One of the first sermons I ever preached was about Halloween. I was very excited about this opportunity, but I had a conundrum. On one hand, I was pretty new to my (renewed) faith and was ‘on-fire’ with the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, I had always loved Halloween. When I was little my two favorite Saturday morning TV shows were Scooby-Doo and Creature Features. I grew up liking the strange, the monstrous and the spooky. But how do I reconcile such an ‘evil’ holiday with my Christian faith? So I did what college trained me to do – I did research. I Googled and I Yahoo’d (yes, this was a while ago) and I perused the church library. Unfortunately I kept coming across confusing and contradicting information. Worse, in almost everything I read there was no sourcing – no links or attributions to facts or scholarly articles. Finally I came across a great website that actually had done all the proper research – Halloween: Myths, Monsters and Devils. I encourage you to read all of the detailed research at that site, but the bottom line is that just about everything we think we ‘know’ about Halloween is simply myth and legend with no factual basis.
One final observation may be in order: If the holiday is of such antiquity, and survived so long into Christian times among the Scots and Irish, then we would expect to find it as a major event, or even a minor event, in the lives of the Scots – Irish of the Appalachian Mountains and the Ozarks. In fact, we do not find it there at all, even among the practitioners of “folk magic,” or “witchcraft,” except after the cultural assimilation of the area into the American mainstream following World War One.
We would also expect to find it, along with all or most of the so- called “Druid” customs associated with it, in Medieval Western Europe. We do not.
There is no factual basis in Halloween being a Druidic, satanic or even witchen ‘holiday.’ In fact, there seems to be a lot of propaganda surrounding Halloween.
So, what’s a Christian to do about this day of ghosts and witches and goblins terrorizing our houses for tricks or treats?
Well, using as our foundation our new-found understanding of the origins (or lack thereof) of Halloween, let me state my thesis:
Halloween, like almost anything else, is what we MAKE of it.
Let me give you some examples to help explain this. If I asked you what a swastika means, you would probably answer that it represents evil and horror and genocide (and I certainly wouldn’t argue with you about that!).
…did you know that prior to Nazi Germany using and abusing the swastika, it was perceived globally as a symbol of good luck?
The Boy Scouts even had a good luck medal with the swastika on it:
Before Nazi Germany, the swastika was one of the things that you’d see today being serially posted on Facebook (‘Share this good luck charm with your friends!’)
Now, of course, it means something completely different. Its meaning was changed.
Think also of the cross. Today it is a symbol of Christian hope, faith, love and grace. But, 2000 years ago it was a symbol of death, torture and tyranny.
Again, its meaning was changed.
Which brings us back to Halloween. We know now that, despite what people think, Halloween is NOT a satanic or even pagan holiday. With that in mind we can make Halloween to be WHATEVER WE WANT IT TO BE.
Toward this end I am reminded of the years my family and I lived in Glen Burnie Maryland. Were we lived was the epitome of the suburbs – houses lined up street after street. While everyone was pretty friendly with each other, there was little sense of real community – real connectedness. Except, that is, on Halloween. On Halloween night when little witches and ghouls (and power rangers and pokemon) wander up and down the lighted streets in search of treats, the adults would pull out their lawn chairs and sit out front of their houses and actually carry on conversations with each other. It was a time of true neighborliness. It was a bucolic scene of fun and friends (and candy!). To me, this is what Halloween is all about and I’m not going to let anyone else define it differently for me.
So, as a Christians I believe that we CAN celebrate Halloween – the positive aspects of it. We should, though, refrain from the darker aspects (no Jason’s or Freddie’s) and simply enjoy an evening under God’s gracious love wherein we can connect to our friends and neighbors and, for one day at least, understand the joy in giving to those that come to our homes looking for something to eat!