Is it a sin for Christians to participate in Halloween? It seems everyone has an opinion about this. For many Christians, this is the greatest question on their mind right now. Perhaps it’s on yours, or perhaps you’ve already made your decision on the matter. Wherever you fall on the issue, I think that it is good and helpful to take another look and consider: is Halloween a night that Christians should participate in or avoid? And if we are to engage this holiday, in what way should we? As Jesus followers we seem to be faced with two options regarding Halloween: we can reject it, or we can redeem it.
I remember dressing up as a secret agent, as robin hood, and many other characters and going trick-or-treating as a child. It was a fun time, and for me it was a night to join with other kids in engaging our imaginations and getting free candy. Yet even at that time, there were those who looked down on us for participating in “the devil’s holiday.” I’ve never been sure how a person can think that by dressing up as someone who fights evil and asking for candy around the neighbourhood a child is participating in evil, but these people were expressing their legitimate concerns. Halloween can be a day when evil is celebrated and practiced!
When making their case for the evils of Halloween, people are quick to point to its past. They point to things like the old Druid holiday Samhain, in which very dark and evil things took place. But that was then, and technically, Samhain is not the same holiday as Halloween.* Yes, Halloween is a day that was once full of darkness and pagan ritual: but is this a reason to reject it all together and disengage from your community?
If so, then there are many Christian holidays that you must also reject, as they are pagan days that have been redeemed by the Church over the centuries. One of these holidays is Christmas. In the same way that Samhain was once a season of evil, so were Yule and Midvinterblot. Yet, these became known as Christmas and the trees that once were burned in ritual were brought into homes as decoration and to be burned as Yule logs. Shall we purge our homes of our Christmas trees (which some of us fight so hard to prevent being called “Holiday Trees”), Yule logs, and anything else that may be reminiscent of another time or be used for some other purpose? I don’t think so. Instead, I rejoice that a time of fear and darkness has been redeemed as a time to celebrate the coming of hope and light into our world.
Others may try to tell you that Halloween is a holiday for Satanists—the most important day of their calendar! That’s great: so why are we so content to let the devil take the day as his own? All things can be used either for evil or for good, and even in places where evil goes on, good can prevail (such as Jesus eating and drinking with the most despised of sinners…but never sinning himself). Besides which, Halloween is not a Satanic holiday: its roots are found both in the pagan and the Christian.*
Should we reject Halloween?
For sure, I do not believe that Christians should participate in the ways that the unchurched do. It makes little sense for followers of Jesus to glorify death and gore and drunkenness and senseless indulgence in sexual immorality. However, as I said before, it seems that the One whom Christians are pledged to follow has given us an example to mimic in this area. To be sure, there were probably people sinning at the parties Jesus frequently attended, but he didn’t write them off or avoid them. He kept on attending and engaging and loving, all without sinning and while being a loving presence—a light—in the darkness. We should not become entangled in the evils of this day, as we should not become entangled with the evils of every other day; yet, as Christ-followers we are directed to be present with hurting people: where they are at.
Redeeming Halloween for Jesus
This leaves us with our second option: redeeming Halloween for Jesus. As I said earlier, Halloween can be a day where evil is celebrated and practiced…but so can every other day. But why cut ourselves off from the world on Halloween? Why not be in the world, but not of it?
We live in a culture where neighbours hide from each other. Less contact is better contact; good fences make good neighbours; these are the mantras we tend to live by. But this is not healthy or good. Loneliness is now pandemic in Western society to the point that many large cities across North America have identified it as one of the greatest dangers to well-being in their societies. The city of Vancouver is now home to a foundation that will give grants to those planning initiatives to gather neighbours together, such as block parties and other neighbourhood events!
If you attend Abundant Springs, where I pastor, you’ve probably heard me ask: how well do you know your literal, immediate neighbours? And the answer for most of us is, “Not well.”
