Q. Halloween is upon us again, and with the annual traditions of trick-or-treating and pumpkin-carving in the air, many Christians are looking to alternate ways of celebrating the holiday.
Because of its pagan origins and emphasis on death, celebrating Halloween is out of the question for many, but many are finding some use for it. JesusWeen, a creation of Pastor Paul Ade, aims to knock on doors come Oct. 31 and instead of shouting “trick-or-treat,” hand out Bibles to the occupants. “JesusWeen is a God-given vision which was born as an answer to the cry of many every October 31st. The dictionary meaning of Ween is to expect.... We therefore see October 31st as a day to expect a gift of salvation and re-think receiving Jesus,” says the group’s website.
Other Christians say they have a hard time explaining to their children why there are suddenly skulls and vampires on display, and that the kids are disappointed when they’re not allowed to join in the fun. Others use it as a chance to celebrate the harvest, or hold a fundraiser for the church or church group, or just stay at home and make pumpkin pie.
But ignoring the holiday is difficult when almost every item in stores is orange and black and racks of costumes take up all spare space in Targets and Walmarts and other stores. Halloween is massively profitable for retailers, with forecasts for this year putting the amount spent on candy, gifts and costumes at $6.8 billion – about $72 per person, a rise on last year’s figure. Some argue that Halloween has been so stripped of its pagan origins that it’s become just another excuse to sell cheap toys.
Can Christians come to an agreement with celebrating Halloween? And has the holiday lost its pagan roots?
Oh, for God’s sake. Let the kids dress up and have candy. They will not become Satan worshipers, cast death spells, or begin to sing the praises of necrophilia. They’ll pretty much just dress up and have candy, and come home sweaty, happy and tired — costumes a little worse for wear but souls still intact and fit for heaven.
The fact that we have to explain, every single year, what the word “Halloween” means — it’s the night before what used to be called All Hallows’ Day (which we now call All Saints’ Day, which may or may not be about people who have died, depending on whether you also celebrate All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2) so the name has evolved from All Hallows’ Evening to Hallows Even to Hallowe’en to Halloween. The fact that we have to explain all that every year shows that no one connects it anymore with pagan rituals of the dead.
Ask any kid you know: They’ll say it’s about costumes and candy, about staying out late and giggling at scary stuff. They will not mention the devil (unless you do).
Parents, being parents, have to make decisions about all that candy, and how much of it can be collected and consumed. They might make decisions about just how gruesome the costume can be, or whether or not their child is ready for the jump-and-scares at the haunted house.
But honestly, of all the big bad things in the world that parents have to be wary of on behalf of their children, I think they can rest easy that their children won’t become devil worshipers if they’re allowed to go trick-or-treating.
Worry, if you must, about them selling their soul to the devil to get the latest iPad — that glowing once-bitten apple is a far greater adversary, in the war for your children’s soul, than whatever forbidden fruit you imagine the devil might be offering on Halloween.
Relax. Let them dress up and eat candy.
The Rev. Amy Pringle
St. George’s Episcopal Church
La Cañada Flintridge
Most people on a spiritual path agree that the celebration of Halloween has no foundation in spirit. What spiritual principle does Halloween actually teach? I can't come up with anything.
It seems that the best response is to make light of all the Halloween promotions, teach our children to laugh at their fears and not take the spooks, goblins and vampires seriously. Laughing at any situation that evokes a fear response in us is actually a good life skill.