As I’ve mentioned in many other places, I wasn’t really raised in a Christian household, so we always celebrated Halloween without question. I had some fun costumes over the years, too. In seventh grade I even won first place in my junior high for weirdest costume for dressing as Mileena from Mortal Kombat II. Halloween in our family usually consisted of carving out a pumpkin, making shaped sugar cookies and decorating them with orange and white frosting, going to local parties, picking out costumes and going Trick-or-Treating. We always had lots of decorations as well. I did not realize it at the time, but my parents (especially my mother) really went out of their way to make Halloween a fun time for us.
So what changed?
In the fall of my senior year of high school, my youth leaders sat us down and gave us a sort of anti-Halloween sermon. These were some of the arguments that they used, in addition to some arguments that I’ve heard other Christians use:
1. In pop culture, Halloween is associated with dark, bloody, sexually graphic films and literature. The themes found in these books and films are often Satanic and demonic in nature.
2. The mythos surrounding it is frightening and has little that is spiritually uplifting.
3. Halloween is often a time for malicious pranks and even outright vandalism.
4. Halloween is still considered a powerful and sacred Sabbath in some false religions such as Wicca, Neo-druidism, and Satanism.
5. Incidences of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) dramatically increase on Halloween night. Christians who support Halloween are indirectly supporting that abuse.
6. Halloween is associated with magic and the occult and could set kids on the path to Satanism and Neopagan religions.
At the time I accepted these arguments, and thus my anti-Halloween crusade was born. I maintained my anti-Halloween attitude upon arriving at BYU, where it was something of a shock to see how much Mormons seemed to love Halloween. I could not believe that Mormons did not even seem interested in considering the question of whether it was okay for followers of Jesus Christ to celebrate Halloween, especially since they always seemed to have epic meltdowns over whether or not it was okay to go to a Superbowl party on Superbowl Sunday. I’m sure there are some Christians out there who see the love affair between Mormons and Halloween as evidence of a demonic nature in Mormonism.
I learned that my husband loves to celebrate Halloween when I was engaged to him. With the date of our marriage set so close to Halloween (November 1st), it was impossible for the topic to not come up. P.’s argument for Halloween was not elaborate in the least: “Come on, it’s the only day of the year when kids can dress up and hit up their neighbors for candy!”
Me: “If my church wants to have a fellowship party on Superbowl Sunday, can the children celebrate with me?”
Me: “Okay. Our kids can celebrate Halloween.”
And thus the compromise was made.
As time has gone on, I no longer think that evangelical anti-Halloween arguments are very good. The reasons:
1. Dark films and books surrounding Halloween. – This is true, but one hardly needs to watch horror movies or read horror novels to celebrate Halloween. Furthermore, I don’t think that a movie is automatically bad just because it has dark, bloody or sexually graphic content. As a Christian, I believe that evil exists and is real in this world, so dark, bloody, and sexually graphic things sometimes happen in real life. The Bible itself is at times dark, bloody and sexually graphic. It’s no surprise to me, then, that filmmakers and novel writers might need to make use of these elements in bringing their stories to life.
2. Halloween has little that is spiritually uplifting. – As we’re going to see by the end of this, this one is not entirely true. However, I’m not sure where it’s written that an activity has to be spiritually uplifting or else we should avoid it. Unless one takes an extremist and unrealistic position that Christians should never do anything for pure recreation, Halloween can simply be celebrated as a secular event, no more and no less “spiritually uplifting” than a game of checkers.
3. Malicious pranks and vandalism. – Again, one doesn’t have to participate in malicious pranks and vandalism to celebrate Halloween. One could even argue that if this is the case, then it’s all the more reason for Christians to be setting a good example by practicing Halloween in wholesome ways. Surely this does more to remedy the problem than hunkering down in your house on Halloween night with the lights off.
4. Halloween is still a powerful Sabbath to other (false) religions. – So what? Dies Natalis Solis Invicti and Lupercalia were important Roman holidays before Christians re-baptized them as Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Most Western holidays now have practices and symbolism associated with them that find their roots in early forms of pagan worship. We pretty much either have to adopt the Jehovah’s Witness practice of not celebrating any holidays or just accept that the origins of a holiday do not have to inform our decision to practice it today. We can take these days and give them our own meanings if we want to, and my choice is to accord little religious significance to Halloween. (BTW, I respect the Jehovah’s Witness position in this regard, so that is not intended as a put-down of their beliefs.)
5. Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) – May not have ever existed, certainly never existed in significant enough amounts to warrant its own sub-category of abuse. I suspect that there have been far, far more incidents where a Christian husband abused his spouse because of his belief that she has a God-given mandate to submit to his will. Why don’t we start calling that Christian Patriarchy Abuse (CPA) and warning churches that when they teach that the husband is the leader and initiator in his relationship with his wife, they’re supporting CPA? It would accomplish a lot more good than fighting the phantom known as “SRA” via Halloween abstinence.
6. Halloween is occultic and will inspire children to practice witchcraft and whatnot. – This one is even harder to take seriously than the SRA argument. All of the things that could go wrong with our children and we’re worried that a night of knocking on doors to get candy could lead them to witchcraft? If anything is going to lead our kids away from following the path of our religion, it’s going to be our own lukewarm adherence to separatist legalism instead of genuine transformational Christ-like love and devotion.
There’s one aspect of Halloween though that is perfectly Christian, something that I think all Christians ought to embrace whether they celebrate Halloween in other ways or not. Halloween is the one day of the year when we can be sure that children will be coming to our households and asking us for something. Jesus was indignant with his disciples when they were turning away little children and preventing them from coming to see him (Mark 10:14). Would he really want us turning away little children when we have the chance to be charitable and kind to them?
Christians should not just be handing out candy on Halloween, they should be handing out the best candy on Halloween. Better than those ridiculous little “fun-size” bars that the candy companies make just so that people can be cheap on Halloween. The children should see that you’re a nice family so that they think about coming to learn more about you and why you’re so nice on Halloween.
I don’t really mind when Christians choose not to celebrate Halloween. That’s about as meaningful to me as Christians choosing not to play a game of checkers. I only mind when they start teaching that abstinence from Halloween is the only right way for Christians to do it.
I especially mind when Christians turn off their lights and turn away the little children on Halloween. Just like Jesus would have wanted, right?
In the final post I’ll cover the issue of what do to when Halloween falls on the Sabbath.
Evangelicals & Halloween I
Evangelicals & Halloween II
Evangelicals & Halloween III
(Originally posted at ClobberBlog)