When I was younger, one of the first haunted houses I attended for Halloween was actually a part of my local Baptist church building in my small rural hometown. It was pretty hokey. One of the church members was dressed up like a ghoul and led us from room to room. One room was nearly pitch black, but the walls were covered from top to bottom with aluminum foil. Some fellah dressed in a kind of foil suit was standing in the corner. We could barely see him as he walked and tapped us on the shoulder, on the arm, on the top of the head. I think I freaked more people out because I was wearing glow-in-the-dark make up on my face. So there was an invisible fellah poking us, and my head was levitating in the middle of the room. Freaky joy for all the kiddos there. Another darkened room had a line of several bowls on a single table. My group was told that the bowls contained various organs harvested from human bodies. What bodies? Who the heck knows? But it was cool when we felt inside the bowls and imagined that the raw chicken, pig, and cow parts from the local Piggly Wiggly were human remains. The rest of the rooms were also a mix of cool and lame–the stuff that makes great Halloween memories.
Now I do serious Christian theology stuff and so have nothing to do with that evil Halloween nonsense.
Whatever. I love Halloween. Does this somehow violate my relationship with Christ? Nah.
I suppose as a guy who is devoted to Christ, the Church, and Christian theology, I should give you a long explanation of the roots of Halloween, how it came from an ancient pagan celebration called Samhain (pronounced sah-win) which involved sacrifices, and it’s likely some were human sacrifice. I can also tell you about how the Catholic church took the momentum of that celebration and created All Saints Day, a day when we can think about the heroes of the church who have died. And how unlike the other Christianized pagan celebrations (Easter and Christmas), All Saints Day never really took off in the community at large. Halloween really isn’t seen as a Christian holiday by anyone. But that doesn’t mean that Christians must avoid it like the plague.
Sadly, some people think that the holiday is nothing but the celebration of evil, the devil, and pagan mysticism. Maybe it used to be, but that’s not what it is these days–at least not in the places I’ve seen it celebrated. It doesn’t matter what it used to be, what it is now is what matters. Now it is a time when people watch scary movies, dress up in costumes, go door-to-door looking for candy, and carve faces in pumpkins. Now Halloween is a time of seasonal fun. I don’t know anyone who takes the pagan rituals of Halloween seriously. I’m sure they are out there, but that’s not what Halloween represents to me or to the people of the community.
When I carve a face in a pumpkin, I have no intentions of scaring away evil spirits. My faith in Christ does that. When I give candy to the kids that come to my door, it is because I love making kids happy and not because I’m afraid they will put a supernatural curse on my house. When I watch a scary movie with friends it’s not because I’m eager to glorify death and the devil; it’s because scary stories are thrilling and entertaining.
To be sure, some people go too far. Participation in pagan religious ceremonies for fun enters into the realm of spiritual exercise. If someone tries to engage the spiritual world through pagan religious practices, that definitely goes against basic Judeo-Christian principles and biblical mandates. So I think that participating in a séance or using a Ouija board to communicate with the dead is out of line for the Christian. If the Christian trusts Christ to meet all his spiritual needs and then pursues spiritual needs though different avenues, that is spiritual adultery.
But as for the pumpkins, the cartoonish pictures of ghosts and witches, and the trick-or-treating, I’m happy to participate in those things mainly because they are cultural and not religious phenomenon. It’s the same reason I decorate eggs on Easter (originally a pagan practice) or decorate a tree at Christmas (another pagan practice). These are cultural things that don’t violate my fidelity to Christ and the Church.
For the past several years I have told people my plans for Halloween in a tongue-in-cheek manner. I tell them I have a long list of things to do. Put up the decorations outside and inside the house. Buy chocolate for trick-or-treaters (quality stuff, not that cheap stuff in black and orange wrappers). Go to Halloween parties. Help out at my Church’s harvest celebrations. And, of course, worship the Devil. But even though I have good intentions of worshiping the Devil each Halloween, I never ever get around to it. Since I obviously don’t consider it important, I won’t even add it to my list this year.
Of course, that was never on my list, but hopefully you’ll understand my point.