TREAT OR RETREAT: WHY HALLOWEEN IS MY BOO
Updated: Jan 28, 2021
Football is in full swing, people are buying more Yankee Candles than usual, and fruit flies are beginning to die. It's the most wonderful time of the year: Fall. Which also means that we’ve taken our family vote and we’re all going as Star Wars characters for Halloween, even the puppy.
I’ll be honest: I first felt like a closet Halloween-lover. Despite the fact that I grew up trick-or-treating my whole childhood, I always had this awkward uncertainty: “Is it really okay to love a day that’s been relatively taboo in the church in years past and that some Christians abstain from altogether?”
But then my love for planning neighborhood parties collided with this controversial holiday and something really special happened that freed me up to not only participate, but to go all in with Halloween.
About five years ago, after my husband and I had been co-hosting neighborhood events for quite some time, we turned our attention to Halloween. With ours being a newer neighborhood, we had all been all dispersing to the more established ones around us for our trick-or-treating merriment. In cahoots with our neighborhood party-planning team, we decided drastic measures needed to be taken to get people to stay. So, we started with our neighborhood Facebook group and what happened blew my mind. Before we knew it, we were designing treasure maps for all the different “stations” which included everything from hot dogs, hot chocolate, popcorn and s’mores to a haunted garage and haunted trail!! We had neighbors coming together––young families, singles and some married-without-kids, and empty nesters––to pull this off. There is no other way to describe it other than the fact that our neighborhood CAME ALIVE. People were saying that they had never had so much fun on Halloween- even as a child!
All of this caused me to further consider the Christian subculture concerning Halloween. In short, here are three objections I’ve heard (and maybe even had myself) and why we might reconsider them:
Objection: But Halloween Has Pagan Roots.
Worshiping on Sundays, wedding rings, our calendar, eye makeup, piñatas, kites, bridesmaids, and saying “God bless you,”all have pagan roots. Does that mean we should throw out our planners and only attend Saturday services? How can I engage in this part of my culture knowing that it has religious roots, but fallen ones? It's comforting to know that the Bible addresses some of these very concerns- in different circumstances, but with principles that apply today.
The apostle Paul wrote to a church that was arguing over whether or not they could eat meat that had been sacrificed to demons and which of the Jewish holidays they should and should not recognize. Though he was “fully convinced that nothing is unclean in and of itself,” he also understood that for some, it went against their conscience. Consequently, he urged them to withhold judgment, be motivated by love, and use their conscience to determine how to proceed on these opinion level issues. Paul basically said, "There is no demon meat – just meat that has been given as a good gift from God. Don’t get rid of the meat; get rid of its evil association and redeem the meat for Jesus.” Just as you are free to worship on Sundays, wear eye makeup and a wedding ring without violating your conscience, you are free to enjoy, celebrate and redeem Halloween.
Objection: But Halloween is scary! There are skeletons and tombstones!
There can be legitimately scary parts to Halloween. Yet, I wonder- would it all scare Jesus? He was surrounded by some pretty dark things, including religious leaders he described as whitewashed tombs. How’s that for scary? What if in fact, we should be more afraid of the self-love and vain conceit in our own hearts than our neighbors' lawn decorations? I want to push back against the temptation to disappear and disengage because I'm more spooked by a haunted garage and would rather hang out with people who are frankly more like me.
As we resist the urge to sensationalize this day, we can shift our view from the big, bad world out there to the big, bad world in here, in us… And in doing so, we become less fearful of spooky lawn decs, more humbled by our own inner darkness and freed up to see the redemptive parts of Halloween.
Objection: But bad things happen on Halloween.
Bad things do happen on Halloween. Awful, evil things. And as believers, there are parts of this holiday that we don’t condone: inappropriate costumes, taking part in anything demonic (i.e.: ouija boards, séances, etc.), drunkenness and sexual sin. But consider broadening your view of evil. The average American Christian family who celebrates the birth of Christ on Christmas morning also lives in the tension of a season where western commercialism runs rampant. Are we as spooked in December by the temptation to “charge it!” as we are in October when we see plastic skeletons hanging in our neighbor’s tree? The evils of greed that give way to compounding credit card debt don’t stop us from celebrating Jesus. And they shouldn’t. The unholy and irreverent parts of our culture at Christmastime do not––and should not––keep us from celebrating the arrival of our Savior. We can reject certain aspects of Halloween and embrace the redemptive aspects.
So, when you’re considering whether you should treat or retreat, consider Jesus, who stepped into our world. He wasn’t fearful or unnerved by the darkness of the time and place He entered history and He isn’t terrified or even alarmed by the darkness of my world, my heart. He knows better than anyone how deep my darkness goes and despite all this, He comes right to me- unafraid, undaunted, and in love. That’s how I’ll approach Halloween.