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    Trick or Treat?

    On 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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    Feature

    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.

    Comment

    On Tuesday, November 1, 2011, Donald Jefcoat said:

    I think we can run and hide from this issue in many ways. However here is an awesome way to be missionaries in our community. Why not take this night and instead of giving away candy do something rather unique. we can start now and create great packages of items purchesed at the local bible book and gift store. Packages could contain little Bibles, kid tracts, christian themed toys, and treats. I would also suggest putting an invite for the entire family to attend church. As Christians everything we do needs to bring Glory and Honour to God. So I dont think having our kids participate in trick or treating brings glory and honour to God.

    Some may argue and I have often heard the arguments that we no longer celebrate Halloween as it was intended so whats the harm well I got to say we no longer celebrate Christmas the way it was suppose to be so why not just throw up a tree and worship each other with expensive gifts. Just saying as a thought to ponder.

    Take care and God Bless

    On Monday, October 31, 2011, Juan said:

    I think it is hard to come to terms with an appropriate response to Halloween until we identify, first of all, what the real issue is here for Christians.

    Is it an issue of morality? The first writer, who says that Halloween is not a bad influence, admits that the question needed to be settled for her for spiritual reasons. Sure, Halloween has been often associated with ‘devil worship’, but are people who dress up in costumes and go door-to-door asking for candy really taking part in something evil. There is something very different from a six-year old dressed as Spongebob Squarepants who gets a bag of cheesies from someone who worships and participates in something evil. If you want to look at it another way, we can perhaps concede that associated with Halloween (and most holidays) are both societal celebrations (trick-or-treating) and spiritual celebrations (in this case, ones inconsistent with Christianity). But they are not the same - just as the celebration of Advent is not the same as Christmas trees and filling our socks with candy or celebrating the resurrection of Christ is not the same as filling our baskets with chocolate eggs. Yet, in our church, we see evidence of both the spiritual and societal celebrations of Christmas and Easter. But we seem to allow the Christmas stockings of candy and the Easter baskets of candy because they coincide with Christian celebrations. However, they have absolutely nothing to do with the actual spiritual celebrations. If I were to take it a step further, maybe one could argue that Christian participation in the societal aspects of Christmas and Easter are more harmful than Halloween since they distract us from the true meaning of those holidays, whereas Halloween has no spiritual value for Christians so we may as well just enjoy it as a good time for fun.

    So, unless the people involved in trick-or-treating are truly treating it as an opportunity to worship or do evil, there are very little grounds for deciding against Halloween on spiritual grounds. But, from my experience, the moment we eliminate the spiritual reasons for not giving out candy to our neighbours, we come up with a whole list of other reasons not to participate. We say Halloween is too materialistic. It focuses too much on expensive costumes and getting treats. But what about the lady who says she makes her costumes at home? What about the aforementioned celebrations at Christmas? Certainly there cannot be a more materialistic time of the year than Christmas. Or we’ll rationalize that trick-or-treating is not a good use of our time. Really? The couple of hours it takes to meet our next-door neighbours, say hello, and give them a gift is not an effective use of our time? Would we say the same thing about drinking a grande latte at Starbucks? How about justifying the $50 we spend to watch a violent UFC fight that could be better spent reading the Bible. Or we will make it about the sugar-factor and that our children don’t need any more unhealthy foods. What about giving a pack of fruit snacks instead?

    I’m playing devil’s advocate, of course (some would say appropriately). But the point I am trying to make is that legalism is never consistent. The moment we make a rule about something, we can identify many other areas where we are already breaking that rule. Is all that happens on Christmas harmless? There’s vast materialism, covetousness, envy, and rage. (Have you ever tried getting a mall parking spot on Christmas Eve?) But most of us celebrate Christmas. So why do we cower under our beds on Halloween, praying that the devil wouldn’t bring kids to the door trick-or-treating? Why do we avoid this holiday instead of just enjoying it and joining in with our neighbourhood? Why does the light of the world refuse to shine in darkness when it gets too dark? What are we afraid of? To go back to my opening sentence, until we answer these questions we will not get to the real issue. Perhaps we just need more confidence in our own beliefs and in Christ. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that Jesus has, by his death and resurrection, disarmed the powers and principalities and evil spirits. Perhaps if any group of people should be having fun with Halloween and poking fun at the devil by dressing up as ghosts or goblins it is the Christians.

