Freedom to Trick-or-Treat
By Danny Royer
There is a strong trend in today’s church toward nonparticipation in Halloween and its customs. No trick-or-treat for the kids. No jack-o’-lanterns on the porch.
The main concern over Halloween seems to be its so-called pagan origin. I could only find two paragraphs of factual information at the library. The 1984 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica says that in medieval England, the Christian church observed a holy day called “All Hallows Eve” on October 31. (So why doesn’t anyone ever mention the Christian origin?) On that same day, the pagans observed the Feast of Samhain. They carved faces in turnips and wore masks to frighten off spirits of the risen dead.
According to the encyclopedia, Halloween as we know it today is a secular, non-religious observance. It is not the Feast of Samhain. It is not All Hallows Eve. It is neither Christian nor pagan. The Christian who participates takes part in a non-religious observance. Those who trick-or-treat and carve pumpkins do so without religious significance.
Just how far do we go with this question of origins? According to Childcraft’s How and Why Library, the practice of putting candles on birthday cakes goes back to ancient Greece. Pagans there worshipped Artemis, goddess of the moon. To celebrate her birthday, they brought special cakes to her temple. The cakes were round like a full moon, and because the moon glows with light, they were decorated with candles. How many birthdays have you celebrated the same way?
All seven days of the week are named for pagan gods. Does participating in a Wednesday prayer meeting imply worship of the Norse god Woden, for whom the day was named?
Many new Christians may not realize that non-participation in Halloween is a fairly recent trend. I was raised in a fundamentalist church. I can tell you that the church of the 1960s was more cautious and sensitive to worldliness than the church of today! We were taught that drinking alcoholic beverages and attending movies were sinful. Playing cards were not allowed in the house. Any entertainment associated with worldliness was shunned.
Yet Halloween was not on the hit list. It was considered a fun time for children. We dressed up in fun costumes and collected candy from friends’ homes.
Among Christians today, alcohol in the home is common. (The emphasis is on moderation.) Movies are attended and videos are rented with little discretion as to content. Divorce is commonplace and is even a growing phenomenon among ministers. This is the church that takes a bold stand against Halloween fun?
I was a youth pastor when I first heard the message on the ‘evils’ of Halloween. I was shocked and upset. Our church decided to have a Christian alternative that year. Kids were asked to come as Bible characters. Then someone pointed out that Satan, demons and the man who ran naked through the tomb were all Bible characters. So we changed the theme to Bible heroes and felt safe. But how were we to know if a child dressed as an angel was coming as Gabriel or Lucifer? One 13-year-old boy came as Jesus—complete with realistic nails through his hands and fake blood smeared over his body. Small children cried and ran in fear.
Some say Christians should not have parties at all on Halloween. Instead, they should schedule prayer meetings to combat the prayers of satanists. (It’s been said that Satan worshippers spend this night in prayer for the destruction of the church.) That brings up a question. Does Satan answer prayer? We know the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. What about the fervent prayers of the unrighteous? The prophets of Baal were leaders of a cult so prominent that a nation was divided on whom they would serve. Their fervent prayers went unanswered (I Kings 18).
Do the presence of black cats, owls and jack-o’-lanterns invite evil spirits into our homes? As for cats and owls, they are creations of God whose reputations have been slandered by rumor and superstition. And whatever their history, jack-o’-lanterns have no religious significance today. Just ask around. Survey your neighbors who are not born-again Christians: Are they trying to frighten away spirits with those pumpkins on their doorsteps?
Aren’t Christians today straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel? Aren’t we giving in to superstition and fear? We hide from shadows, and invite evil in the front door. Satan’s greatest weapon is enticement. Sin is not ugly, dark and sinister-looking. It is attractive.