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To Celebrate or NOT…That is the Question!

Scott on October 31, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Over the last week I have been asked several times by students and staff at my school if I will be celebrating Halloween with my children. Some ask the question because they just assume that I will be doing something for Halloween with my kids and they just want to know what I’ll be doing, while others ask because they know that I am a Christian and they have heard that Christians don’t celebrate Halloween. In fact, there have been a group of people from a local church standing outside a few of the schools in our area handing out tracks and information about the evil origins of Halloween and warning against celebrating/observing it in any way. Let me present the response that I have been giving to those who ask, and then let me present a thought that is rooted in the Halloween question. My response goes something like this:

“Do I celebrate Halloween, as in, Do I hold to the ancient Druid traditions and/or Wiccan traditions connected to Halloween? As in, do I draw pentagrams with goat’s blood, light candles and dance naked in the light of the new moon as I summon demons and exhort them to do my bidding? Well no I don’t (All except for dancing naked in the moonlight, but that’s a different thing all together). However, do I observe Halloween as a day set aside for people to dress up and play games, eat candy and play with their friends? Well yes I do.”

That’s my short answer in which I attempt to distinguish between the two lines of thought connected to Halloween. I don’t claim that it is a completely satisfactory answer or that it anticipates and answers possible issues that arise out of the Halloween question. I’m just saying that it is my short, to-the-point, semi-smart-alecky answer.

Now using the basic idea of Halloween as a springboard let me move on to a larger question/train-of-thought. According to many Christian organizations and websites like the Jeremiah Project, Christians have absolutely no business observing Halloween. We are told:

Can we borrow pagan customs and superstitions of ancient peoples and “Christianize” them?

As believers, we are called to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. [1 Thessalonians 5:21-22] Who can deny that virtually all of the symbols of Halloween are evil? Witches, monsters, ogres, vampires, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, devils and demons all portray evil. Christians are to “… have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” [Ephesians 5:11]

Is Halloween just another innocent holiday that doesn’t harm anyone? Is it really just childish fun? Vandalism and wanton disregard for the property of others is common on Halloween night. Even normally well-behaved children are driven by unseen forces to destructive behavior. Police officials everywhere report a great increase in such activities on Halloween. Worse yet are the horrifying accounts of poisoned candy and fruits booby-trapped with razor blades and needles. Such threats are so real that many hospitals offer free X-rays of Halloween treats in order to prevent children from being harmed. Who but Satan could inspire such monstrous actions?

Wow! “Even normally well-behaved children are driven by unseen forces to destructive behavior.” I read this and I envision the Red Hour Festival from “The Return of the Archons” in the original Star Trek series – mass chaos, raping, pillaging, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. This seems like over-the-top hyperbole more than anything else. Or maybe it’s that in my 40+ years I have never witnessed well-behaved children being driven by unseen forces. I have seen badly-behaved children do horrible things, but they would do those horrible things anyway. Halloween has very little to do with it. And as far as the “horrifying accounts of poisoned candy and fruits booby-trapped with razor blades and needles,” it has been demonstrated that there is about as much urban myth to this as there is fact. There are sick people who have done the whole razor blade thing, but these types of sick people put razor blades in children’s slides and in play areas every so often throughout the year. Again, Halloween has very little to do with it.

Honestly, most people know that October 31 has a mixed heritage of traditions associated with it – pagan, druid, Wiccan, Christian. But if a day can be “claimed” by the Darkness” as one writer put it, then is it not possible to redeem that which was lost? In that respect, how are the holidays of Christmas and Easter any different than Halloween?

Christmas’ place on the Western/European calendar was most certainly an attempt to “reclaim” a pagan/non-Christian holiday. The roots of December 25th connect it to: Saturnalia (a celebration of the god Saturn focused on relaxation, feasting, merry-making, and the making and giving of small presents); Natalis Solis Invicti (a celebration of the sun gods Ela-Gabal, Sol and Mithras); and the Winter Solstice.

Easter has a similar history. Before the time of Christ, various Western and Eastern cultures celebrated deities of fertility and sexuality including Ishtar/Astarte and Eostre.Easter eggs, Easter bunnies and the like all have their roots in pagan symbology and mythology.

So, what is different about Halloween? If the intent of a Christian family isn’t to glorify the Devil, but they want to dress up as nurses, soldiers, Bible Characters, Sponge Bob and Gary, fairies and dinosaurs, then how is it glorifying the things of darkness? For the devil and “his holiday” to be glorified/celebrated, don’t people have to be working at doing things that do just that? Can the devil and his demons actually be “worshipped on this day of darkness,” simply by people dressing up to go trick-or-treating or doesn’t their intention have to be set on glorifying the things of darkness? If it is possible to glorify the devil and evil just by participating in various activities on Halloween, then couldn’t one also argue that a non-Christian who goes to church on Sunday and who sings the songs and gives money to the offering is glorifying and worshipping God? Doesn’t our faith teach us that the state/intention of the heart is what is important, not the outward actions?

I guess the point of my question is this – isn’t intention an integral part of this equation?When the Church celebrates Christmas, does it matter that the dates we use for our celebration are connected to other pagan/non-Christian traditions or is it more important that we are using the day as a time to stop and recognize the importance of the birth of Christ into the world? (I mean, come on. It’s not like Jesus was actually born on December 25th!) When the Church celebrates Easter, does it really matter that in millennia past there were people who celebrated rites of fertility and sexuality at about the same time of the year, or is it more important that we are using the day as a time to recognize the importance of the death and resurrection of the Son of God for the world? (I mean, it’s not like Jesus was actually crucified and/or resurrected on Good Friday and Easter Sunday).When Christians observe Halloween, does it really matter that various groups both now and in the past have used the same day to celebrate their non-Christian beliefs?

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