October
15
Author
Christopher Appel
Halloween - A thoughtful Christian response

Over the years, the celebration of Halloween has steadily gained traction across the UK. Thoughtful Christians and parents annually wrestle with whether we should be engaging or how we should be engaging with Halloween.

For many Christians it can feel inconceivable to make a case for engaging in any way with Halloween. We are totally sympathetic to that view point. We would however also challenge ourselves, as Jesus does in Mark 7:15, that it is not the external or participating in the external that makes us holy or unholy, but the heart itself. Paraphrasing the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22, as far as conscience allows, we want to wisely engage with all things to all men so that be all means we might be a blessing and see the salvation of some. This paper will attempt to cover both of these Biblical perspectives.

This year with the realities of the COVID pandemic, it feels like the stakes are even higher. Kids have missed their friends, communities have missed doing things together, companies have pushed Halloween merchandise sooner and harder than before and those who usually make a big deal of Halloween have not been able to celebrate during the past 18 months. It feels like the pressure’s on…

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN

Halloween is commonly accepted to trace its roots to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the end of summer and the start of winter, a season when the boundaries between the supernatural realm and the natural world were at its thinnest. It was believed that the spirits of departed family members would visit and therefore lavish feasts were prepared. It was also believed that at this time more malign spiritual creatures walked among the living and therefore dressing up and disguising oneself was a means of protection against these spirit beings.

As the gospel spread, it is believed that the early church used the opportunity of an existing festival to set in place a feast day that would compete with the pagan festival. 'All Saints Day' or 'Old Hallows Eve', was set up as a day to celebrate all the saints and also is the place where 'Halloween' borrows its name.

Today, the general public usually mark Halloween on the 31st of October by dressing up and 'trick or treating', often with a 'spooky' vibe. At a darker level, modern-day witches and warlocks still attach significance to the day and hold certain rituals. So undoubtedly, Halloween has association with darkness, evil and the occult.

 

THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

When considering how best to respond to Halloween, as with many other areas of culture, it can be a helpful practice to distinguish between what we as Bible-believing Christians know to be the underlying truths behind something, and the actual way it is practiced in the wider community.

These can be described as a lower level that is spiritual at it’s core, and the upper level, which is how most people experience Halloween.

At the lower level we know that Halloween is based around a pagan festival that seeks to validate the spirits of the dead and is a day specifically used by the occult to perform dark and often illegal practices. We know that Satan is real and that Halloween is used to worship Satan and his demons. 

At the upper level, we have children dressing up in somewhat scary outfits to collect sweets from their neighbours, enjoying a party together, as well as communities gathering and working together to decorate their streets or neighbourhoods in a ‘spooky’ way often in order to bring some fun and life to an otherwise rather dull time of the year. Remembers, for 99.9% of the people you know, this is not joining in with the occult, they see it as just a bit of harmless fun.

As Christians it is very clear that we are in no way to engage, participate in or support the occultic practices that define the lower level dark underbelly of Halloween. Wholesale and thoughtless adoption of Halloween at that level is obviously a no-go. We would council outright rejection of that manner of thinking.

However as Christians it is equally clear that we are to leverage natural opportunities and rhythms of life to engage with our neighbours and neighbourhoods to bring the blessing and goodness of God to them. 

The challenge for Christians and Christian parents, is to decide to what extent, if any, they want to engage with Halloween. As far as engaging with Halloween at this upper level, is a question of faith and conscience. We have laid out a few common options and encourage you to consider any or a combination of the options below when deciding how to handle Halloween 2021.

Option 1: On the one end of the spectrum, we can completely try to counter Halloween with Christians parties and celebrations that aim to keep kids off the streets and out of Halloween costumes by giving them an alternative. Christian ‘Light Parties’ are an example of this approach. Although a completely respectable option, a Christian alternative to Halloween can completely isolate our children and realistically, any missional motive of inviting non-Christian friends can be seen as being ‘weird’ or even ‘extremist’ by those friends. Well thought through discussions can help your children process the pros and cons of this approach if it is your preferred option.

Option 2: The other perfectly acceptable position which lies closely on the spectrum to Option 1, is trying to ignore Halloween and pretend as if it doesn’t exist. Switch off the porch light, move to the back of the house and if the trick-or-treaters do ring the doorbell, just ignore it for the evening. Like the previous position, efforts will need to be made, particularly for parents of older kids, to explain their reasons for following this option in a compelling way, and be on the lookout not to develop a non-missional, ‘bomb-shelter’, us-and-them, attitude towards friends and neighbours.

Option 3: Use the build-up towards Halloween in your community as a missional opportunity to get time with your neighbours, your kids friends and their parents. You need not actually allow your kids to go out trick-or-treating or participate in the day itself, but you can certainly leverage the opportunity to the max for relationship building.

By being in the mix with your friends and neighbours, you will definitely have opportunities to start a spiritual conversation. One positive element about this festival is that it is some kind of acknowledgement of the spiritual realm. This provides a great opportunity for conversation about spiritual things with friends and neighbours. Some might express fear, others interest, others might say it is “all nonsense” but whatever they say, you don’t have many better chances to talk about spiritual things with them.

Although many Christians who favour options 1 and 2 would argue that option 4 shouldn’t even be on this list, it is nonetheless on our list as a perfectly acceptable option if well thought through and done with a clear conscience.

Option 4: If you’re comfortable with it and your conscience allows it, you could allow your children to dress up and go out trick-or-treating with their friends or even attend a party (following the usual parenting diligence). You could also open your home to other children to collect sweets and treats from you on the day. Although this is a perfectly acceptable option for Christians, you would want to take some time considering what outfits would be acceptable for your children to wear as they trick-or-treat or attend a party with their friends. You can help them to have fun, look cool and dress up wisely for the occasion, but it is probably best to steer clear of overtly sinister costumes. It could also be a good idea to prepare your children for a few scenarios that might require additional discernment.

 

Conclusion

Regardless of which option or combination of options you go with, Halloween is here, and it’s here to stay.

During Halloween it is a good idea to spend time with your kids celebrating the triumph of Christ over Satan and his demons. They will be especially alert to the supernatural around Halloween so use their openness to talk to them about how Jesus defeated Satan at the cross, and how Satan has lost the battle, and how Christ protects us from the Devil’s schemes. You could do Ephesians Chapter 6 as a family devotion. Remember, if as parents you go on a big anti-Halloween rant then be very careful that your kids don’t pick up that you are saying that the Devil is more powerful than Jesus is. Certainly don’t give him more credit than he is due!

Depending on your personal faith and conscience, Halloween doesn’t have to be a time of switching off the lights and pretending you’re not home ;) It can be a great opportunity to get in there, get to know people, bless people and make a real difference in the lives of those around you.