How should a Christian celebrate Halloween?

“The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.
The one who eats, eats in the honor of the Lord…”

(Romans 14:6)

There is a tension that comes with Halloween, much like the tension of Christmas.  With Christmas, it is difficult not to get swept up in the commercialism, the “Currier and Ives” nostalgia, and the flat out hedonism of the “I’ve-been-good-give-me-what-I-want” mentality.

Halloween carries its own jumbled baggage.  The early church celebrated All Saint’s Day to commemorate the lives of the saints who had died as martyrs and witnesses of the faith.  To honor, or “hallow” a saint, sometimes leads to idolatry, elevating the life of a man to a demigod like status, but the abuse of an honor ought not negate the honor.  The author of Hebrews recites the Faithful Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11, honoring the great witnesses of our faith as a way of encouraging our continued life of faith.  The night before this day of remembrance, All Hallows Eve – or Halloween – as one Pastor writes, “was thought to be a last ditch party on the part of unholy ones — devils, witches, fairies, imps and so forth.”

None of that really matters today; we’ve lost all sense of tradition or purpose behind Halloween.  Having jettisoned every element of honoring the lives of the saints, the All American Halloween is – like everything else – all about filling your bucket.  Add to that a hyper-sexualization (“Sexy Witch” or “Naughty Schoolgirl”), or ghoulish morbidity (zombie, vampire, etc…), or a combination (“Sexy Zombie Nurse” – which really doesn’t make any sense), and there is little to commend about Halloween.

Still, we want to maintain an “in the world, but not of the world” practice, and if you live anywhere near children, you will surely have a few trick or treaters to entertain tonight.  So what do you do?  How do you celebrate this day without compromising your witness?  Here are a couple of points:

  • Be Gracious
    Remember that there are some Christians, maybe within your own church, who will choose not to participate in the festivities of the day.  Call it what you want, a Fall or Harvest Festival, they want nothing to do with it.  Then there are those whose yards are all decked out, and the fog machine is running, and they greet you at the door in full costume. Faithful Christians disagree about Easter (or is it Resurrection Sunday), Christmas, playing cards on Sunday (or any day for that matter); so you know they will disagree on how we participated in Halloween.  Let this be your guiding principle, “Treat one another with the same grace, patience, and forgiveness that God has shown you in Jesus Christ.”  That kind of love will cover a multitude of sins.
  • Be Hospitable and Joyful
    Here’s a thought from Doug Wilson, “When neighborhood trick or treaters come to your door, I would encourage you to give them more candy than unbelievers give, as opposed to a glare and/or a tract about the fires of hell. We want to behave during this time in such a way that their celebrations are revealed as far more anemic than ours (not to mention twisted and gross).”  We talk a lot about living our lives so that others may see our joy and want to be a part of it.  No watered-down, imitation celebration will do that.  Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine so that everyone marveled.  Do you seriously think that the lollipop and “Jesus sticker” is going to get anyone’s attention.
  • Glorify God
    Whether you celebrate the day as Elvis, or turn off the lights and pray the “hottentots” won’t come to your door, let us remember that in all things we are to glorify God.  If you celebrate the day, celebrate it in a way that will bring glory to God.  And I’m sorry, but I don’t see how demons, ghouls, zombies, and half-naked witches do that.  If you do, then you have a difficult argument to make.  Let your costumes, and your conduct, show the glory and light of God in a darkened world.  Let this be the guiding principle in all of your ways, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

SDG

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About reveds

Occupation: Pastor, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Lennox, SD Education: BS - Christian Education, Sterling College; MDiv. - Princeton Theological Seminary Family: Married, with Four children. Hobbies: Running (will someday run a marathon), Sci-Fi (especially Doctor Who and Sherlock), Theater, and anything else my kids will let me do.
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