Halloween: Treat or Retreat?

Across the world, the month of October ushers in a new season of weather, pumpkin-themed foods, and fall celebrations. Also, October means the arrival of an often-celebrated day: Halloween. While the celebration provides an outlet for costume creativity and unrestrained candy consumption, for many Christian families the question remains: Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

It’s easy to see Halloween as one of those dividing lines among Christians. Do we participate or do we not? Is it evil or harmless? Many churches, schools, etc. have now opted for “Fall Festivals,” which in some ways is just a twist on Halloween or an avoidance of the dilemma. So, what’s the right thing to do?

The answer: it depends. We’re not sitting on either side of the fence here, just giving you a few things to think about and maybe a different way to process the question.

It is a time for cute decorations, parties, pumpkin carvings, lots of laughter, and enjoying going trick-or-treating with neighbors. Halloween is, for many, a non-religious festival altogether, so some Christians don’t mind participating. Christian perspectives on Halloween are sharply divided. Some feel complete freedom to observe the holiday, while others run and hide from it. Many choose to boycott or ignore it, while a number of believers celebrate it through positive and imaginative observances or even Christian alternatives to Halloween. Some even take advantage of Halloween for evangelistic opportunities.

However, God desires faithful obedience for you and your family. For Christians, Halloween offers the opportunity to model faithfulness and obedience in our decision-making. So what might that look like?

At the very least, Halloween provides a conversation starter between you and your kids, or a neighbor, or even a co-worker. From there, Halloween presents an incredible opportunity to develop new relationships and share your faith. As a parent, continue to study, pray, and seek God’s wisdom on this topic. Follow the conviction of your own heart through the Holy Spirit so that, whatever your family decides, others might see Christ working through you.

As you make your decision on whether to celebrate Halloween, here is more information about the celebration – how it started, what it means, and what the Bible tells us that can guide our decision.

What comes to mind when you think of Halloween? There’s a good chance you think of an assortment of dancing skeletons and decade-old candy corn. But the origins of Halloween extend all the way back to a group of Celtic pagans living in the Iron Age. Halloween originated under the title of Samhain. This ancient three-day harvest festival was created by the Celts in Northern Europe. Translated in modern Irish, “Samhain” means “summer’s end.” The festival literally signaled the conclusion of summer and the beginning of a new season. Originally, Samhain stemmed from pagan and supernatural roots, through bonfires and offerings.

As the Celts danced around the fires, they celebrated the end of the summer and the beginning of the season of darkness (Winter). It was believed that at this time of year the invisible “gates” between the natural world and the spirit world would open, allowing free movement between the two worlds.

During the 8th century, Pope Gregory III moved All Saints Day to November 1, officially making October 31 “All Hallows Eve.” Some say this was the church’s way of claiming the celebration for Christians. However, this feast commemorating the martyrdom of the saints had already been celebrated by Christians for many centuries before this time. Pope Gregory IV broadened the feast to include the entire church. Inevitably, some pagan practices associated with the season persisted and have been mixed into modern celebrations of Halloween.

Swirling around Halloween’s fall festivities and trick-or-treating are the not-so-subtle connections to problematic supernatural practices. Despite the distance from its period of origin, Halloween still remains connected to paganism.

On a general level, Halloween is a time of the year celebrated by advocates of Wicca, a network of practicing witches. As the official religion of witchcraft, Wicca believes October 31 to mark the time when the separation between the spiritual and physical realms is the thinnest. In other words, Halloween is the best time to try and interact with the supernatural realm, according to Wiccans.

Going further, some of those otherworldly connections align with Satanism. Halloween has always maintained a relationship with occultism. Additionally, Halloween’s premise includes an intentional and public display of imagery, mischief, and behavior generally looked down upon any other time of the year.

All things considered, this leaves Christians in a difficult place. On one hand, there are elements of Halloween that are harmless and fun. While on another, Halloween contains sinister influences and promotes behaviors that present troubling realities for families of all backgrounds.

