Response: Perhaps I am wrong about what I think about Halloween traditions. Maybe there’s something I’ve yet to consider that may change my mind. At the very least, it is probably not a smart thing for me to publicly say what I think because there will be so many people who disagree with me about a matter that I deem so inconsequential. Besides that, we all know that it really doesn’t matter what I think about it…at all. So you can stop reading now if you want and be none the worse.
But the question has surfaced in our inboxes three times already this week, so I’ll go ahead and take a stab at conveying my thinking about costumes, trick-or-treating, jack-o-lanterns and all things Halloween.
1. I believe there is an innocent way to observe the candi-est holiday of the year. I was an adult before I knew there was any supposed tie to anything pagan or evil about Halloween. When I was a child my parents were creative in costuming and very much involved in our fun neighborhood masquerade night. I had absolutely no idea that wickedness was ever associated with the holiday until I was much older…an adult. Today, my family in the West Huntsville church has the best of times in what we call a “trunk-or-treat” night, although it is primarily done indoors in our fellowship hall. It involves nothing scary and nothing that has to do with death. It involves sweet children in delightful costumes walking around giving big smiles and hugs to the adults that line the walls. And it involves chili and Mexican cornbread and orange cookies and treats in the bags that the children carry. Lots of the adults dress up and join in the fun, too. I’ve already been a popcorn vendor and “Lucy” from the Peanuts gang at two different West Huntsville get-togethers this season.
2. I do not believe that the origin and early development of the holiday necessarily prevents our nod to it in benign observances. It is my judgment that, just as we can separate Christmas from the birth of Christ and celebrate it as a national rather than religious holiday,we can celebrate Halloween as a cultural observance rather than a pagan one. Just as we can celebrate Valentine’s day without expressing allegiance to or approval of a Catholic“saint”, we can celebrate Halloween, in innocuous (otherwise innocent) ways without any allegiance to anything wicked or pagan. Just as we can call the names of our months by names that are derivatives of the names of pagan gods without implying approval of idolatry, I believe we can trick-or-treat without implying approval of witchcraft, Satanic practices or devil worship.
3. I do believe this is a matter of opinion and not faith. (I love I Corinthians 8 when I’m contemplating matters of judgment.)
4. I believe if one finds herself in violation of conscience by participating in any form of trick-or-treating or pumpkin carving, that it would be wrong for her to thus violate her conscience by so participating. It is always wrong to violate your conscience. Consciences can be retrained by diligent Christians who are studying the Word, but never should be violated.
5. I believe it would be wrong for me to cause another Christian to stumble by my participation in any event that is not commanded by the Lord. If a weaker brother who worships with me is offended if I wear a shirt around Halloween time that says “Boo”, then why would I wear that shirt? However, in most scenarios, I have found that those who choose not to celebrate Halloween in any way are reading the same book about unity and freedom in matters of judgment that I am reading, and, most of the time, they are not offended by the “fun” that others in the church are having with pumpkins and trick-or-treat.
6. I believe it is appropriate for moms and dads to decide together about their tolerance level regarding this holiday. While things associated with death and the morbid and certainly the mean and destructive practices are not becoming of Christians, things associated with princesses and super-heroes and candy treats might be fun and wholesome for your family. I believe parents should enjoy the freedom to guide their families in this tradition.
7. In congregations in which unity may be threatened over an observance of Halloween, it would be good for elders to sit down with concerned families and express their judgments about the concerns and members should thus abide by their wishes. After all, what are shepherds for, if not to make judgment calls in matters of opinion and, in making such decisions, to preserve the flock from division? The biggest tragedy about Halloween would be for a church to find itself, on November 1st, splintered and at odds over something so insignificant as a Halloween party…or not. (I might add here that it would be challenging for me, as a preacher’s wife in our congregation, to abstain from participating in our West Huntsville time of holiday fellowship without causing some discomfort among some in the body. That is, I believe dressing up this year as Lucy for trunk-or-treat was more of an encouragement to others than a stumbling block, in my particular circumstance. Perhaps in another church in another part of the country, that might not be true.)
8. I believe Halloween is a great opportunity for widows and elderly Christians to bond with the children of the church. Our own children made “appointments” with elderly people in the church to come by and “show off” their costumes and we sometimes took treats to those elderly people (kind of backwards trick-or-treating). Anticipation and excitement emanated from the faces of those older saints. But more importantly, our kids grew, through this and other service projects to love these mature Christian people—a great blessing in the development of our children, for sure.
9. I believe that sometimes the innocent celebration can open doors for evangelism. I know it did with us in our neighborhood as we discussed and invited neighbors who had questions even in the street as our kids trick-or-treated together. Of course, that knife could cut two ways and if your religious friends are negatively impacted by your participation, you should be sensitive to their concerns and even take the chance to discuss your practices with them. Souls of people are far more important than your personal family fun.
10. Having said all of this, we should not underestimate the positive impact of family traditions on our kids. They are a big part of the glue that holds your family together. They are second to the spiritual traditions of family Bible times, prayers before meals, prayers before kids leave the house for school or college, attending singings and gospel meetings together, participating in programs for leadership development,etc… in binding your family together. From experience, I know that the anticipation of traditions and holidays celebrated in ways that belong uniquely to your family are huge in creating the cohesiveness that you want your family to maintain—the bond that helps you through the tough times that every family inevitably faces. (And it is usually Mom who best creates and maintains the great traditions that sweeten the adult memories of every child who grew up loving family traditions.)
Now, this ten point synopsis is probably overkill for the subject of boo and bats and costumes and candy. Further, I’m sure there will be those who disagree and that’s okay. But if all of us can be 100 times more concerned about the health of the Body of Jesus than we are about promoting our own “take” on the holiday, we will experience a strengthening of our precious unity as the family of God, even during the last week of October.