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Oct23SunOn October 31, little ghosts and goblins will come knocking on your door. Is Halloween a bad influence on our children? October 23, 2011 by Major Kathie Chiu and Lieutenant Hannah Jeffery
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NO. Halloween is harmless fun. Just because some have chosen it as their “helliday” doesn't make it evil. The Church can redeem this event without succumbing to its dark side.
BY MAJOR KATHIE CHIU
When I was young, I loved dressing up in elaborate costumes each Halloween, smelling the crisp, earthy air from the fallen leaves, running from house to house … and, oh yes, the candy! But Halloween is hard for some Christians—they just don't know what to do with it. Is it sinful and evil? Is it all about Satan worship and pagan gods? Or is it just fun and games? Years ago, when I got serious about my relationship with God I wanted to make sure that if I participated in Halloween I wasn't breaking some kind of spiritual law. So I did some research. Here's what I found.
Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic feast of Samhain (pronounced sah-ween). Although it's all about the candy now, it had some eerie beginnings. Originally it was a night for the druids to lead the people in a celebration of Samhain, whom they believed to be the Lord of the Dead. His festival fell on November 1. Most pagan nations had a belief that at death the souls of good people were taken by good spirits and carried off to paradise, but the souls of wicked people were left to wander the space between the earth and the moon or consigned to inhabit animals. On Samhain, the veil between the physical world and the spirit world was pierced, releasing evil spirits that would then harass the living. These wicked souls would return to their homes, so people would attempt to ward them off by wearing scary costumes. They would draw gargoyles on their houses and carve out gourds and pumpkins and put lights in them. They even tried to placate the evil spirits by offering them food. However, if the spirits weren't satisfied, they would play a trick on them. Hence, trick or treat!
When Christianity spread through Europe and the British Isles, many pagans and druids converted to Christianity. However, they were still very superstitious. Many of the people were illiterate and uneducated and so their understanding of many things was very primitive. In order to combat superstition, the Roman Catholic Church established All Saints Day, a rival celebration on November 1. All Saints Day honoured all the martyrs who had died that year. On October 31, the Church held a mass called All Hallows, and the evening became known as All Hallows E'en, which means “holy evening.”
Halloween is the Church's attempt to redeem a pagan celebration. This is nothing new for the Church. Christmas and Easter were also timed to replace pagan celebrations. Some of the old symbols remain—the Easter egg is a sign of fertility as is the Christmas tree. So what is so evil about Halloween? Some simply practise it as a cultural festival—a night to dress up and have some fun. Others have embraced a pagan-like religious belief and have resurrected some of what they think are ancient Celtic practices. Still others have embraced evil and declared Halloween their special night.
The Bible tells us that we are not to have anything to do with sorcery, divination or other occult-like practices (see Deuteronomy 18:10-13). Does Halloween fall in that category? I don't think so. Just because some have chosen it as their “helliday” doesn't make it evil. Our family has fun with it every year. We take the opportunity to go door-to-door with our kids and give out treats, meet our neighbours and say, “God bless you.” We also choose not to celebrate or glorify evil by dressing in costumes that resemble occult creatures—although this is a constant challenge, we still resist. Some people give out gospel tracts and others celebrate with harvest festivals in their churches.
Whatever we choose to do, we are to take God's light into our communities. Whenever we engage our culture in this way, we should pray. We pray for opportunities to witness. We pray for protection over our family. We pray for discernment and wisdom as parents and also for our children as they go into our neighbourhood, encountering people who believe differently than us. Finally, we have fun and give all the glory to Jesus, because every day is his day.
Major Kathie Chiu is the executive director at the Centre of Hope and the Bethesda Centre in London, Ont.
YES. Christians are called to be set apart from the world. We have better things to do with our time than participate in Halloween's rampant commercialization and pagan origins.
BY LIEUTENANT HANNAH JEFFERY
As I write this it is August and already I've noticed several new stores around town that display signs reading “Coming Soon.” They are Halloween stores devoted to selling costumes, decorations and other Halloween paraphernalia. Is it no longer enough to have the seasonal section at Wal-Mart boast black streamers and witch hats for the month of October? For months on end, we are encouraged to spend our hard-earned money on stuff that we don't need. A $30 costume for our child to wear for an hour and grow out of by next year. Plastic ice cubes that look like eyeballs to float in the punch at the office party. A life-size glow-in-the-dark skeleton. We seem to give in more and more each year to this materialistic trap. Last year, Canadians spent approximately $1.5 billion on Halloween and the trend is on the rise.
Should Christians celebrate this holiday, spend their money on frivolous decorations and associate themselves with this traditionally pagan event? I ask myself these questions every year. I don't spend a colossal amount of money. I buy my child's costume at a second-hand store. I don't decorate elaborately or with anything that looks satanic or evil. So every year I decide that it must be all right for me to send my child out into the community for an hour on Halloween to say hello to our neighbours. I decide that overindulging on sugar on occasion isn't the worst thing in the world. I decide that since I do not personally practise ancient pagan festivals that I must not be doing anything anti-Christian. I decide that handing out a little treat to a few eight-year-olds is a nice gesture that displays my generosity.
So, every year I celebrate Halloween. But the more I think about whether Christians should celebrate Halloween, the more I second-guess my “yes” vote. Just because I'm not doing anything wrong by celebrating Halloween, doesn't mean I'm doing anything right by celebrating it either.
There must be better ways to meet my neighbours that will glorify God. Abstaining from Halloween activities sets one apart from the rest of the crowd. Paul says to the Roman believers that they must “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [their] mind” (Romans 12:2). As Christians, we are called to live holy lives and being holy means being set apart for God's purpose. We have so little time here on earth. Every moment is an opportunity to bring light into a dark world. Every conversation with someone is an opening to show God's love. Every cent we have can be used to help someone in need.
Perhaps my time, effort and money can be better spent on October 31 than handing out a few chocolates to children already on a sugar-high.
Lieutenant Hannah Jeffery is the assistant corps officer and director of community ministries at Spryfield Community Church in Halifax.