Most of the debate surrounding the celebration of Halloween focuses on the celebration’s unhealthy fascination with evil. Of course, I could climb on my personal soapbox here about horror movies, the sensationalism of evil in movies, etc., but for now, I’ll stick to the topic.

So, are there things about Halloween that are clearly Anti-Christian? Absolutely. Is there anything inherently evil about letting your kid dress up as a cheerleader or superhero to ask for candy from their neighbors? No, not really, it’s just free candy.

It’s safe to say Halloween is one of the most marketable and culturally popular celebrations on our calendar. Spending for Halloween crossed 10 billion dollars for the first time ever in 2021. And according to a variety of statistics, Halloween participation is only going to continue to rise.

But, if Christians are going to take part in Halloween, our behavior and presence should mirror our belief in God who conquered sin and death to save us.

What Does the Bible Say About Halloween?

Many Christians believe that participating in Halloween is a form of involvement in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness, which is forbidden in Scripture:

Ephesians 5:7-15
Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

 “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise (NIV)

On the other hand, many believers consider the modern-day Halloween activities of most to be nothing more than harmless fun.

There are those who say that demonizing Halloween is an attempt on the part of some Christians to remove themselves from the world. Ignoring Halloween or celebrating it only with believers is not exactly an evangelical approach. Scripture says that believers are supposed to “become all things to all men so that by all possible means” they might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Then again, Christians against Halloween group the celebration with witchcraft and stand on verses like this one:

Deuteronomy 18:10-12
Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. (NIV)

These verses make it clear what a Christian should not do. But how many Christians are sacrificing their children as burnt offerings on Halloween? Or, how many are calling forth the spirits of the dead? Let’s hope not! Many similar Bible verses condemn pagan practices, but none specifically warn against observing Halloween.

Rethinking Halloween

Whether it is a sin for Christians to celebrate Halloween depends on how exactly you plan to celebrate.  For some families, this might require more intentionality in discussing how you plan to celebrate Halloween. For other families, these discussions might lead to a change in your plans. And that is a perfectly acceptable response.

Is it possible that our negativity toward Halloween only alienates the people we seek to reach? Can we be in the world, but not of the world? As Christians, why are we here in this world? Are we here to live in a safe, protected environment, guarded against the evils of the world, or are we called to reach out to a world filled with dangers and be the light of Christ? [Spoiler: We’re here to be the light].

Dressing up in a costume and handing out candy on October 31 is not a sin. Just as it wouldn’t be a sin to do the same thing on April 1. However, how you represent Christ matters, especially on polarizing days such as Halloween. Remember how you portray Jesus in your behaviors, how you interact with people, and even your costume choices.

Halloween brings people of the world to our doorsteps. Halloween brings our neighbors out into the streets. The holiday is a great opportunity to develop new relationships and share our faith. Now, we are not suggesting going door-to-door evangelizing on October 31st, but we are suggesting tolerance and grace.

Halloween brings people of the world to our doorsteps. Halloween brings our neighbors out into the streets. The holiday is a great opportunity to develop new relationships, giving us future opportunity to share our faith.

In light of Scriptures, consider carefully the appropriateness of judging another Christian for observing Halloween. We do not know why another person participates in the holiday or why they do not. We cannot accurately judge the motivations and intentions of another person’s heart.

So, as Christian, do we participate?

Yes, For Some. No For Others.

What if you came to the Christian faith from a background in the occult (like me)? What if, before you became a Christian, you did practice some of these dark deeds? Perhaps refraining from Halloween and its activities is the safest and most appropriate response for you as an individual.

In all probability, the dilemma over Halloween is a Romans 14 issue or a “disputable matter.” These are matters that lack specific direction from the Bible.

Is it possible that there is no right or wrong answer to the Halloween dilemma? Perhaps the appropriate Christian response to Halloween is to study the matter for ourselves and follow the convictions of our own heart. Christians must decide for themselves and follow the convictions of their own heart, as well as, let others do the same without condemnation from us.

Blogging for God and you,

Deb Bostwick

Credit to:
Focus on the Family 2021
Fairchild, Mary. Aug. 25, 2020, learnreligions.com