October message – What shall we do with Halloween..?

October 26, 2014 houghton

pumpkinA lot of Christians have a problem with Halloween. It’s not hard to see why. On the surface, at least, it looks diabolical(!)—a celebration of darkness, with vampires, zombies, witches, and an emphasis on scaring people. Added to that, for those of us who are parents, there’s that nagging question—if we join in with Halloween, what message are we sending to our children? So, as Christians, what should we think about Halloween?

First of all, we shouldn’t forget that Halloween has Christian beginnings, although this is often forgotten or airbrushed out of the story: ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ is ‘the night before All Saints’ Day’. In medieval times, it was about mocking the forces of evil, because they have been defeated by Jesus Christ, and the future is certain for the ‘children of light’ who trust in him. I’m not suggesting that this is what is being knowingly celebrated by most of those who will be dressing up, cutting pumpkins and collecting sweets in a couple of weeks’ time—but it at least suggests that there ought to be something positive we can do with it all…

Let’s also keep some perspective, and be realistic: Halloween, for most people, is primarily a commercial festival, and a bit of fun. Most of those taking part on October 31st are not thinking about anything to do with the occult—but are enjoying an excuse to dress up, have a party, and get some free chocolate.

At the same time, Halloween ought to be a reminder that the devil is real, and the spiritual realm is real: we should take seriously all that the Bible has to say about demons and evil spirits. It’s worth reading the sections from the Bible that deal with this, like Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4.1-11, or the times when he cast out evil spirits, like in Luke 9.37-43. The key point is this: whenever Jesus comes face to face with the devil or his allies in the Gospels, Jesus wins—there are no exceptions. Even what appears to be the greatest victory for the realm of darkness, on Good Friday, turns out to be its ultimate downfall. As Jesus dies, death itself is defeated, as the light bursts from the tomb on Easter Sunday.

So, most of all, as Christians, the thing we need to remember at Halloween is that we don’t need to be fearful. All Hallows’ Eve is about mocking the darkness in the confident knowledge that the dawn is coming soon—and it’s the dawn of resurrection life. In the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis makes the point that we can make two mistakes when it comes to the powers of darkness and evil—one is to pretend they don’t exist; the other is to become unhealthily obsessed by them. Halloween therefore does us a service when it reminds us that spiritual darkness is real—as long as that leads us to spend more time focusing on the arrival of the one who came to shine in the darkness as the Light of the World.

With all this in mind, what should we do about Halloween? It’s probably best not to try to make hard and fast rules. Some Christians will feel that it’s better to have nothing to do with it, and wouldn’t dream of getting involved in trick-or-treating—and that’s fine. Others may want to hold a light party; or decide there’s no harm in dressing up and collecting a few sweets; and there’s surely no harm in being generous with those who do arrive at our doors on 31st October. Whatever we do though, let’s engage with the issues—and take the opportunity to remind ourselves, our families, and others, about the light which shines in the darkness, and which the darkness can never put out.