As Halloween fast approaches, writer Lauren Windle looks at the origins of the day and explores the different approaches Christians take to it.
I’ll level with you. I don’t like Halloween. Even choosing a picture for this article posed a challenge as I don’t want to promote pictures of children dressed as devils - even for demonstrative (or should I say demon-strative) purposes. Any day that glorifies and glamourises the occult is not cool with me.
To many, I sound like the fun police. But I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Halloween is bad news for Christians. That said, I am just one Christian and there are plenty more (although not as many as we would like). Within the Christian community there is a varied approach to the day.
I sound like the fun police. But I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Halloween is bad news for Christians.
What is Halloween and where did it come from?
Halloween didn't start off as we know it today. It wasn't always the one day that parents decided "stranger danger" was null and void and sent their tiny charges off to demand treats from the nearby houses. Oh no.
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Initially it was a day marked in the ancient Celtic calendar. It was called the festival of Samhain and was a pagan religious event to welcome in the harvest at the end of summer. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to scare off any ghosts and ghoulies that may be lurking.
Later down the line Pope Gregory III announced that November 1 would be a day to honour the saints. As the two traditions evolved, they became incorporated with each other and the day before All Saints Day (Nov 1), was called All Hallows Eve (Oct 31). And later down the line it was Halloween.
I believe the spiritual realm is very real and I would only ever want to engage with the light side.
Do Christians celebrate Halloween?
There are many Christians who see the day as a bit of fun and will happily dress up and get involved in the frivolities. Plenty of Americans don't see the harm in marking an event that is so ingrained into their culture. There are some who will take a half-in-half-out approach. These guys may agree to go to a Halloween party but would dress as a mainstream character rather than donning an evil outfit.
Then there's the people who think like I do; that the spiritual realm is very real and I would only ever want to engage with the light side. They do say we all eventually turn into our mothers - and I feel a lot like her right now. For me, dressing as a ghost, witch or devil isn't harmless and I don't participate in Halloween events. That means from time to time I miss out, which was especially hard as a teenager. But, for me, some things are more important than a night out with friends. There are plenty of churches that counter the dominant message of the day by hosting "light parties" for children instead. These involve games, crafts, worship and fancy dress but in a specifically God-centred way.