When I was growing up, Halloween was my second favorite holiday. Why? The night held all the appealing elements of fun. Dressing up in costume. Spooky stories about ghosts and witches. The promise of free candy by shouting “Trick-or-Treat” at a neighbor’s door. Halloween was parties at school, carving pumpkins into candle-lighted Jack-o-Lanterns, and playing games involving apples.
All those years, what I never asked was why we did any of it. What was the purpose of the costumes or candy, the parties or pumpkins. Why on this one night did things deemed dark or frightening become celebrated? It never occurred to me these traditions were from another time or had a purpose. Much like whistling in the dark (to ward off evil spirits), Halloween traditions were just something we did.
As an adult, I began questioning the October holiday routine. When my children were small, churches were suggesting Halloween was evil, offering alternative activities focusing on Autumn or harvest. But it wasn’t until later, on a spiritual journey which drew me deep into witchcraft, that I explored Halloween’s origins.
In a nutshell, October 31st has been associated with the dead or access to the spirit realm from it’s most ancient origins. Spirit communication, divination, veneration or remembrance of the dead were traditions and rituals known in a Celtic festival known as “Samhain” (pronounced “sow-in”). This understanding has remained a part of its heritage even to what we recognize now as Halloween. Despite attempts by the church (beginning in the 3rd century) to overlay or replace darker aspects with Christian doctrine or themes, Halloween has remained connected to the world’s perspective of death and a variety of practices deemed forbidden in scripture.
Since the mid-late 20th century, the celebration of Halloween in America has grown. Many now believe it rivals Christmas as a secular tradition. Once treated as a kind of “child’s holiday” has resulted in adults reclaiming the festival as their own in many ways. Newspapers list costume parties, balls, and spine chilling events dedicated to death, darkness, and horror. Stores have entire sections with candy, decorations, and a myriad of orange and black themed items. As ghost hunting has gained in popularity, it is becoming common for people to visit cemeteries on Halloween, go on “ghost hunting tours” of reportedly haunted places, etc.
As a result, we have a yearly debate among Christians regarding Halloween. Should we be concerned? October 31st has been restored as Samhain for Wiccans and many witches. The day is one of power for many occult practitioners, including some Satanists. How then should Christians respond to this annual celebration within our culture?
Some choose to close the curtains, turn off the light, and ignore the doorbell. I respect that decision. And if God has given a Christian a “red flag” or some kind of warning check in their spirit, they should be obedient to it. However, I believe for some there are approaches which will resonate not only with them but with unchurched neighbor’s, by shining light into the darkness:
- Host a prayer meeting or worship night.
- Host a family Christian movie night.
- Be the neighbor who shines light (create an inviting doorway or porch) on what is a spooky night.
- Play uplifting contemporary Christian or praise and worship music which people can hear when you open the door.
- Offer the best candy along with a Pocket Sized Gospel of John and a winsome tract explaining the gospel.
- Talk to your neighbors (especially if you don’t interact much the rest of the year). Offer parents coffee or hot cider, especially if the evening is cold. Let people see Christ shining through you.
The most important thing to remember is all days belong to God. Everything we do should be tempered with love for our Savior and for one another. After all, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 NLT.
Do you have any questions for Kristine?
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