Last October as our family walked around our neighborhood with costumes and treat bags, our 7-year-old looked up at me as we passed fake gravestones and mummies and said, "I feel like we're celebrating death." I had always felt hesitant about our participation in Halloween, wondering how to reconcile it with our Christian faith - but this was the final straw. I wanted something different for our family.
Should Christians celebrate Halloween?
I don't believe there's a one-size-fits-all answer to this. I know families who cherish the time to open their doors to unbelieving neighbors on Halloween and see it as an opportunity to bless others. I know others who have never participated in Halloween because of its dark roots and celebration of evil.
I believe every believing family should bathe this day in prayer and act on a biblically-informed personal conscience. Because this is not a matter of salvation, I believe that prayerful believers can come to different conclusions regarding how they spend October 31st. And I believe that whatever each one of us decides, we should do so without judgment for others who choose to spend it differently. Read Romans 14 for a helpful explanation of this.
October 31st is not a spiritually neutral day. It is important to be aware that this is a spiritual battle between spiritual forces, but not against neighbors, friends, or family members who choose to spend it differently than we do.
What are the origins of Halloween?
Halloween originated in the ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain, which was traditionally celebrated on the evening of October 31. The Celts believed that the dead would return to earth on this night, so people lit bonfires, offered sacrifices, and paid homage to the souls of the deceased.
During some Samhain celebrations, villagers disguised themselves in animal skin costumes to drive away phantom spirits. They also prepared banquet tables of food to satisfy unwelcome spirits. While it has become a commercialized holiday in the United States, its roots are still spiritually dark.
How will our family celebrate October 31?
Instead of celebrating or participating in Halloween with costumes or trick-or-treating, we will be celebrating Reformation Day with a party and having just as much fun. (More on that towards the end of this article.) However, we will leave our lights on and have the best candy in the neighborhood ready to enthusiastically welcome trick-or-treaters who ring our doorbell. Halloween can serve as a bridge to those who you may not have the opportunity to see or interact with other times of year. I don't want to miss that.
Here are some of the Scriptures that led me to pull our family out of "celebrating" Halloween:
Romans 12:9: "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good."
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22: "But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."
James 4:17: "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."
Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Ephesians 6:12: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
Also, I've been struck that many children are simply not able to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Their worldview is still forming. So as they walk through a neighborhood and grown men are dressed as ax murderers, of course they'd be genuinely afraid. They should be! Personally, I want to honor and guard that sensitivity and not expose them unnecessarily to the evil in the world that they will have plenty of time to encounter in the future.
Of course, encountering Halloween decor in your neighborhood and stores is simply unavoidable. When you see scary and death-exalting Halloweeen decor, I encourage you to use it as an opportunity to explain to your children that there is real evil and darkness in this world, but Jesus came to destroy evil and death. He is the ultimate Victor, so we have nothing to fear. But we are called to abhor what is evil (Romans 12:9), not to celebrate it.
Ultimately, this must be a matter of prayer. Pray about it as you read the origins of Halloween. Pray through it with your spouse as you study the Scriptures above. God will make it clear how you are to engage with October 31 this year.
Our hope is secure
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39
As Christians, we know the end of the story and that Jesus is ultimately victorious over sin and death. Our participation in Halloween (or not) does not change that.
We are called to be in the world and not of it. That may look different for different believers. I believe it should look different than costumes that celebrate death or exposing our children (or even ourselves!) to a night filled with darkness.
We are called to stand firm against what God opposes. Witchcraft, celebrating death, ghosts, evil spirits - these are things that God opposes (Psalm 5:4; James 4:4).
So what's the alternative?
This year, we'll be studying Reformation Day - a church holiday that has been celebrated for over 450 years! - on October 31st. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses (or grievances with the current practices of the Roman Catholic church that went against the Bible's teachings) to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and changed church history as we know it. His life was one of boldness and courage and is worth studying and celebrating. And the ramifications of the Protestant Reformation affect our lives and beliefs every day.
We'll host a Reformation Day party complete with Renaissance costumes, German food, games, Reformation themed snacks (edible hammers and homemade gummy worms!). Our kids won't be missing out on a thing. And at the same time, we'll be listening for our doorbell and will welcome our neighborhood trick-or-treaters with smiles and candy.
We have a full Reformation Day guide available for your families. This guide was born out of my desire to celebrate something different on October 31st, but I've written this study for families interested in learning more about church history, whether or not you choose to participate in Halloween.
Some additional resources to consider: