1. Halloween is commercially significant
In the US it’s the 2nd most popular holiday and it generates 4-6 Billion Dollars in revenue. In the UK it’s the 3rd behind Christmas and Easter. Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny are holding Freddy Krueger at bay for the moment. But it’s changing.
2. Halloween is historically significant
The origins of Halloween date back over 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain [sow-in], a word that means the end of summer. This festival celebrated the end of harvest and the beginning of the Celtic New Year on November 1st.
By 43AD the Roman Empire had conquered most of the Celtic regions and in the following 400 years the Roman festival of Feralia was incorporated into it. This was day in late October when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead.
By the 800s Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the 8th century Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st All Saints' Day to honour those saints that didn't have a special day of their own. You wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out!
The Pope hoped to put a Christian spin on the pagan Celtic festival with a church-sponsored holiday [after all it had worked with Christmas]. Over the years the festival became known as All Hallows and the night before was known as All Hallows Eve or Halloween.
3. Halloween is spiritually significant
I have no wish to be reactionary but I’ve got issues with Halloween. I’m not about to mount a campaign. I’m aware that Christians have a reputation for the ‘spot it and stop it’ routine and I have no desire to strengthen that conviction. But to use an old Naval saying let me run these up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes them!
I’ve got issues with Halloween because
1. Halloween has become a time when wickedness is domesticated
Evil is portrayed as innocent. I think the Bible allows a place for imagination, pretence and fantasy but Halloween allows elements from the dark side of spirituality to be accepted in mainstream culture. It’s become a holiday of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic. Evil is portrayed as innocent and fun. And it’s neither. We need to remember the wickedness of evil. The devil and his demons are real. We have a real spiritual adversary who seeks our destruction. Of course through our identification with Christ we have nothing to fear from an enemy that he’s already defeated. But nevertheless wickedness and evil ought to be exposed, opposed and loathed. But our approach may actually be encouraging fascination with something that’s ultimately damaging.
2. Halloween has become a time when we celebrate what scares us
Out of love for the vulnerable, particularly children we ought to protect them from things that frighten them. Walking into Woolworths to be confronted by hairy spiders, a witch’s mask and a giant bat is not most young children’s idea of fun. At least our films have classification guidelines that allow parents the freedom to make a decision but no such restraint is exercised at this time of the year. We may be strong enough to cope with the associations with evil without being tainted and we may be brave enough to cope with the frightening images but not everyone is and as Christians we should therefore limit our freedom in love for others.
3. Halloween has become a time when we teach our children that extortion is acceptable
What else is trick or treat? We give people in our neighbourhood a choice between a rock and a hard place. It’s either ‘give me a treat’ or ‘I give you a trick’. Isn’t that what organised crime does?!
So, what could you do on thenight when the local children come to your door escorted by their elder siblings or their parents?
The following advice needs to be adapted to our personality and the age of the child on our doorstep!
1. Comment on their outfits and say something positive about how much time and trouble they went to.
2. Ask, ‘who do you think is the most powerful spiritual being in the world?’ and say no to all of their answers. Then ask them, ‘who do you think the devil is really scared of?’
3. Tell them that God once sent a baby from heaven to earth and when he grew up he scared the living daylights out of every evil spirit that he met. He even engaged in face to face combat with the devil and won. The devil thought he must have won when he was killed on a cross but it turned out that this was the killer blow that led to his complete and utter defeat and will lead to his future destruction.
4. Give them a sweet, hand out a tract like the one entitled ‘Halloween … What a Scream’ from the Good Book Company and tell them to come to church if they want to find out more!
‘Halloween … It’s A Scream’ The Good Book Company
‘Matters of Opinion: Hallowing Halloween: Why Christians should embrace the devilish holiday with gusto – and laughter’ A. M. Rearick III, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/october2/29.79.html
R. Mouw, ‘Making Real Decisions About Halloween’, http://www.beliefnet.com/story/47/story_4761_2.html