Protecting Body, Mind, and Spirit this Halloween
How can we protect ourselves and our families this Halloween? Well, there are many views on celebrating Halloween, and in my world of conservative Christians many stay away from any traditional Halloween observances, or have some kind of autumn party at the church. There are varied opinions on how big the celebration should be, and what dangers face our children and families.
How should Christians approach Halloween and is there a biblical way to observe this secular holiday?
Christian perspectives on the observance of Halloween are strongly divided. Some believers feel complete freedom to observe the holiday, others run and hide from it, many boycott or ignore it, a number celebrate it through more positive and imaginative observances or Christian alternatives to Halloween, and still others choose to take advantage of Halloween’s evangelistic opportunities.
Some of today’s popular celebrations associated with Halloween have pagan roots stemming from the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. This harvest festival of the Druids ushered in the New Year, beginning on the evening of October 31, with the lighting of bonfires and the offering of sacrifices. As the Druids danced around the fires, they celebrated the ending of the summer season and the beginning of the season of darkness. It was also believed that at this time of year the invisible “gates” between the natural world and the spirit world would open, allowing free movement between the two worlds.
During the 8th century in the diocese of Rome, Pope Gregory III moved All Saints Day to November 1, officially making October 31 “All Hallows Eve,” some say, as a way of claiming the celebration for Christians. However, this feast commemorating the martyrdom of the saints had already been celebrated by Christians for many centuries prior to this time. Pope Gregory IV broadened the feast to include the entire Church. Inevitably, some of the pagan practices associated with the season persisted and have been mixed into modern celebrations of Halloween.
What Does the Bible Say? Well, the Scriptures were written before Halloween became a tradition, so the Bible does not directly address the holiday. Some point to Ephesians 5:7-12 as a caution:
Don’t participate in the things these people do. For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, rebuke and expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. (NLT)
Many Christians believe that participating in Halloween is a form of involvement in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness. However, many consider the modern-day Halloween activities of most to be harmless fun. Certainly, you can discern whether your exposure and experiences at Halloween bring you and your family into contact with “evil and darkness,” o rif it’s more about kids dressing up as Cinderella and Spiderman and getting candy bars.
Christian perspectives on Halloween are strongly divided. Here are four differing views to consider:
- “Halloween is anything but harmless. It focuses one’s attention on witchcraft and demonism, which flies in the face of the holy God Almighty! When parents not only allow but also encourage their children to celebrate witches and goblins, they are teaching them that it’s acceptable to deal in demonism.” — Jerold Aust from “Halloween: Behind the Mask“
- “Rather than ‘hide’ in the face of evil, we should unabashedly and boldly create an alternative that is positive and uplifting; that celebrates good over evil and the triumph of God over Satan. We need to provide an environment that also makes room for heaps of fun while using the day as a ‘teachable moment’ to celebrate God’s protection, provision and purpose for our lives.” — Elliott Watson from “Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?“
- “Not all believers should celebrate Halloween. For those who have been redeemed from the occult, Halloween in its foolishness may contain what was for them deadly seriousness … It is understandable that they look with horror upon what once enslaved them. Such sensitivity may be appropriate for them, but it is not appropriate for the majority of Christians. Holding their opinions as appropriate for most believers is like having a former bulimic dictate how Christians should regard church hot-plate socials … Christians should instead celebrate Halloween with gusto. If we follow the traditional formula of having a good time at his expense, Satan flees.” — Anderson M. Rearick III from “Matters of Opinion: Hallowing Halloween“
- Are some Christians trying to remove themselves from the world? Ignoring Halloween or celebrating it with only believers is not exactly an evangelicalistic approach. Aren’t we supposed to “become all things to all men so that by all possible means” we might save some? (1 Cor. 9:22) As Christians, why are we here in this world? Are we here to live in a safe and protected environment, guarded against the evils in the world, or are we called to reach out into a world filled with dangers and be the light of Christ? Halloween brings people of the world to our door step. Halloween brings our neighbors out into the streets. I can think of various creative ways to seize this opportunity for developing new relationships and sharing my faith.
Here are several suggestions to keep in mind if you choose to take your child trick-or-treating or to an alternative activity, from my friend Steve Russo, who written a book on the subject titled Halloween: What’s a Christian to Do? He writes:
In considering the health and physical safety of children on Halloween,
1. Make sure your children are wearing warm clothes under their costumes.
2. Only allow them to wear costumes made out of fire-retardant material. Also make sure the costumes are loose enough to allow freedom of movement, but short enough so the child won’t trip. Believe it or not, falls are the leading cause of accidents on Halloween. And don’t forget to decorate costumes with reflective tape or some sort of glow-in-the-dark tape.
3. Be sure that costume accessories such as swords, canes, and saber lights are made with flexible materials.
4. Make certain that masks have adequate openings for the nose, mouth, and eyes for safe vision and breathing. Likewise make sure to use only safe and wash-able face makeup and body paints.
5. Supply a small flashlight for your child, as well as light-colored or luminous bags to collect their treats in.
6. Work out the trick-or-treating route and times in advance. Emphasize safety rules regarding traffic and strangers. And most important, plan on walking the appointed course with your kids, especially if they are under 12 (if they are over 12, send them in groups). This makes trick-or-treating more of a family activity and provides a better measure of safety as well.
7. Emphasize to your child the importance of bringing candy home for inspection before eating any of it. Then make sure that you sort through the goodies and throw away anything dubious.
In our family, we love autumn and decorate and celebrate this wonderful season. But we also celebrate Halloween as a fun time with the kids and neighbors and friends. Christians should follow their convictions and give fellow believers the freedom to do likewise. I suggest:
- Keep it close: Keep it in the neighborhood or at your church, with people you can identify, know, and trust.
- Keep it fun. Halloween is for kids. Make it a great time of fun. It’s a masquerade party with treats. Don’t scare people who don’t want to be scared
- Avoid the evil: Stay away from the evil portrayals. Supernatural evil is real; don’t minimize its reach or simulate its dark side.
- Take safety precautions, as noted by Steve Russo above, against things that can really make Halloween scary.