It’s that time of the year again! The annual “should Christians celebrate Halloween?” debate is in full force, with believers on both sides of the fence gleefully attacking each other. Articles defending or condemning this observance are always followed by comments with lots of exclamation points and ALL CAPS to put a nail in the coffin of the argument. Pet scriptures are predictably trotted out and links to “prove” that Halloween is either evil or okay are highlighted.
Here’s my take on the subject, for what it’s worth:
Halloween is a day of the year, like any day of the year. You can shape it into whatever your heart desires. Sadly, some people use Halloween night to get tanked. Other people choose to stay home and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. Personally, I wouldn’t dress up as a zombie with an ax in my head because, as a Christian, I don’t glorify ghoulishness. On the other hand, to believe that demons are hanging around your jack o’-lantern and the Devil is rubbing his hands in victory because your kid dresses up as a cute ghost is a little too much.
Halloween seems to have gotten its start from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the end of summer. Some point out that Samhain glorified evil, which is historically inaccurate. To be sure, there were pagan practices associated with this festival. The Celts believed that the end of October blurred the line between the dead and living, so they would leave food and wine on their doorsteps to placate restless spirits.
But let’s be honest: lots of pagan customs have wormed their way into our culture that even the most committed Christian doesn’t think twice about, such as the exchanging of wedding rings, celebrating birthdays and embalming the dead. Even circumcision, which God commanded for every Jewish male, had its origins in pagan culture. Paul wrote in Romans 14:5 that we should stop passing judgment on one another concerning celebratory days. So if you choose to mark Halloween with apple bobbing, hayrides and costumes, go for it. If you choose to stay home, disconnect the doorbell on Halloween night and watch a movie, you shouldn’t be judged, either.
Finally, let’s get real: aren’t there bigger fish to fry than whether we should dress up one night of the year and hang bats and spiders from our front porch? There are hungry children in our neighborhoods who need to be fed. Suffering people yearn for tangible comfort and encouragement. The world is crying out for hope, which the Gospel can provide and which we, as the church, have been entrusted.
So …Happy All-Hallow’s Eve to those who choose to observe. For those of you don’t, have a great last day of October.
Pumpkin picture courtesy of Mary Jo via Flickr