My family doesn’t celebrate Halloween. But we don’t condemn other Christians for celebrating. We recognize that their is sensitivity in the issue. But that’s not why we don’t condemn… We don’t condemn because we acknowledge that we have been given freedom in Christ. And that shouldn't be stifled because of our personal convictions. That being said there is significant responsibility to be considered with this freedom. Can you sense the tension?
My wife and I decided our family would not celebrate Halloween because of the history. We researched the history and found that underneath all the debate about witches and vampires, this is a holiday rooted in fear. In short, the story of Halloween is that is the evening before All Hallow’s Day (All Saint’s Day)… All Hallow’s Day was created by the Roman Catholic Church to substitute a Celtic (pagan) holiday called Samhain. It is a time where the dead would return to Earth as ghosts, goblins, and other scary creatures. It was believed that the dead would oppress the living with sickness and ravaging their homes and land. Some even believed that the dead would kidnap living children. In fear the living would dress up in costume to trick these ghosts into not wreaking havoc on their families and children. They would also put out food and wine to appease the dead. Trick Or Treating evolved from a couple of other All Hallow’s Day traditions called souling and guising. All these activities were pretty morbid and scary. It became more family friendly here in the U.S. in the 1950’s. You can read and watch a few articles and videos below for a more detailed history.
The history of Halloween was important to our family. While we know, most Christians don’t celebrate the historic meaning of this holiday. For many it’s an opportunity to see their kids in cute costumes and get a boat load of free candy. Similar to Christmas… Most Christians would never say they celebrate the "magic of Christmas" and teach our kids to behave for Santa… We celebrate the birth of Christ while enjoying the freedom we have in Christ to do so with a Christmas tree and gifts. Christmas and Halloween are the highest revenue producing holidays in the U.S. respectively. But they are two VERY different holidays in our home.
At the end of the day we had to make a choice, and for us, the idea of embracing fear was the central focus of Halloween: take away the candy and cute costumes and all you are left with is fear. We are not a people of fear and do not want to give room for fear in our lives at all. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love. There are way too many portions of Scripture that instruct us followers of God to not be afraid, because He is with us. Everyone of them applies to a specific context yes, but those contexts are so varied that we can surely apply them to our individual lives as well.
Many would criticize our family’s decision because it is based on the past and not what is going on now. I wouldn’t debate them (not my style) but if I were to engage, I would say there is plenty of compelling, present day, justification for our decision to not celebrate Halloween: primarily connected to the Wiccan and other cultic belief systems and religions. It is believed that October 31 is the day when the veil between the natural and spirit realm is the thinnest. It is a day where members of these cults invoke spirits and practice often Satanic rituals. It would be nice for us to believe that we live in a world of only good spiritual activity but the reality is, whether we want to accept it or not… there are evil spirits, demons and a real Satan. While these practices are happening all the time, because of this important day in their calendar, these rituals are performed with greater intensity and frequency... Side Note… this is hard for many American’s to embrace because we are not as accustomed to the realities of spiritual oppression. But it is real. Just because we refuse to acknowledge it doesn’t make it go away. Ask anyone in tribal communities in Africa and Asia and where Christianity has not played a significant role in the shaping of culture and you will be introduced to a very different reality. I digress…
Our family is in the minority on this. We know. And that’s okay. We have done what we feel like God would have us do for the holistic health of our family. We typically go out for dinner while the world around us is trick or treating. It becomes a family day so that they have something to look forward to on October 31. Not an alternative celebration, but family time so they are not moping around the house hearing all their neighbors laughing outside while we sit around the house complaining about what we are missing out on. The kids really do understand our family’s stance. We have made it 10 years so far… With no real issues with the decision. We’ll see how this year goes.
For anyone who would want to make the same decision for their family, if you have been celebrating in the past and you have children, it can be a little complex but it is not impossible. Have the conversation with them to explain why you are making the choice for your family. We made that decision 10 years ago. Our oldest child is 9 years old so none of them have ever had a Halloween; but that doesn’t stop us from having to have the conversation every year. They ask. So we explain it all over again in grace knowing that most of their friends are celebrating and it is only human nature to not want to feel left out. We are careful to not lead them on with doing Haloweeny activities like carving pumpkins or dressing up on October 31… not because there is anything wrong with them but because we have recognized that our young children can not yet separate a pumpkin from celebrating Halloween. We have made mistakes with this in the past but that is a part of being counter cultural… You will have some bumps a long the way.
Oh, and we totally take advantage off all the candy sales after. We stock up for the year for our kids. Just because we don’t celebrate Halloween doesn’t mean they should miss out on all that wonderful candy. :)
Here are some extra resources, if you'd like to research for yourself: