I can still remember the one and only Halloween party I ever attended. I was in my early twenties and it was hosted by a very good Christian friend. I remember feeling rather odd as I stood; dressed like a Vampire Bride surrounded by Church mates all celebrating this unusual event which esteems things that go ‘bump’ in the night. Afterwards I decided Halloween was not for me.
Now, a decade later with a two year old son and another child well one on the way, the question of ‘Celebrating Halloween’ arises again. After all it’s become a commercial venture invading our supermarket shelves with party decorations, lollies, masks and endless costumes. Largely an American holiday celebration, I’ve heard it often said that when America sneezes Australia catches a cold. Now on October 31st Australian children can be seen dressing up as little superheros or goblins and attending spooky parties or heckling for lollies from their neighbours. One must ask if children should be embracing a supernatural celebration at all?
So what do we do as a Christian family?
Let’s pause first to reflect on what Halloween actually is. The practice mostly comes from Celtic paganism in the British Isles, and their feast of Samhain, the new year. The pagans believed it was the one night of the year when ghosts and spirits came out to haunt, and the Celts would appease the spirits by giving them treats. They’d dress up in costumes made of skin and fur so that bad spirits would not recognise and therefore possess their bodies. They would sacrifice animals, share prophecies or predictions and hope that the friendly spirits of family members would return home to join them for the night.
When Christianity finally came to Britain, it just so happened that November 1st was the Christian Feast of All Saints and the next day was All Souls’ Day. October 31st became the Eve of All Saints, or All Hallows’ Eve. These events all revolve around giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of His martyrs, whether those people be well known disciples like the Apostle Paul or simply the grandmother who led you to Jesus. For this reason many Christian’s celebrate All Hallow’s Eve to toast those who have gone before us and paved the way for our faith.
So, where does that leave us in regards to spooky parties and trick-or-treating? Is Jesus going to love you less if you let your child dress up as a princess or a villain and attend a Halloween party? Absolutely not. For our family the answer “to Halloween or not to Halloween”, lied in one very simple bible verse. “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial” (1 Cor 10:23).
This Bible verse is a strong reminder that while we can do anything, not everything is going to be helpful. What we do with our time either glorifies God or it doesn’t. As children of the light with the Holy Spirit living within us, we are reminded that Jesus not only defeated death on a cross but he promises eternal life with him in a place where there will be no more pain, suffering or death. Halloween (however commercial it has become), is ultimately a celebration of death, evil spirits and dark images designed to instil fear. For us Halloween and our faith simply cannot mesh. How can it fit with a life filled with the spirit of joy and unconditional love that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus and God’s word which clearly says “I have not given you a Spirit of fear but of love and power and of discipline (2 Tim 1:7).
Halloween cannot offer anything of benefit to our children, so we’ve decided not to part-take in it; however we don’t want our kids to think they are missing out on parties and lollies while their peers have all the fun. Here are a few healthy alternatives to celebrating Halloween:
1. Attend or hold a Light Party
This is a party where kids dress up in white or light colours and have fun but it doesn’t involve anything relating to spirits, witchcraft or Halloween.
2. Celebrate ‘Haloeen’
Rather than separate from the night altogether, why not hand out small gospel messages along with a lolly if children come to your door. You can find a wonderful Christian range of resources from this Aussie Ministry – Haloeen. It tells your neighbours you are still in the world but not of it and it’s an opportunity for confronting families with the Gospel truth.
3. Have a Night out
Take the kids out somewhere for a night just as fun as going to a party. They’ll never feel like they’ve missed out.
4. Host a party
Have a bunch of friends over for a BBQ get together and celebrate the Christian’s who have gone before us and suffered for the religious freedoms we now possess today.
One thing is certain, the question as to whether Christians should celebrate Halloween will never go away. Participation in this event is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever you decide to do this October 31st, if you have mixed feelings about celebrating Halloween, may I encourage you to seek the root of our hope that we have in Jesus. Seek guidance from the Bible, church leaders and trusted fellow believers and remember that it’s you the adult who makes these cautionary decisions, not your children. Children will never be objective where lollies and parties are concerned but they will grow up to remember what their parents valued, how you protected them and how you responded to Halloween with a Gospel focused heart.
Halloween will not be celebrated in our household. But it will be discussed, prayed about and given over to the most high.
Written by Richelle Wenham Wife and Mother to two beautiful children (pictured above) and Host of Rhema FM’s ‘The Long Lunch’ on Mondays 10am-2pm.