(This part is not serious.) Now that it’s the last week of October, I feel I should give you a dire warning. Halloween is coming and it will corrupt your soul if you participate in any way, shape, or form. You’ll be signing up with the enemy and forsake all things good. When you buy and put on a Halloween costume, you are, in effect, putting off the ‘New Man’ and putting on the ‘Old Man’ that belongs to the enemy.
If your costume is that of a witch, you are supporting witchcraft, casting spells, and other wicked, evil arts.
If your costume is that of a vampire, ghost, ghoul, or other form of undead, you are into necromancy.
If your costume is that of a demon or fallen angel or Satan, you worship the enemy.
When you go door-to-door, you’re invading the homes of good people, corrupting them with evil and bringing with you curses. ‘Trick or Treat!’ you say – but you really mean is ‘Give me an offering so that you are not punished!’ Now you tell people not to worship God, but give offerings to you on behalf of the enemy, whom you now serve.
Christians who trick or treat are opening up a foothold for the enemy in our churches. This evil holiday must not be tolerated. Acceptable replacements are trunk or treat – where we suggest you hand out Bible tracts to counteract the wickedness of evil, dark chocolate and Hell Houses where you explain in graphic detail the horrors of Hell that awaits witches, necromancers, and Satan worshipers. You are warned – you don’t want to disappoint God and bring evil into church. Fear Halloween and do not participate so that you are free from the corruption of sin. (This is the end of the not serious part. What follows is all serious and seriously long – a new record for me.)
Now that it’s the last week of October, blog posts are starting to appear one by one where devout Christians try to figure out what they can and cannot do about Halloween. Biblically speaking, we have a mash-up of verses taken out of context that makes a pretty mean case about why people should never take things out of context. We also have historical perspectives that show us that today’s version of Halloween bears little resemblance to it’s original form. And we have centuries of Christians celebrating it anyway because it’s harmless fun.
Culturally speaking, America has never really been comfortable with death. Most of our t.v. shows are about people that somehow manage to cheat death when the odds are stacked against them (such as the Die Hard series). We don’t like death, we don’t like to know that it’s coming, what it looks like, or what it might feel like. Our national avoidance behavior could be classified as a fear. We do have Memorial Day when we stop to remember our honored military dead. So much loss of life deserves to be remembered. But what about everybody else?
Many cultures do worship the spirits of their deceased ancestors. Sort of like the first part of the movie Mulan: “Ancestors, hear my plea / Help me not to make a fool of me / And to not uproot my family tree / Keep my father standing tall.” Many cultures have a healthy understanding about death and do not fear it because it is the natural conclusion of life. They chose to remember loved ones who have passed on, leaving a legacy that doesn’t allow anybody to be forgotten. Día de Muertos is about taking time to clean up the cemetery, decorate tombstones with flowers, put up altars to remember loved ones that have passed on, eat ceremonial foods and drinks, and enjoy the presence of the loved ones that are still living.
I find it fascinating that these two very different cultures (the predecessor of Día de Muertos and Halloween) both decided that around the same time was a good point to stop and think about death. Seasonally, the summer was just coming to an end. The leaves of trees were dying and falling off all around them. Winter would soon arrive – the next sign of life would not be until Spring. Little or no harvesting could be accomplished at this time. Perhaps in their scientific thinking it made sense to think that some death spirits had descended upon the world and around the time of the equinox was the best time to try to ward them off with good old fashioned superstition. Remember, these customs are thousands of years old, handed down over centuries.
Our world was agricultural for a very long time, the acquisition of food was a long, slow process that took up the majority of a person’s day. Without machinery, much of it was done by hand, family by family, from one generation to the next. It’s natural to think that their holidays and traditions would be based on the seasons – Summer, and Spring are full of life, green growth, and good weather. Fall and Winter are full of decay, withered brown death, and bad weather.
But over time our world changed, machines made it possible for one man to do what one thousand did in a fraction of the time. People got to work in cities and some traditions changed as a result. In fall, some still exist, apple cider, pumpkin harvesting, fall break even. But we’ve also lost touch with much of the celebrations that brought families together. We have some of the what and some of the why, but not all of either one.
Eventually Halloween was commercialized, limited to buying a costume, buying candy to give out, buying party supplies, house decorations, or buying whatever you need to pull off a prank. Halloween is a big money maker from a financial stand point. Without it – any kid that doesn’t have a birthday would have to wait until Thanksgiving to have an excuse to get extra candy and other sweets.
None of that is unbiblical – but because of the aforementioned verses, people are getting all sorts of mixed messages. It’s as if people read the historical texts and think that we’re inviting evil or imitating evil or appearing evil or worshiping evil. This Christians says this, that Christian says that – it’s confusing enough when they’re talking about regular things like Scripture – but somehow Halloween is extremely wicked and vile and gets extra attention when it shows up unexpected at the same time every year.
Biblically speaking, God saw value in harvest type celebrations – this was to teach the people to remember that God made it possible for them to grow food and help take care of the people who didn’t have land to grow on. Harvest celebrations was a great time to bring the community together and be certain that everybody had what they needed to get through winter. But they didn’t have the same death-related traditions, so it’s possible that they didn’t associate fall/winter with death as the other cultures did it is possible that they associated the harvest with God’s provision. (As far as I can tell.)
Wow – I’ve been a little all over the place. Out of context Bible verses, cultures with a different understanding of death, looking at the seasons as an explanation for death being associated with fall, harvest celebrations, changing culture – it’s not wonder American Christians got weird about Halloween – we’re a melting pot with many cultures that kept some traditions and others were lost or changed over time. So let’s break it down into a few points:
1. Just because a tradition or festival descends from a pagan celebration does not mean that the holiday deserves to be disposed of – Christianity has overwritten pretty much every single pagan tradition with some Biblical variation. (All Soul’s Day, All Saint’s Day, All Hallow’s Eve, Christmas, and Valentines Day, for example.)
2. Just because a tradition or festival is associated with evil in some way, shape, or form, does not mean that it is to be feared – the Día de Muertos celebrations in Mexico actually pokes fun of death. When you turn death into a joke, it loses any fearful quality it might have. the is true of Halloween.
3. Just because other cultures aren’t afraid of death, it doesn’t mean that we’re not wrong to be afraid. Death is scary when you’re not sure what comes next. As a Christian, you are given specific promises: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” ““Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?””
With all this in mind (+2 points if you read all that), what’s wrong with celebrating Halloween? If you ask me, absolutely nothing. Go have fun. Be with your friends. Throw a party with your family. Have a conversation about the theology of life and death – whatever makes you happy.