Why I — A Christian — Celebrate Halloween

For one magical night, every girl can be a princess. Enchanted, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

It’s okay to hate Halloween. Lots of Christians do, because they feel that the day’s pagan roots are so dreadful, there’s no room for celebration, compromise, or wiggle room.

It’s also okay to love Halloween, and I’m one of those people who do.

Halloween is one of many subjects about which good people disagree, and as a person who comes out swinging with very little provocation, I have to admit that it’s hard to keep my mouth shut when someone tells another person how wicked she is for dressing her child up as a pink bunny and escorting her from door to door with a hollow orange plastic pumpkin.

What’s worse is that Halloween gets hit from all sides — from those who decry it as incontrovertibly evil because of its roots to those who care nothing about witches and warlocks but panic at the thought of other people’s children eating candy and walking about, in the dark, at night. These are the people who feel that they, and anyone else in a village of social service workers, medico consultants, educative counselors, and government regulators, are best qualified to make decisions for ordinary parents. I think I like the first group, better.

Because, at its most elementary, uniquely Americanized base, Halloween is a family holiday.

Home, and family, is the heart of our nation, and anything that strengthens it is good. Sophie and Rose, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

I know. There are groups of children who wander about unattended, but even these frequently travel in a protective mass, and in years of trick-or-treating with our own kids and the generation after that, we have seen young teenagers protectively watching the five-year-old bumblebee and seven-year-old princess in their care.

For the most part what we have seen are parents — mom, dad, or both — hovering in the background as their ghost, or dinosaur, or oversized M & M — walks up to a brightly lit porch, presses the bell, and shouts/whispers/mumbles/announces, “Trick or Treat!”

The homeowner invariably smiles, and a delightful exchange between children and adults ensues as the bowl is brought out and the selection made. “Thank you!” is called out, and if not, the parent in the background stage whispers a reminder. Under the watchful aegis of that parent, a child forays into an independent moment, and he is safe on a night of magical and imaginative adventure.

America’s greatness lies not in the people who elect themselves to be its leaders, but in its real, ordinary, hardworking people — the kind who shepherd pink bunnies from door to door. Homeland 3 by Steve Henderson, licensed open edition art print at Great Big Canvas.

And everyone is happy: the parents, because they are proud of their children and are focused on spending time with them; the children, because not only are they hauling in the good stuff, but because they are sharing this time with those proud parents; the homeowner, because it’s fun to make children smile. No school-sponsored carnival, with its age-appropriate games and emphasis on bright lights and Safe Safe Safety, can compare — nor can it draw families together into the tight, independent, self-protective units that they are designed to be.

And for no other reason than this, Christians might want to re-think their take on Halloween. It is a holiday that encourages families to venture out into the community and interact with it, on their own, without professional guidance or the supervision of any establishment. Mom and Dad are in charge — not the teacher, not the police officer, not the doctor, not the bureaucrat — and you’d have to admit that, in this day, this isn’t happening much anymore. Too many people think that our children are their responsibility, and we “share” our concerns, somehow.

Yes, Halloween has pagan roots. All holidays do, ultimately. But as imaginative human beings, we reshape and reform the celebration and tradition to conform with our beliefs, and we wind up with highly personalized forms of observing Christmas, and Easter, and Valentine’s Day, and Halloween. What is most important — and more and more vital in a society that grasps for more and more control — is that the traditions we create strengthen, empower, and fortify families.

Join me at my column, Commonsense Christianity, at BeliefNet.

Because families, not government, are the basis for a strong civilization.

So Halloween, my friends, may be far more valuable than we realize.

I invite you to join me at Commonsense Christianity, my column at BeliefNet, where I post three times a week. For more on Halloween, please see Three Halloween No No’s for Christians and The Big Halloween Bash.

This article is linked to Thriving ThursdaysLive Laugh RoweWe Are That FamilyJenny MullinixEnchanted Homeschooling MomKatherine’s CornerGraced SimplicityMama BZZSimply Helping HimRaising HomemakersHope in Every SeasonA Wise WomanWholehearted HomeDeep Roots at HomeA Little R and RWalking RedeemedGrowing HomeTeaching What Is GoodMoms the WordMy Joy Filled LifeA Mama’s Story


12 Responses

  1. We’re not into Halloween (trick-or-treating is a non-issue for is in Japan), but I respect your perspective. Thanks for sharing it. It would be nice if more people voiced their opinions about the holiday as calmly and rationally as you do.

    1. Thank you, Jeremy, for your gracious comment. I think any of us can get into being shrill when we feel on the defensive, about anything. I know that my hackles raise when I walk in the room and someone is on the soapbox, announcing, “Ebenezer brand dishwashing liquid is the ONLY appropriate product for Christians to use.” I used to slink out of the room, muttering under my breath, but now I either (try to) smile graciously and let the person talk on, or I will gently offer my alternative opinion. As Christians, we represent a wide variety of opinions on many small things that can grow beyond what they need to, and we learn from one another when we listen, and then calmly reply. Not always easy.

      I have a pen pal in Japan that I have been writing for 37 years, ever since our respective teachers “introduced” us in the seventh grade. She was able to visit us once at our home — I hope someday that I can visit her in hers! I wish you and yours a lovely day — Carolyn

  2. Sarah

    Great post. I have struggled back and forth with this holiday since becoming a Christian and have tended to lean towards celebrating it minus the gore. I respect those who chose not to celebrate but the way you’ve worded it here echo my sentiments exactly.

