebration that she never went back. This same church hosted the largest “Harvest” celebration in the area. Kids were welcome to wear costumes, and they received candy on the date of October 31. Personally speaking, my mom banned even Christmas trees from her home as we grew older, because of their pagan roots. It’s always hard for me to find a church whenever I have to move because so many preach similar legalism from the pulpit instead of grace.

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    • Those are the saddest stories, Amber. I wish so much people realized that all churches aren’t the same. What one does, is not necessarily definitive all all churches even in the same denomination.

      I do think grace is the key, and perhaps an issue like Halloween is a good way to measure how much a church believes in grace.

      The thing is, there are just as many stories out there of people who have come from the occult, and they see genuine evil in much of Halloween. It is just as important that grace extends to them, and if my going to a Halloween Party would be a cause for them stumbling, then I won’t go to that party.

      Becky

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    • I hear the “pagan roots” thing a lot more. It’s not just Christmas trees, don’t forget Easter bunnies and Christmas poinsettias. Crosses were not unheard of in pagan cultures. Fall festivals are popular in many cultures, and the Druids loved bonfires.

      However, just because something once meant something else, doesn’t mean it is somehow channeling that past. Sometimes we forget that Christianity flourished in nonchristian lands. These people weren’t always Christians. They and the church reappropriated objects, dates and observances when possible and gave them new meaning within Christianity. Isn’t transformation a central part of the faith?

      When someone realizes “hey, nonchristians were using these evergreens centuries ago,” they should follow it up by remembering, “some of them were my ancestors.”

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      • This reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s idea that God’s True Myth, as he called it, redeems all myths. Pagans can coop something from God’s creation, but that doesn’t mean they own it. It’s still God’s.

        Becky

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  7. The agreement we should reach you touched upon but I’d like to flesh it out just a bit. You’re perfectly entitled to hate Halloween — but neither you nor I are entitled to pass judgment on fellow Christians because their practice may differ from ours. Now of course you are not doing that, i.e., passing judgment! 🙂 But the answer is Romans 14. The chapter nobody talks about. In the ancient church, eating meat offered to idols was its “Halloween.” Some Christians thought it was sin; others did not. The Holy Spirit through Paul tells us that he who abstains from eating, does so to glorify God, and he who eats gives thanks to God. In both cases God is praised. “Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind.” For the record, this anti-Halloween fervor, regardless of any reader’s point of view, is only about 30 years old. It started roughly three decades ago when certain Christian media moguls with power and influence started making it a problem. It’s a problem for me, so it should be a problem for you, too and everyone else. This is unbiblical. “Let not him who weens regard with contempt him who does not ween, and let not him who does not ween judge him who weens…” is my modern extrapolation. Those who condemn any and all forms of “participation” in Halloween need to take Romans 14 to heart. And vice-versa. Those who “participate” in Halloween should not look down their noses at “stupid and legalistic people” either. We shall all stand before the Bema tou Christou. Let us do so with a lack of contempt for those who practices may differ from own own. Soli Deo Gloria!

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    • Well said, HG!

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    • HG, I think the rise of paganism also played a part. I remember driving up the coast past a Satanic “church” and thinking how far we have fallen. The thing we tend to lose sight of, however, is that the friendly agnostic is just as lost as the hostile Satan worshiper.

      But as you point out, our response as Christians is not to look down our nose at fellow believers for the ways they chose to respond to the culture.

      Becky

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  8. All i know for sure is it dose not honor God our father who art thou in heaven when we participate in acts of tempting devil and demons. God will forgive us but when we do such he is not pleased with us. I’ve done my own reasearch after scary incident i had at 10 cause when i hit 17 that memory began to haunt me and determined i shouldn’t participate in it. You enjoy dressing up in non spooky costumes you can do that any other day of year it’s called dress up when under 12 cosplay when over 12. My siblings said they had more fun the years they didn’t participate and we had many days not that day when we would be in different worlds ultimtly knowing its make belief. Halloween is not but i get why many have and our being decived. And fall festival is not ok if takes place on week of oct 31st changing name dosen’t change the day. I pray for it to poor rain and for brothers and sisters in Christ that they be not enticed and decived. Handing out tracks will do nothing but get a house egged. That’s my opion on it all

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    • Amanda-Beth, as I said in my post, I think you’ll get unanimous agreement from Christians that God is not honored if we “participate in acts of tempting devil and demons.”

      The question isn’t about the devil and demons. It’s about whether those who never thought of Halloween as about the devil and demons need to be re-educated and therefore start treating the day differently than what they have in the past.

      Clearly you had an experience that causes you to associate Halloween with the enemy of our souls. For you, then, I would agree, you are wise to stay away from it.

      My post suggests, however, that your experience ought not dictate your attitude toward Christians who have a different experience. For example, you mentioned that you think handing out tracts will only get your house egged. But and earlier commenter, Donna, shared how her experience of handing out tracts has been quite positive.

      BTW, ought we not be willing to have our houses egged for the sake of Christ? I mean, should we stop witnessing because it might be hard or because we might meet resistance, even persecution?

      I think that’s a questions Christians must answer, whether or not we are likely to face that kind of opposition. It’s a measure of our willingness to declare for Jesus.

      Becky

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  9. I was just writing on this topic on my site yesterday. I think Halloween has become a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” type thing. Instead of just trimming any non-Christian elements, we toss Hallowmas out with it. It doesn’t have to be either-or. There are Christian and non-Christian associations with these dates, but we tend to focus on one or the other.

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    • I think some people from pagan backgrounds may need to focus on one over the other, and some want to use a cultural event which puts them in touch with people they don’t normally rub shoulders with, to share Christ, so they’ll have the opposite focus. It’s got to be an individual decision, I think, and we ought to allow God to guide His people so they can make the choice that’s suited for them and their circumstances.

      Becky

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