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Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

“Perfect love casts out fear.”  1 John 4:18.

As Christians we’re always talking about love.  So for many, Halloween–the night of ghouls and goblins (and candy!)–can cause some mixed feelings.  What are the origins of this weird night?  And how does my faith intersect with it?  Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

I had just been thinking about this when I saw a similiar post by a friend.  He gives some history on Halloween (Thanks Alex Douglas! — here’s what he says): “First, some history: Halloween began in Ireland and Scotland around 2000 years ago – right around the time Jesus adult ministry began actually.  On October 31st the ancient Irish and Scots celebrated the end of the summer and began preparing for winter.  This day was also the ancient Celtic New Year – the day that was neither last year, nor the year to come – and a great day to play pranks!  The Celts also believed that on this, “in-between day,” spirits would wander the earth.  So, logically, they dressed up in crazy outfits and made loud noises to confuse and scare them.  When Roman Catholicism spread to Ireland and Scotland in the 5th century they decided to make their own special day at the end of October – All Saints Day – a time to honour all the Roman Catholic Saints.  This is where the name “Halloween” comes from – it is the Englishization (yes, I just made up that word) of the term, “All Hallows Eve.”  Part of this new tradition involved families going door to door asking for small cakes in exchange for the promise to pray for that household.  Now, aren’t you glad you don’t have to bake a cake for each and every child that comes to your door!”

Thanks for the background, Alex!

I’ve heard many views on Halloween, ranging from “We shouldn’t participate in this pagan holiday” to “Who cares, it’s just about fun and candy.”

I thought about different Scripture passages and think that the issue is really one of example.  How does our example help others know about our faith?  How might it be a teaching tool for our faith?  To show the point, many argue that the Christmas tree isn’t in the Bible, so why have one?  Well, we’re kind of used it as a teaching tool, haven’t we?  We have fun decorating it and put lights on it to remind us that Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12) and put a star on top to remind us of the Star of Bethlehem over the manger (Matthew 2:7) or an angel announcing the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds (Luke 2:9).

But what about Halloween?

I think of people I knew growing up who didn’t celebrate it, and those kids were looked on as the kinds of outcasts of a dreary-no-fun-faith.  Is that the message we want to send?  And then I thought about people who go so over the top with ghoul that you have to wonder if their actions send the message that Christians just aren’t that different and just blend in with whatever our wider culture is doing.

So I’ve tried to look at the big picture and think these are a few helpful things to keep in mind:

1. We are grounded in the power of Jesus and his love.  That’s a big one.  When I speak to my own kids about fear, I always stress that they belong to Jesus; and when that is the case they really have nothing to fear.  Ensure that kids (and yourself) know that ghosts and spirits have no power over God.  In fact, when we are wrapped in Jesus, they have no power over us.  But we have to believe it and say it out loud.

2. Make it about fun.  Halloween can be fun–dressing up in fun costumes and going around for candy.  It can be a chance to talk with neighbours and build a sense of community.  And who doesn’t like candy?

3. Make sure your words and actions always match your faith.  What we do in private or in public really speaks to our integrity.  If we retreat from our faith when we’re with friends, or by ourselves, or on Halloween, it’s really an integrity issue.  If you sense that you’re participating in something that clashes with your faith, you probably are.

So this Halloween around our house, we’ll be having some fun.  The kids will dress up in (fun) costumes; we’ll all go door to door, say “trick or treat” and enjoy some candy.  (I’m sure the kids won’t get it all!)  We’ll carve pumkins, and use it all as a reminder that no matter how old or young we are, if we belong to Jesus there is nothing to fear.  No one can harm us.  But it’s important to believe that and name it out loud.

What am I going to dress up as for Halloween?  Well, nothing.  But if I did I think I would find some old 1890’s clothes and dress up as Detective William Murdoch from my favourite show Murdoch Mysteries (Wait a second, I often dress like him anyway!)  Hmmm, maybe I should go a different direction: Maybe I’d be a big “Bob the Builder”–my son would love it!  Or, I could be “Prince Charming” and dazzle my daughter! (She knows the story cold.)

Have some fun and remember, “Perfect love casts out fear.”  1 John 4:18

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