To Halloween or not to Halloween

Even though Thanksgiving is a holiday established from a tradition dating back to colonial America, and July 4th is the day we celebrate the declaration of our independence from Great Britain, I think I could make a case for Halloween being the most-celebrated holiday in the US.  Certainly it is looked forward to with much excitement and costume-planning by adults and children; even pets get dressed up.  Stores make a mint selling large amounts of candy as well as costumes.  People decorate their lawns and homes with elaborate, usually creepy, decorations; haunted houses and trails abound; costume parties are a given.

I don’t remember Halloween being all that special to me as a Jewish child growing up in Brooklyn, nor how young I was when I was allowed to dress up and trick or treat in my neighborhood.  I remember as an adolescent doing “Trick or Treat for UNICEF.”  The holidays that were most important to me were the Jewish ones, celebrating the miraculous intervention of God in the lives of my ancestors, reminding me that God was still a very present Being in my life, and just being really fun family times.

When two of my children were young, we allowed them to dress up and trick or treat in our neighborhood in Dayton, OH.  The costumes were usually made by the kids themselves and not very elaborate.  In those days, kids could still get homemade cookies or treats from the neighbors without fear of malicious damage, and we limited our kids on where they could go and how much candy they could eat.

When I became a Christian and started to look at the origins of Halloween, my views on celebrating this holiday changed. A friend of mine, who’d been involved in the occult before she became a Christian, was aware of the background of Halloween as a day celebrated by satanists, witches, and other occult groups, a holiday celebrating death and the macabre.  When my husband and I decided not to celebrate Halloween, we were in a very distinct minority.  Initially, to avoid the constant ringing of the doorbell, we’d leave the house early in the evening on the designated “Beggar’s Night” and return when it was over.  After a while, people realized we were not participating and just stopped coming by, so we just hung out at home as on any other night of the school year.

We have plenty of friends and family members who do celebrate Halloween – some of our own now-grown kids do – but we have never tried to preach to them or belittle them for their choice to do so.  When a child I know shows me a costume, I  admire it, but I still don’t take part in Halloween parties, Harvest parties, or any other celebration of this day.  I usually don’t express my opinion on this unless asked, but a recent article posted on FaceBook by a friend seemed to demand a response.   The Christian author offered three choices for Christians on Halloween: to avoid the holiday, to celebrate the holiday, and to redeem the holiday.  Somehow, those Christians who choose to avoid celebrating Halloween are often chastised – I’ve heard sermons preached about it – as if, by not engaging the culture in this area, we are not truly being ambassadors for Christ, not really being “in the world yet not of it.”  Kind of reminds me of when we home schooled our children, or had our home births; people would make offensively defensive remarks to us, as if by our own personal choices, we were condemning theirs, though that was never the case.  We would share our reasons, engage in discussion, and move on.

It’s been so long since I’ve done the research that I don’t remember the details of all the reasons not to observe the holiday of Halloween.  The article I mentioned gave some of the background – the Druids, the pagan worship, the involvement of the Catholic Church – and I won’t go into much of it.  You can always check it out on your own.  I just have several points I’d like to make.  Whether you agree with me or not, that is fine.  Just expressing my opinion (which is getting increasingly hard to do in this country)…

First, no matter how you try to dress up the holiday – pun intended – with Disney character costumes, Biblical people costumes, Reformation leader costumes, or just very cute, original, and well-made costumes, you cannot really get away from the fact that the basic thing about Halloween is its scare factor.  Halloween is all about being scared….because it is all about ghosts, witches, demons, and, to quote Yoda, “the Dark side.”  Whatever lightness and fun you may feel at a harvest party or when taking your kids trick or treating in your neighborhood is not the same lightness and fun that is exhibited in decorations, movies, and the general Halloween atmosphere: it is SCARY.  Personally, I don’t see the value in deliberately choosing to be scared, whether or not you think the scary things are real, but demons and witches ARE real, and they are not people-friendly; they serve a master whose goal is to corrupt and destroy people.  Thankfully, we serve a Master who is greater than theirs, and I don’t feel that I honor Him by celebrating His enemy’s holiday.

Second, I disagree with the opinion that you have to participate in the holiday in order to engage people in a dialogue about Christ.  I know people who choose to do this, and that may work for them, but it hasn’t for me.  I need to stand up for what I believe to be true and to be willing to politely and kindly explain my views to anyone who asks me.  “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” ( I Peter 3:15 ) To draw a parallel between the pagan animal sacrifices to their gods, and the rituals instigated to deter demons on All Hallows’ Eve, and the Jewish animal sacrifices ordained by and offered to Elohim is clearly to miss the point….. I would not participate in other pagan rituals, nor will I in this one, no matter how it has been sanitized. There is no equivalence between worshipping gods and worshipping God.

Years ago, when our kids were young and we were living in Dayton, OH, we knew another family who chose not to celebrate Halloween.  One year, though, they decided that they would have a Halloween party for the neighborhood kids, hoping to reach some of them for Christ.  No one came.  Finally, they called us and asked us if they could just come over and hang out with us. While we were together….noshing, chatting, playing games….they mentioned a neighbor who was really struggling, becoming conscious of her sinfulness but unable to move from bondage to freedom.  We ended up spending time in fervent prayer for her, and that night, she received the Lord as her Savior.  That was probably my most memorable Halloween, because, instead of trying to be part of something we could not condone, we engaged in spiritual battle against the forces of darkness and won a victory.  That was redemption – not of the holiday – but despite the holiday.

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