    Let’s not allow inconsistent standards to pull us off the front lines on this pagan holiday. Let’s just enjoy the day and have fun engaging with our neighbourhood. Christians are supposed to shine like light in the darkness. But let’s make sure we are shining for the right reasons and not just to compensate for our own fears and uncertainties. I’m sure our children will thank us for not giving them an illegitimate and unnecessary way that they need to stick out amongst their friends.

    On Monday, October 31, 2011, Rick Skouin said:

    After reading the point/counterpoint section on Halloween My thoughts are this; Some would suggest that Halloween is the “Highest” day for devil worshippers to commune with the devil. Although Samhain was a combination of giving thanks to the sun god for the plentiful harvest and the Druidic belief that the evil dead were freed from their penance to return home for the night. Historically Halloween is a Christian attempt to sway non believers from practicing pagan rituals. So what is wrong with remembering those that have been martyred for their belief and practice of the Christian faith?

    Over the years there has been a blending of the two days (All Hallows e’en and Samhain) which I think had a lot to with the blending of the two days much to the chagrin of the pontificators in the church and to the delight of children everywhere. Except for a small minority on both sides the majority neither glorifies the martyrs or commune with Satan or his minions.

    Most of us just use this day as an excuse to have some ‘Fun” and let our hair down and maybe even get down right silly. Kids the world round anticipate this day much like any holiday with promise with excitement and dreams of all the candy they will receive and how good they will look in their costumes.

    Big business has found away to capitalize on this day like all the other holidays to the tune of billions of dollars. I suggest that big business did their homework and found other scary things such as Jack-o-lanterns, witches, black cats, skulls and crossbones (Taken from a variety places none of which were originally associated with Halloween and they did this to help boost their bottom lines.

    They prey on our children to buy brand new costumes at outrageous prices, as well as our fond memories of Halloweens past so that we concede to our kids wishes as well as spend tons of money on tons of junk for all the little trick or treaters. But we don’t only spend money for the kids we spend a lot of money on ourselves dressing up and throwing parties.

    Then we come to God, what does God say about Halloween? Well there are no references specific to Halloween in the bible but there are allusions to some of the things practiced at Halloween.
    - Deuteronomy 18:10, "There shall not be found among you any one that makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch." As a personal aside I don’t think this is happening for the vast majority of people celebrating Halloween.
    - 1Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil
    - Romans 12:2.Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
    - Romans 14:5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
    - 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 "And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.
    - Corinthians 10:20,21"No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons."
    - Ephesians 4:27 "and do not give the devil an opportunity."

    So the bible makes it clear that God wants no part of evil or evil doers who are not interested in what he has to offer, and that as followers of Jesus we are not to follow the ways of the world or conform to the norms of the world.

    In the end I think this is what it comes down to,
    What is your motivation for celebrating Halloween?
    If you are just having fun with it and spreading a bit of happiness and joy, by all means enjoy the day with all your heart and be blessed. If you a celebrating this day for anything other than amusement there will be a time of reckoning for you and you should really be careful because this sort of thing will definitely interfere with your soul’s final resting place.

    Rick Skouin
    WMC Counsellor
    Centre of Hope

    On Monday, October 31, 2011, Olga Sheppard said:

    Actually, I to have struggled with mixed feelings of how to deal with halloween on a Christian level. To cut cost, in the past I've made costumes for my twin boy and girl. In general, though have tried to be cost efficient. Our children have since grown up to young adults. While they were young we instilled in them that it's a time that communities as a whole give each child a treat out of the goodness of their hearts. Putting all the evil and scary costumes aside, I think it's a time where kids have freedom to be on their own to. We live in a society where children are so protected by their loved ones, they seldom get any freedom. That's not to say that the parents aren't still keeping a watchful eye in a certain distance. I've been there, done that. Lol. I just wonder are we sending the wrong message with regards to the darkness of it all because as Christians we are suppose to be letting our light shine, "The Light of Jesus". I feel that that light gets kinda dimished in this time of year. So, are we setting a good example because of it?

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