by Dale Reeves
Recently I asked my daughters what their kids are wearing as costumes for the various trick-or-treating events coming their way the next several days. Five-year-old Luke said, “I’m gonna be Buzz Lightyear at school, a triceratops at Mamaw and Pop Pop’s for trick-or-treating, and I’m wearing my sloth costume at the zoo.” Three-year-old Liam, who is obsessed with the trash, exclaimed, “I’m going to be Oscar the Grouch!” Their cousin, Miles, also three years old, said, “I’m gonna be Raffy” (translation—a giraffe). Livy, who just had her one-year-old birthday party, doesn’t get a vote. She will be Belle from Beauty and the Beast, because her mom loves Belle!
Every year on October 31, parents face a number of questions regarding Halloween:
“Should we allow our children to go out trick-or-treating?”
“Should we decorate our house with spooky and scary things?”
“Are we participating in the devil’s holiday?”
“Will our dentist be happy with the amount of candy our children consume that night?”
The answer to that last question is obviously yes—you’ll be seeing him in the future, contributing to his children’s college fund!
Seriously, what’s a parent to do? Without a sufficient knowledge of Halloween’s history, it’s hard to know how deeply involved in Halloween activities we should get. It becomes something every parent must sort out for their children.
A Mixed Bag
During the “Dark Ages,” in the Celtic countries of Britain, Gaul (France), and Germany, the Druids, who were the priests and teachers of the Celts, set aside October 31 to honor Samhain, their lord of the dead. They believed that Samhain summoned the souls of dead sinful men and that these witches, demons, and goblins roamed the earth on the eve of November 1, which began the Celtic New Year. They believed that these evil spirits might inhabit themselves in an animal, such as a black cat. The Druids offered the spirits good things to eat (“treats”) in order to protect themselves. They put on masks and costumes, hoping to “trick” the spirits into following the crowd out of town, thus getting rid of the bad souls.
Later, in the sixth century, Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel to “all saints.” In 834, the feast of “All Saints,” or “All Hallows Day” was moved to November 1. This day was set aside to honor all the saints who had no special days of their own. The night before was known as “All Hallows Eve,” or “Hallows E’en,” and finally “Halloween.” Elements of the pagan Celtic practices and Roman Catholic practices mixed together to form the Halloween traditions that are celebrated today.
Choosing Good Over Evil
So, where does this leave today’s parents? I have been on staff at several churches throughout my lifetime and have encountered parents representing complete opposite sides of the spectrum. Some parents absolutely want to stay away from anything that would “give the devil a foothold,” so they don’t let their children go trick-or-treating, or dress up on Halloween night. Instead, they may opt for a “fall family festival” or a “harvest party,” choosing to celebrate God’s goodness, thanking him for his harvest of autumn foods.
Some churches I have been affiliated with invite children to dress up for their “harvest party,” but have asked them to come as biblical characters. And, some children are delighted to discover that the Gadarene demoniac and the witch of Endor are among the characters in the Bible who represent the “dark side.” And, of course, Lazarus was one of the “Walking Dead.” Many years ago, when my wife was at home with our newborn baby, I took our older daughter to a church party dressed as the Holy Ghost. It was the easiest costume I ever made for one of my girls—a bed sheet with holes cut out in numerous places.
Other parents have chosen to participate fully in the community’s Halloween trick-or-treating and other celebrations, citing that many non-Christians view Christians as intolerant individuals who seem to be against everything. They see this holiday as just a way for their kids to have some harmless fun. Do your neighbors know what you stand for, rather than what you’re against? Do they see you as people who love to have fun, or people who sit in judgment of others?
Former senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, Bob Russell recently shared in his blog:
“Christian parents should share about Halloween’s pagan origins while warning that demonic power is real. Remind them that God’s power is greater, and because of Him, we should fear no evil. They can dress in alternative costumes and enjoy trick-or-treating without mimicking the wicked. . . . But I am troubled by the excessive, seemingly over-the-top celebration of Halloween in recent years. Stores and homes everywhere are decorated with extravagant displays of skeletons, witches, zombies, graves, and effigies. The fascination and considerable effort to draw attention to death and darkness is strange! I’m concerned the increase in these displays has coincided with the considerable growth of the Wiccan religion in recent years.”
Put on Christ
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, or not to celebrate Halloween with your family, here are a few practical takeaways I would suggest that will help you share the light of Jesus during this season:
- Pray for the protection of your children during this season of the year as well as every other day. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, NIV).
- Celebrate God’s goodness in the life of your family by thanking him for the many blessings and favors he has shown you this year. Thank him that he is the Lord of life. “So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead” (Romans 14:8, 9, NLT).
- Don’t let the devil get any credit for the fun you will have as a family. “So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them” (Ephesians 5:8-11, NLT).
- The best costume you could put on is one that honors Christ. In Romans 13:14, the apostle Paul gives us these instructions: “We can’t afford to squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence . . . Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!” (The Message).
So, let’s be diligent for ourselves, our kids, and our grandkids, as we “put on” Christ as our shield, our protector, our provider, our Savior, and our Lord. As his saints, those who have been “set apart” for him, we can thank him on “All Saints Day” for the many blessings he sends our way every day.
**I am excited about the new online search feature in which you can discover what our writing team has written on a given topic. We’ve been blogging for several years, and there is quite a bit of content we’ve archived here. Go to christschurch.community/blog/ and type a key word in the search bar such as “marriage,” “children,” “parenting,” “baptism,” “Holy Spirit,” “sexuality,” “discipleship,” or “holidays.”