How will you respond to children asking for a trick or treat?
Tomorrow is 31 October. Children from your neighbourhood may dress up as ghouls or superheros and knock on your door. How will you respond?
Some church-goers fear the demonic realm and worry that Halloween leads children into the occult through its focus on all things spooky. Horror, zombies, the undead, witches and ghosts — it all revolves around fear.
Some Australians object to Halloween as a foreign festival that doesn’t belong in our calendar or culture. They want to leave the pumpkins where they belong.
Or perhaps you’re more worried about what those sugar sweets are doing to the children.
So is Halloween evil? What do you make of it?
It may surprise you to know that Halloween was once a Christian festival. It’s the eve of All Saints’ Day. The “saints” literally means the holy ones, the people devoted to God. Some of those have already died, so they’re awaiting resurrection (according to 1 Corinthians 15:23). The church honoured particular saints on particular days (e.g. St Patrick’s Day), and they set aside 1 November to honour all the saints. The name Hallow’een means the eve of Saints’ Day.
As so often happens, popular culture corrupted this Christian festival. Imaginations ran riot on the evening before Saints’ Day as people pictured the ghostly forms of the dead saints they were to honour the next day. Pagan ideas were mixed with Christian beliefs.
How should Christians respond now? If you have children whose friends are into Halloween, take the opportunity to discuss what it means and how it’s so easy for something good to be corrupted. Ask them if they have noticed the commercialization and corruption of other Christian festivals too. (Hint: Santa Claus, Easter bunny.) If it’s appropriate to your children’s age, talk about the authority of Christ over evil in all of its forms.
Whether you have children or not, what do you do when those little ones approach you for a trick or treat? Before you turn them away with your self-righteous indignation against all things evil, ask yourself this: how often do the people of your neighbourhood come to your door? Is opportunity knocking here?
A few years ago, we started stocking up for Halloween by buying two things: individually wrapped sweets, and pencils with “Jesus loves you” on the side. Okay, that’s pretty corny: you can probably think of something better. Each child who knocked on our door was offered something from the sweets bag and something from the stationery box. We asked their names, and spoke to their parents if they were watching from the road.
We wanted them to know Christians as people who cared for their precious lives. Is that better than rejecting them because of their ignorance or our fear?
What others are saying
Ben Witherington III: The Origins of Halloween (3 minute video on YouTube).
John S. Leonard, Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day electronic edition (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2013):
In my opinion, if you’re interested in reaching your neighbors, one of the most important holidays to participate in, for Christ’s sake, is Halloween. One reason is that it’s the one night of the year that you can go and knock on all your neighbors’ doors, and they will be happy to see you!