What do you think about Halloween? Some Christians think it’s just fun and good times. Some Christians think it’s downright devilish. To help answer this question, I polled a handful of Christians, including pastors, theologians, authors, teachers, new Christians, strict Christians, loose Christians, and a bunch in between. The replies were fascinating. Here are a few of them.
To Trick or Treat or Not: Should a Christian Celebrate Halloween?
- “No, I don’t believe we should celebrate Halloween. However, I do believe it’s acceptable to substitute Halloween for activities like “Harvest Festivals” as this allows us to instill positive values through fellowship, food, and hard work.”
- “While Halloween conjures up the fun kid ideas like candy, dressing up in a costume, acting scary, and maybe visiting a haunted house, nothing about the holiday is truly edifying or constructive. The elements of fear, morbidity, borderline (at least) identification with the occult, and focus on how much a child can get for himself do not square well with the truth of Philippians 4:8 and other Scripture passages.”
- “I wouldn’t advocate the creepy (and worse) aspects of it, but I don’t understand why Christians of all people wouldn’t redeem this once-in-a-year opportunity to go door-to-door in their neighborhood and be warmly received every time a door opens and/or to warmly greet their neighbors from their own doorstep. What an unusual opportunity to get to meet and greet neighbors.”
- “Halloween is simply a fun time for kids to dress up and get candy from others.”
- “I think it’s perfectly fine to celebrate Halloween, so long as you don’t celebrate the dark side of it. I say take your kids out in cute costumes and let them get some free candy, rather than deprive them of it.”
- “Usage determines meaning. The origins of Halloween are obscure and therefore mostly irrelevant, but what does Halloween mean today? To kids it means CANDY. To adults it means dressing up—often provocatively—and celebrating all things macabre and quasi-occultic: skulls, death, ghosts, demons, witches. At best it trivializes things God warns against. At worst, it’s a holiday in which non-Christians mock the end of the broad road they’re on. Celebrate Reformation Day instead.”
- “In short, no. Depends on who/what you are celebrating. Celebrating Satan? BIG problems. Fascination with ghosts, demons, etc.? Perhaps unhealthy because it trivializes the spiritual. Dressing up your daughter as a hooker or hooker princess? Deplorable! Dressing your kids up in cute costumes, having fun as a family, and insuring that you collect more candy than the money you spent on the costume? Good stewardship.”
Chances are, you can find your preferred position somewhere in the options above. To sum it up, there are three main ways that Christians approach Halloween.
Three Halloween Options
- Resist it. To some, Halloween is just plain Satan worship and demonism. These people will turn off their lights and head to the basement on Halloween evening, letting the doorbell ring eerily in the stillness of their monastery. Alternately, to any innocent trick-or-treaters that dare come by, they will stuff a gospel tract into the candy bags, accompanied by a theological rant on the evils of Halloween.
- Replace it. The “alternative” crowd is probably most popular among Christians. Here’s where you have fall festivals or trunk-or-treat in the church parking lot. The Halloween alternatives run the gamut from full costume events for the kids (complete with candy), to revival services (complete with a gospel sing and potluck dinner). Another option, popular among the reformed crowd, is to celebrate Reformation Day, wear John Calvin masks, and have trivia games based on the Institutes.
- Redeem it. There is another option—a redemptive approach to Halloween. This view recognizes the problems of Halloween, yet celebrates the day by showing love, engaging in mission, and rejoicing in God’s victory.
Halloween: Don’t Refuse. Don’t Retreat.
When we look at the Bible, we see anything but a reclusive approach to the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Jesus associated with religious prudes, right-wing fanatics, abject swindlers, disease-infested cripples, and well-known prostitutes (See Matthew 21:31; Luke 7:36-39). Christ’s disciples engaged the culture (Matthew 10:16). Early Christians grappled redemptively with the contemporary culture instead of rejecting every aspect of it (1 Cor 9:19-23; 10:23, 33). Before He left, Jesus gave His disciples a promise and a command. He said, “I give you power and authority. I am with you. Now, go. Be my witnesses” (paraphrased – Matthew 28:18-19; Acts 1:8, c.f. 2 Timothy 1:7).
The retreat of Christians from culture and life is diametrically opposed to Christ’s command to be witnesses (Acts 1:8; John 17:11). When Christians run from such opportunities rather than redeem them, we surrender to the advances of the enemy. We give up opportunity. We forsake our mandate to make disciples.
Is this running away appropriate? Do we retreat in other areas? Should we shun ministry in the gospel-starved ghettos of the intercity? Should we abandon church planting efforts in malaria-infested overseas missions? Should we neglect this needy world in order to maintain tidy bastions of Christian safety?
How Will You Celebrate?
“Celebrating” Halloween does not mean engaging in all the negativity—gore, witchcraft, Snickers gluttony, whatever. Gospel living is strong enough to defeat, let alone withstand, the less-than-wholesome aspects of Halloween celebrations. The presence of evil in the world, regardless of how it shows up, should not intimidate the believer from engaging in redeeming opportunities for the sake of the gospel.
What’s Happening on Halloween?
What’s happening on your street? Is demonism creeping over your neighborhood? Are people being seduced into the sordid cesspools of witchcraft and Satan worship?
But maybe not. Something good is happening on Halloween night. There is an opportunity. People are coming to your door. Or, you’re going to theirs. This is an opportunity to meet them. To start relationships. To be kind, to love, to share, to rejoice. To redeem an opportunity for Christ.
Why would you refuse it?
- Be redemptive. Rather than be reclusive, about Halloween, be redemptive. It’s easy to be consumed with the Christian bunker mentality regarding Halloween: “How am I going to protect my kids from the wicked influences, and the scary costumes, and the awful demonism of Halloween?” These are fair questions, as far as they go, but we should go even farther: “How can I serve others on Halloween? How can I spread the love of the gospel and the truth of God’s Word?” Instead of huddling down in your anti-Halloween Christian bunker, engage others, love others, and serve others.
- Be a friend. This Monday night, you have the opportunity to build relationships and make friends with your neighbors. Maybe you should be known as the neighbor that handed out the most awesome candy in the neighborhood. Perhaps children and parents will think back over their evening (in the fog of a sugar high) and remember how kind, generous, and inviting you were. Maybe you can express the love of Christ to others in the way that you welcome them, give to them, and talk with them. You may not have time to tell everyone “the plan of salvation,” but you can show forth God’s love in your behavior and start a redemptive relationship. (This probably means that you will turn on the porch light and buy a few bags of candy.)
- Don’t be naïve. The origins and some current practices of Halloween are antithetical to biblical teaching and gospel lifestyle. Rather than blindly accepting everything that Halloween is about, be discerning and careful in the way that you “celebrate” the day. Resist the devil (James 4:7), and witchcraft (Gal 5:20), but celebrate the triumph of God in energetic, victorious gospel witness.
- Be gracious. You may have a strong position on Halloween. That’s fine. Remember, however, that other Christians may have different, yet viable views about the day. Rather than attack other people about it, be gracious and charitable.
Perhaps the whole issue, then, is not whether or not Christians should ‘celebrate’ it, but how. There is a better option than hiding in your basement. This Halloween, go on mission, and demonstrate the love of Christ.