As my children get older my thoughts about Halloween have become more evolved. In all my years growing up it was a fun fall time to get free candy. When my daughters were both very young it was fun to dress them up in costumes and still go out and get free candy. Now that my oldest is nine our conversations have become far more thoughtful.
For a little over an hour (right before bedtime) my wife and I and my oldest daughter started to talk about what we were doing for Halloween this year. The conversation started because my daughter had deeper questions about Halloween this year and what it is all about.
From what I could find, the roots of Halloween date back about 2,000 years to an ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. These tribes celebrated their new year on November 1. This time marked the end of summer and the harvest period and the beginning of winter. With winter coming there were often a significant number of deaths. Their tradition involved costumes and fires with a desire to celebrate the good and ward off the bad spirits.
When the Roman Empire conquered Celtic territories by 43 AD they began to mix their fall traditions during hundreds of years of occupation. In 609 Pope Boniface IV began claiming traditionally pagan holidays for the church and established the Catholic feast of All Martyrs days. Pope Gregory III (731-741) later expanded this to include all saints as well as all martyrs.
By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. As traditions and practices were blended the holiday was established as The All Saints Day (All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas). The night before became known as All-Hallows Eve.
Today we celebrate Halloween as a commercialized holiday where Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday. Not to mention that 25% of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween
So in the coming days there will be pumpkin carving, bonfires, apple bobbing, haunted attractions, hay rides and my personal favorite trick – or – treating. The reality is that we live in a diverse culture with diverse celebrations. Halloween has not been always pagan or always Christian, but it has been a regular part of our culture and many different cultures. Are we going to define our traditions for our family or let someone else define them for us?
I don’t think removing ourselves from the conversation is the answer. How are we going to be a light and share anything good if we alienate ourselves from the people we are supposed to love? The reality is that you have freedom in Christ. I like the Apostle Paul’s approach, he became all things to all people so that he may save some. (1 Cor. 9:22)
Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Pagans are superstitious; Christians are guided by the truth of God’s Word. Evil spirits are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year; in fact, any day is a good day for Satan to prowl about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). God has forever “disarmed principalities and powers” through the cross Christ and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through [Christ]” (Colossians 2:15).
Take this opportunity to teach your child what you believe. Study the matter for yourself and follow your convictions. Let others do the same without condemnation from you. You may be wondering what we are going to do this year as a family. The truth is we have not decided yet.
I imagine we will express our personalities as we get dressed up in fun (not scary) costumes. We will have fun together as a family using the creativity that God has blessed us with to carve pumpkins. Some of us may go out trick – or –treating. Maybe this year we will talk about that pumpkin being lit on our front porch to remind us that we are supposed to be a light in our community as the love of Christ grows in us. We will celebrate the changing season and give thanks to God for His provision in our lives. I am glad to be at a church that finds ways to express what is important to us as a believing community. So on Saturday the 29th we will be at church for the Fall Jubilee.