    1. Thank you, Sarah — I appreciate that you have struggled with the concept, and worked your way to a solution that works for you. That’s the important part. Too many Christians never decide for themselves, but allow others — pastors, speakers, authors, evangelists, noisy people who push their opinions in your face — to do so for them.

      My job is to speak up for the quiet people who think, meditate, go our own way, and politely refrain from shaking these people and say, “Great! You’ve got your own opinion. Will you let others have theirs already?”

  3. I live in a Mennonite area and a good majority of us celebrate Halloween. I have never once thought of it as celebrating the devil. It’s just a fun night to dress up, hang out with your friends and get loads of candy! Thanks for stopping by the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop I co-hosted!

  4. Katherine

    I appreciate your perspective. I’ve never really given much thought to the pagan roots of the holiday because like you said ALL holidays have pagan roots. For us the big determining factor in not celebrating Halloween is just the scary/evil aspect that is so prevailing in our culture. There is nothing “family friendly” about the witches and zombies that are crowding the costume aisle at walmart. I know many Christians who celebrate Halloween and stay away from those types of things, but to an unbelieving world Halloween is synonymous with scary, dark, and evil magic. We just choose to to tie ourselves in anyway to a holiday so steeped in the things scripture speaks against. We choose to get involved in our community in ways that promote gospel thinking and living. Halloween just doesn’t fit the bill around here. Thanks for sharing!

    1. A thoughtful perspective, Katherine, and one I respect. Although our family participation in Halloween is such because it has good family roots for both of us, replete with fond memories of spending time with our own parents and siblings, dressing up and scouring the neighborhood, lately we have seen it as means of shining a light in the darkness.

      Yes, there are dark elements that some people associate with the holiday, but thanks to families like ours, there is a counterside — coming out, into the darkness, with the flashlights and the candles and the lanterns and the porchlights, weakens the strength of the darkness.

      We never purchased costumes — we always made them. Great fun.

      Recently a reader sent me a link through Google Plus on an article about Halloween which questioned its initial pagan roots, and of course I can’t find it. The gist was that, although there are pagan roots, there is a Christian -based counterpart that predates the Wiccan aspect. I’m really lousy about bookmarking things — it looks like my desk, filled with things I never re-visit, but never what I want to really re-read! — carolyn

    1. Thank you, Anne — I am honored and very happy. I often feel that, like John the Baptist, I’m out in the desert, yelling away in my tinny little voice, and no, I am not so overweeningly arrogant as to take the comparison past that. It’s the — out in the wilderness where nobody is, part. I do not pastor a mega-church, I have no antecedents with connections, publishers do not notice me — and yet I am bound and determined to speak up and out with a message that isn’t getting out there:

      Christians need to think. We need to stop focusing on small, unimportant things and realize that the one thing we all believe in is the only one that matters: Jesus Christ, and He is the one who binds us together so that we can bring His name and His love to a suffering, deceived, overwhelmed world.

      You, and I, and others like us speak up for Christ’s love. The big places — the church establishment, the publishing companies, the mega-Christian corporations that depend upon $5 checks from individual people but other than that want nothing to do with them — these are the places that purportedly speak for Christ, but their message is just an extension of the world’s: money, fame, influence, power.

      God has always used small ordinary people in odd, extraordinary ways, and though we may not see how it all pulls together, we wake up each day and ask Him, “What do you want me to do today?” And we do it. — Carolyn

  5. Jennifer

    You have some rational viewpoints for celebrating halloween. However, there is no correlation between your reasoning and being a Christian, as the title so boldly addresses. There are no scripture references to validate your claims.

    These are your own thoughts and opinions – which is fine, EXCEPT when you claim to represent the LORD. (Christian means a follower of Christ and His teachings.) As Christians, we need to know what the LORD says about such things, because as He tells us in Isaiah 5:20-21 “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!”

    So, what exactly does God say about celebrating “holy-days” and the “traditions of man”?? What does He command?? We need to “Find out what is acceptable to the LORD” (Eph. 5:6-10) because Jesus says in John 14:15-24 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” There are NUMEROUS scriptures telling us not be like the world around us, and many examples of people choosing to worship God as they please, rather than as God commands.
    Here are just a few scriptures:
    “You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.” Deuteronomy 12:1-9
    “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles” Jeremiah 10:2-3
    “Do not be partakers with them.” Ephesians 5:6-10
    “Come out from among them and be separate” 2 Corinthians 6: 11-18

    More can be found at http://www.openbible.info/topics/celebrating_halloween

    Christians need to prayerfully seek the LORD as to whether or not to continue to engage in halloween-type traditions. We can agree or disagree on all the reasons, but God’s Word is not based on our opinions, it is Truth. We are to seek the LORD, and only Him, to strengthen, empower, and fortify our families. There are many Feasts, Holy Days, and events within God’s Word that our families can celebrate and not only draw us closer to Him, but also closer as a family. Halloween is not one of them. Sadly, it is still today, a celebrated high-holy day for the occult. Those who have been saved by Christ out of such bondage are appalled to see their brothers & sisters in Christ making light of it and even venerating it.

    And I agree with you, Christians might want to re-think their take on Halloween.

    Jesus said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, so that you may keep your tradition.” Mark 7:9

    1. Jennifer: I appreciate your viewpoint, and I thank you for so generously sharing. I especially like this sentence:

      “Christians need to prayerfully seek the LORD as to whether or not to continue to engage in halloween-type traditions. We can agree or disagree on all the reasons, but God’s Word is not based on our opinions, it is Truth. We are to seek the LORD, and only Him, to strengthen, empower, and fortify our families.” — Carolyn

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