I think I view Halloween very differently from most Americans, and my different perspective first started due to safety rather than religious reasons.
I remember my mom was always on edge on Devil’s Night (the night before Halloween). We weren’t allowed outside after dark on October 30th. She grew up in Detroit, and fires would rage on Devil’s Night. Flint is another Michigan city notorious for arson on Devil’s Night. (Ironically, I was one of six infants baptized on Devil’s Night at my church.)
During my early childhood, we lived in a suburb of Detroit, and one year, my mom had taken my younger sister and me trick-or-treating when I was about five. The next day, there was a report in the newspaper that kids were held up for their candy by kids with guns. It was on the street next to ours. I don’t remember this. I do remember my parents going through my candy and throwing out any pieces that were not completely sealed in case someone stuck needles in the candy for me to bite into or injected the candy with drugs. It was simply not worth the danger to go trick-or-treating.
When I was older, my church started doing a Harvest Festival. Kids and adults were invited to come dressed in non-scary costumes. I remember everything was decorated in fall decor, and there were kid-sized cardboard houses set up like a neighborhood throughout the large church building. In the gym were games, and the cafeteria had snacks. After a few hours of doing games and snacking, the trick-or-treating procession began. Kids of all ages formed a line, and we went from “door” to “door” of all the “houses,” collecting candy. There were literally hundreds of kids. It was fun, and it was safe. One year, my family did a Wizard of Oz theme. I was Dorothy; my mom was the Scarecrow, my dad was the Tin Man, and my sister was the Cowardly Lion. I remember vacuuming up all the crushed candy after the festival, since my parents volunteered for clean up duty.
I don’t feel like I missed out on Halloween, but I also don’t have all the traditional memories most people have of their childhood Halloweens, so I’m just not very attached to the holiday.
I do get excited about history, and being the nerd that I am, I decided to look up the history of Halloween. Being the Christian that I am, I started wondering if I wanted to celebrate Halloween. (There is a whole history with how Halloween also came from All Hallow’s Eve [something hallowed is holy], and the history between Halloween and All Saint’s Day. I’m not including it in this entry, but it is interesting stuff to look into.)
Halloween has its roots from a festival concerning the dead. The festival is Celtic (pronounced “keltic”) in origin. The festival is called Samhain (prounced “sah-win”) and celebrates a time when the seasons change. At this time, the Celts (“kelts”) prepared for winter. The Celts were people who lived throughout Europe, and Samhain (“sah-win”) is found in literature from as early as the 10th century.
In this festival, people performed animal sacrifices and wore masks to appease or hide from evil spirits. These people believe that the worlds of the living and the dead overlap on this night “because the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld” (Halloweenhistory.org). These spirits sometimes caused chaos, so bonfires were lit to help guide the spirits to the world of the dead and keep them away from the living.
Today, thousands of witches, wizards, Wiccans, Druids, and other pagans celebrate Samhain. This is done by setting a place at the table for the dead, using tarot cards (prounced “tair-row”) or other forms of divination, setting up altars or shrines for the dead, and more. These people do not practice Halloween as a secular holiday; they celebrate Samhain as a religious holiday, and they believe the spirits and divination to be real. As a teenager, I had many pagan and Wiccan friends, and I know these religions are still quite popular today.
As a Christian, I believe in the existence of God and angels. Therefore, I also believe in the existence of Satan and demons. I find the latter to be truly terrifying and nothing to joke about. I wasn’t always so firm in this belief until I had some unfortunate experiences in my teen years that really opened my eyes. I’m not sure I want to celebrate a holiday that has such strong ties to the occult when I know how real the occult is. In fact, sometimes I feel like celebrating Halloween would be hypocritical of me.
On the other hand, there is something in me that makes me cringe when I hear a Christian immediately shoot down Halloween traditions. Once, when I was at a church, I heard someone ask, “Are we doing anything for the kids on Halloween?” Another person gasped and replied, “Absolutely not! We don’t celebrate that in our church!” The conversation came to an abrupt end.
I think it is great when a church does a festival on Halloween for several reasons:
– It gives kids a way to trick-or-treat safely (especially if offered on October 31st).
– It provides a fun evening no matter what the weather is like.
– It gives kids an opportunity to dress up in costumes, but it encourages non-scary costumes.
– It provides a family/community event.
– It brings people into the church doors. (What better way to do that than pass out free food and have no commitments attached?)
Throughout my young-adult life, I have celebrated on October 31st by celebrating Reformation Day. I am a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Christian, and I love celebrating the brave acts of Luther in his attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church in the 1500s. Luther wasn’t perfect, but he really taught some important things, the most important of them being that we are saved by Jesus Christ simply by having faith.
On November 1st, I celebrate All Saints’ Day, when I remember my loved ones who have died and think of the joy they have in heaven. It always hurts to miss someone, but it is incredible to think about how one day, I will see those loved ones again.
Tonight, I am passing out candy (for the first time, since I finally don’t live in apartment). I’ll be passing out a Bible verse with the candy (hopefully no parents sue me). I don’t look down on people who dress up or go trick-or-treating. I do not think Christians should dress in violent, sexual, or demonic themed costumes, and I strongly believe Christians should not participate in occult activities. If I ever have children of my own, I will probably allow them to dress up in appropriate costumes and get candy or go to a church festival. In any case, I will always celebrate my baptismal birthday on October 30th, Reformation Day on October 31st, and All Saints’ Day on November 1st, and these will always have precedence over Halloween in my house.
Bible verse going out with my candy:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” – John 3:16-17
Sources for Halloween/Samhain history:
History of Halloween
Halloween: The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows