For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confess,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
I am the proud dad of three little girls and recently they have been invited to several Halloween parties, not to mention their schools’ annual Halloween bash. So what are we as Christians to do with Halloween? I am not alone, many Christians are baffled.
A good place to start is to take a look at the history of the holiday we commonly call Halloween. The modern celebration called Halloween is a yearly holiday observed by people around the world on October 31st. The origins of the holiday has a complex history that is rooted in paganism and Christianity. Its pre-Christian origins incorporated traditions from the pagan harvest festivals and festivals honoring the dead in Scotland and Ireland.
Halloween is also thought to have been heavily influenced by the Christian holy days called All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. These holy days were a time for the church to honor the saints and pray for departed loved ones who had not yet reached Heaven. The earliest record of this holiday is in 837 when Pope Gregory IV ordered its church-wide observance. By the 12th century, it had become widely observed by Christians throughout Europe.
Over time, strange ideas and practices began to be connected with the holiday, such as ringing bells for souls in purgatory and wearing masks and costumes to disguise oneself. These practices eventually evolved into the modern-day Halloween activities that include trick-or-treating, wearing costumes, and attending costume parties.
Not all Christians embraced this holiday. During the time of the Reformation, Halloween came under attack by Protestants who denounced purgatory as a “popish” doctrine. Puritans in New England were strongly opposed to the holiday and banned its practice in the new colonies. However, Halloween gradually made its way to North America through the mass Irish and Scottish immigration of the 19th century. It quickly took hold. By the 20th century it was celebrated across the United States by people from all backgrounds.
It is important to say that Christians’ attitudes towards Halloween are very diverse and that we can and do disagree over what to do with Halloween. In some traditions such as the Anglican Church, Christians celebrate the All Hallow’s Eve through special worship services that include prayer and fasting.
Many Protestant churches celebrate the holiday as Reformation Day, to remember the Protestant Reformation. Others celebrate with Harvest Festivals or Reformation Festivals, in which children dress up as Bible characters. Still other churches embrace the holiday by providing events such as Trunk-or-Treat where families can come and get candy in a safe, Christian atmosphere. Many Evangelical Christians reject the holiday because they feel it celebrates or embraces the occult and paganism.
What to Do with Halloween?
I may have explained a little bit about the history of Halloween, but you’re probably still wondering, “What should I do with Halloween?” Here are a few things to take into consideration as you discern how you, your family, and your church should handle Halloween.
- Don’t be a Freak
So many Christians are just downright freaks when it comes to Halloween. What I mean is they retreat from the world, lock their doors, turn off their lights, and get under the covers on Halloween night. Worse yet, they judge other people by whether or not they celebrate Halloween. I think some Christians can and do turn nonbelievers off by their attitudes about Halloween.
- Be Missional
I think Halloween is one of the best opportunities to be missional in the year? My family and I get together with some other families for a meal. Then we go through a small kid-friendly neighborhood together to collect candy. It is very innocent. Every year I have a chance to talk about Christ as we walk through the neighborhood. Don’t miss the moments and opportunities the Lord may be giving you to share and live out your faith.
- Set Boundaries
I am not advocating a wholesale celebration of Halloween. Much of it is dark and can introduce your children to the occult. I encourage you to use discernment, prayer, and set boundaries as needed. There are times when we can and should say no if it is going to compromise our faith in Christ. I can’t tell you what to do in every situation; how that plays out depends entirely on you and your context.
- Talk to Your Children
Tell your children about the history behind Halloween, and warn them about the dark side that can and does so often get associated with the holiday. Children are smart, and Halloween can be a teaching time to share with them and others the gospel of Christ.
- Don’t Judge Others
Lastly, don’t judge others when it comes to celebrating Halloween. Good Christians can and do disagree on this issue. Some Christians feel very strongly about not celebrating Halloween while others have no problem with it at all. I believe that it is an open-handed issue, that each Christian must seek the Lord and obey his or her conscience. You have to decide what is right for you and your family when it comes to celebrating Halloween.
Winfield Bevins serves as lead pastor of Church of the Outer Banks , which he founded in 2005. He has a doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He lives in the beautiful beach community of the Outer Banks with his wife Kay and two daughters.