"As Christians, Jesus’ death and resurrection teach us to trust God as to why death exists, and what happens to us once we die. So Halloween provides a great opportunity to show confidence in the face of death."
Halloween in Britain
During a recent visit to London, we asked our 50-something American host whether they celebrate Halloween in the U. K. She said they do now, because they caught the Halloween bug from Americans. How ironic, as the Celtic traditions of the U.K. are the source of our modern notions of Halloween. This was especially obvious after a visit to Stirling, a small town in Scotland, which had buildings, trees, and a churchyard that looked like a Hollywood set for a scary Halloween movie!
God at Work in Halloween?
The holiday’s roots shed some light on how God might be at work in the Halloween craze. In ancient times, the holiday Samhain (the Celtic predecessor of Halloween) aided the community’s survival by providing an opportunity to assess resources to survive winter, both in terms of food and morale. According to Celtic lore, the worlds of the living and the dead drew closer at Samhain, allowing spirits to interact with humans. Ancestors and other departed souls were especially honored.
Today, Halloween is a time when people (especially children) can come together to poke fun at something that can cause spiritual indigestion: death. This spooky festival reminds an “indoor nation” like America that birth, death, and rebirth are an integral part of the natural world and the human experience.
As Christians, Jesus’ death and resurrection teach us to trust God as to why death exists, and what happens to us once we die. So Halloween provides a great opportunity to show confidence in the face of death, as Peter encourages us in I Peter 3:14-16:
Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
Practical Ideas for Halloween
Community building: Host a party or activity (such as pumpkin painting or carving) that includes people with diverse religious backgrounds. Share the roots of Halloween, and ask how it compares to similar holidays such as The Day of the Dead in Mexico. Have some fun. Joy and humor are contagious!
Remembrance: Share childhood memories about Halloween customs, especially children and those who didn’t grow up in the U.S. What was your favorite Halloween costume growing up? It’s fun to compare notes about how the holiday and its companion, Mischief Night, are celebrated in different areas.
Self-expression: Encourage independent thinking about choosing a costume and look for clues about emotional activity in the costumes children choose. Affirm children's choice and ask them why they picked it, and what they like about it. This can help them develop confidence in their own choices, and the divine spark that lives within them.
Witnessing: Be prepared to talk about death, especially with a child or adult who is still hurting from the loss of a loved one or domestic companion. Witness to how believing in Christ helps you deal with the spiritual indigestion of death and maintain hope. And if you have trouble thinking or talking about death, it may be time to pray about your own fears of death.
Halloween can be the reminder that we are never alone, in this life or the life to come—thanks be to God.
Phyllis Strupp is the author of Church Publishing's Faith and Nature curriculum and the author of "The Richest of Fare: Seeking Spiritual Security in the Sonoran Desert." She enjoys scary costumes and has a black cat that is ready for Halloween! Read another Halloween article from Phyllis, The Many Masks of Halloween.
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