Now, here we are on the one day a year when your neighbours are coming to you! And we think that we should run from the darkness and hide with the porch lights off, or gather together as Christians in a “holy huddle” to prevent ourselves from being “contaminated.” In my mind, this is nonsense! We are called to be salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-14), to make a difference. We are to place ourselves in a position where our light can shine brightly and bring others to the love of Christ! We are not to hide it (Matthew 5:15-16).
Three Ways to Redeem Halloween
The way I see it, we need to be present, and we need to be active as representatives of Christ on this day. We need not jump into everything that Halloween pushes without discernment, but we should seek to highlight the good, and build relationships with those God has placed around us. For this reason, here are three suggestions for how you can make Halloween a day where good is done for Jesus Christ.
1) Enjoy Participating in the Good
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. When we stand up and shout from the rooftops that Halloween is evil and that we’re not letting our kids dress up as princes and princesses and ask for candy, the world just sees people who don’t like fun and who don’t like them. I, for one, have no interest in being seen that way.
So put on innocent costumes, buy some candy (and not the cheap ones, set aside some money and get the good stuff!), and throw a great party.
Follow Jesus’ example: be present in your community and bring the best you have to offer. After all, when Jesus turned the water into wine, his wine was the best at the party!
2) Participate in What’s Happening in Your Neighbourhood
I know I’ll get some flak for this, but Christians: don’t run off to your church to “bring the community in.” I know this seems like a great opportunity to hold a church event in order to witness to and build relationships with the unchurched, but I would challenge that assumption. The Christian/pre-Christian ratio at these events tends to be in the neighbourhood of one pre-Christian to every hundred or so Christians. That’s not comfortable for that one person, and it’s not very effective, because all the Christians are either talking to each other and ignoring the other gal, or they’re all gathered around her for the “hard-sell!” Additionally, since you are all from your various parts of the community, it will be much harder to build and sustain any kind of deep relationship with her.
No, this year let me encourage you to be present in your own neighbourhood. You have a better opportunity of building relationships and being a light to people you can actually impact after that one day if you stay in your own neighbourhood and bless them.
Is your neighbour having a Halloween party? Why not go? And be sure to hand out candy at your home! Go where the people are and be a light!
3) Make Your Home the Hub of Your Neighbourhood
If none of your neighbours are holding a big Halloween bash, then why not put something FUN on? Now, I’m not saying you should go out and buy a truckload of booze and get everyone drunk; that would be counterproductive.
What I am saying, is find a way to make people want to come to your house. Find a way to buy some time with your neighbours so that you can talk with them and build a relationship. Sure, nothing will probably happen that day, but I guarantee that if you can build the beginnings of one or two relationships with your unchurched neighbours you will have opportunities to grow those relationships down the road.
What My Family Is Doing
This year, my family will be trick-or-treating. We will also have our propane fire-pit in our front yard with lawn chairs and tables and coffee and hot chocolate, home-made cookies, and really top-notch candy bars. We want people to want to come to our house and hang out. We want people to want to get to know us. And we’re hoping that this year will be just the beginning: that word will get out in our neighbourhood and that our low-key, front-lawn gathering will one day become a popular, front-lawn block party!
One More IMPORTANT Thought
The goal here is not to “convert” anyone: it’s to naturally build relationships. This is not a night to explain why, if your neighbour’s kids don’t accept Jesus’ gift of life, they will spend an eternity burning in hell. This is a night to be a friend. This is a night to show your neighbours you are human. This is a night to show your neighbours you love them. This is a night to let the light of Christ speak for itself.
So, no corny or offensive gospel tracts (Chick tracts, I’m looking at you!). And for goodness’ sake: don’t invite that neighbour you just met that night to come to church with you. Just build good relationships, share your story if asked, and one day, when you have a good relationship with that person, by all means, invite them to church with you!
I think it’s pretty clear where I stand on Halloween. My challenge to you is to consider what I’ve written for yourself and then do something. Be present in your neighbourhood and leave people with a good taste in their mouth toward Jesus.
What will you and your family be doing this Halloween?