What are we to do with Halloween?

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NOTE: This article by Pastor Jace Hudson was emailed to church members before Halloween.

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Around this time every year, Jenny and I take up the same old debate: should we or shouldn’t we participate in Halloween?

There are a lot of reasons Christians may choose not to participate in Halloween. There are its sketchy pagan roots,[1] its fascination with violence, and its celebration of the works of evil. Not to mention it’s currently the second most popular party night in North America. If that’s what Halloween is about, why participate?

However other Christians point out that for most of their friends Halloween has more to do with dressing their kids up as princesses and superheroes, amassing mounds of candy, and being out with their neighbors. And if that is what Halloween is about, why not participate?

So what’s a Christian to do with Halloween? Are we in or are we out? Do we trick or do we retreat? Do we join in or do we create an alternative?

Halloween and Christian Liberty

Well personally, my conviction is that Halloween isn’t itself inherently good or evil. Yes it has pagan roots, but then so does Christmas and Easter, as do birthdays and Sundays. So I put Halloween in the Romans 14 category. There the apostle Paul says, One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind… I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean… For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Rm. 14:5, 14, 23)

As relates to Halloween, the whole chapter is worth a careful study, but my point is that I think there is Christian freedom with what we do with Halloween. Only we need to be fully convinced in our own mind what we believe the Lord is calling us to. We need a faith-filled response to Halloween.

Now this is going to look different for different Christians. In my own study on this topic, I’ve come across what I believe are at least three legitimate Christian responses to Halloween. And I appreciate how the authors at Grace To You sum up these responses (and I took the liberty of listing a few Scripture passages each position might claim):

  1. Some Christians will adopt a “No Participation” policy. As parents, they don’t want their kids participating in spiritually compromising activities—listening to ghost stories and coloring pictures of witches. They don’t want their kids to dress up in costumes for trick-or-treating or even attending Halloween alternatives. (Deut. 18:10-13; Jn. 17:16; Rm. 12:2; Eph. 5:7-13; 1 Jn. 2:15)
  2. Other Christians will opt for Halloween alternatives called “Harvest Festivals” or “Reformation Parties” — where the kids dress up as farmers, Bible characters, or Reformation heroes. These alternative celebrations can be an effective means of reaching out to neighborhood families with the gospel. Some churches even take acts of mercy into their community, “treating” needy families with food baskets, gift cards, and the gospel message. (Mt. 5:14-16; Rm. 12:1-2, 5; 1 Pt. 3:13-17)
  3. Still other Christians choose a third option: limited, non-compromising participation in Halloween. There’s nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbors. Even handing out candy to neighborhood children—provided you’re not stingy—can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behavior does not dishonor Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests. (Mt. 5:14-16; Jn. 17:14-19; Rm. 12:5, 21; Rom. 14:4; Phil. 2:15)

These nuanced positions illustrate how Halloween is an issue of conscience. Therefore every Christian (and especially every Christian father) should examine his conscience and decide which position he believes best honors the Lord.

Halloween and My Family

As for me and my family, we’ve never really participated in Halloween before, but we’ve decided to this year. There is a lot about this holiday we don’t appreciate but the culture we have been sent by Jesus to reach is going to celebrate Halloween regardless. And in our neighborhood (filled with families with children) we see Halloween as a missional opportunity.

  1. Halloween is an opportunity to teach our kids about the true face of evil. – With all the ghosts and ghouls decorations as well as the werewolf and vampire costumes, Halloween is a good time to teach our kids about the true face of evil. That Satan prowls around like a roaring lion,  seeking whom he may devour (1 Pt. 5:8). But He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 Jn. 4:4). And God has forever disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ] (Col. 2:15).
  2. Halloween is an opportunity to enter into our neighborhood. – Jesus has set us apart to send us back into the world. And Halloween is one of the best opportunities of the year to enter into the rhythms and celebration of our neighbors. Moreover, it’s also one of the best times of the year to knock on the door of neighbors we don’t know yet. And it’s also the only time of the year when neighbors we’ve never met will flock to our door.
  3. Halloween is an opportunity to bless our neighbors. – We plan on giving away some good candy and a good amount of it. We want to be that house people say they want to hit up every year. So if by chance anyone asks us why we do what we do, we can tell them about how God’s been generous in blessing us.

So that’s what we choose to do with Halloween… this year. Truth be told, if we lived in a different neighborhood or if our kids were a different age, we might come to a different conclusion. Context matters.

All that being said, it’s a point worth making that we shouldn’t participate in Halloween festivities just because we want our kids to be like everyone else’s kids. As Christians, we’ve been bought by Christ. Our life’s not our own. Therefore we need to seek the will of our Lord. He very well likely might call some of us to participate in Halloween and yet others of us not to – all for His sake.

So what do we do with Halloween? My counsel to other Christians isn’t to do what my family does, but to follow their own conscience before God. Whatever is not of faith is sin to you. So prayerfully consider what you have faith for in regards to Halloween.

Halloween and Each Other

Finally, let me point out one last lesson we learn from Romans 14 that relates to Halloween. In verse 4, Paul asks, Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Paul’s overall counsel is to follow your own conscience, and allow your fellow brother or sister in Christ to follow theirs without you judging them. We need to allow freedom for other Christians (even in our own church!) to peacefully disagree. As one author I read wrote, “Christians who choose to do something different than you on Halloween aren’t the enemy, so let’s keep the ‘friendly fire’ to a minimum.”

In the end, we might not all agree on what to do with Halloween, but hopefully we can all appreciate that we want the same things: to honor God and to be lights to our neighbors. So let’s respect the convictions we each hammer out through study of the Scripture, prayer and faith. And let’s look beyond whatever decisions we make to see one others’ hearts for the Lord and for our neighbors.

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There are a lot of articles and blogs out there about Christians and Halloween. A few I found helpful include:

  1. Christianity and the Dark Side – What About Halloween?, by Al Mohler
  2. Christians and Halloween, from Grace to You ministries
  3. Open the Door to Halloween, from Desiring God (especially the imbedded video)

 


[1] Halloween is rooted in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, an occultic celebration of the dead that took place at a supposed time of supernatural intensity heralding the onset of winter.