"A more positive approach is to see Halloween as an opportunity for celebration of God’s goodness in rescuing us from darkness into his light, and for ministry."
Pit yourself against what seems to most people to be harmless fun, and you will be dismissed. I recently expressed horror at the decomposing skeletons wrapped in spiders’ webs, and other creepy displays lining the walkways of our local amusement park. The "decorations" were advertising the approaching, “Halloween Haunt” (a five-week event, no less). In response to my critique, the teenager next to me said: “Lighten up – Halloween Haunt is awesome.”
That exchange pretty much sums up the struggle Christians have over how Halloween should be viewed. Some of us recoil from it as a celebration of evil with all kinds of destructive, money-hungry practices. Others see it as just fun.
Like it or not, Halloween is entrenched in American culture, and has grown over the years into an eight billion dollar business (Christians and Halloween). I never did like Halloween, even before I had any spiritual reservations about celebrating horror, occult imagery, death and dismemberment. I recall when I was about three, my well-meaning dad tried to abate my fears by showing me a monster mask, then putting it in front of his face to demonstrate that it wasn’t real. I still screamed, ran and hid, in spite of the insight.
More realistic horrors were presented to me as an adult when I worked in social services in a rural county with a high crime rate. The police gave us a grizzly training on occult-related crime because it was a problem in the county. They said they had to gear up for Halloween because there was so much violence, including animals stolen for sacrifice in satanic rituals.
Various Christian Approaches
There are many websites which condemn Halloween, citing biblical texts that forbid any association with witchcraft, and giving lurid descriptions of the Celtic festival of Samhein (part the pagan origin of Halloween.) But the vast majority of people in our culture don’t participate in Halloween for any reason other than to have fun. A balanced treatment of the issue put out by Grace Communion International tends toward a ‘lighten up’ perspective, pointing out that many of us have no trouble with scary segments in the movies we watch, or with a visit to the haunted house at Disneyland. Of course, the article points out that any activity that provokes guilt in a believer should be avoided, a general principle given full treatment in Romans 14.
How Churches can Welcome Halloween
A more positive approach is to see Halloween as an opportunity for celebration of God’s goodness in rescuing us from darkness into his light, and for ministry. For a long time, churches have celebrated their own festivals on Halloween, from Harvest Festivals, to Reformation Festivals, to All Saints parties in Catholic churches. It is, after all, the Eve of All Saints Day, so historically the day belongs as much to the church as to the ancient celtic druids.
One church I attended invited the whole neighborhood to a fabulous game night staffed by the youth group and an army of adults, giving out candy for participation and more for prizes. The biggest hit of the night was a hay ride all around the property (quite a big deal in an urban neighborhood.)
There are lots of other fun ideas for redeeming Halloween:
• Some churches have taken candy to firemen, or nursing home workers, or others on late shifts.
• Other churches go back to our roots and do something meaningful to remember the martyrs of our faith.
• Some churches join the community in efforts to give kids a safe place to trick-or-treat, opening their parking lots for "trunk or treat."
• Others provide tracts or Bible coloring books to give away along with candy, to make the most of a wonderful chance to bless kids in the neighborhood.
The website Teach Sunday School has 15 Halloween Activities that Draw Kids Closer to God.
Celebrating eternal life is a whole lot more fun than celebrating death, so without too much effort, we can pull off something at least as cool for our communities as some overpriced haunted house!
Colleen Scheid is a member of “Friends of the Groom” theater company, and a freelance writer of drama, articles and fiction.