I recently received this question:
“We are fairly new to Canada. The country we moved from did not celebrate Halloween. We are trying to discern, as a family, how to approach Halloween from a Christian perspective.”
It’s hard to find agreement on Halloween among Christians. Some believe it originates with All Hallows/All Saints Day, which was a day devoted to commemorating the memory of past Christian saints. Other believe it has pagan roots that were later Christianized as Christianity covered Europe.
In either case Halloween does have a darker side. Many occultists, Satanists, witches, etc, treat Halloween as a time to practice and observe their rituals. Consequently, caution should be taken not to appear to be dabbling with images (such as witches, devils, etc) that are not morally neutral. Since these things mean something and are associated by some with evil spiritual forces I think it would be wise to avoid them.
For the majority of people though, Halloween is seen as simply a fun night where the kids dress and go trick or treating. It can be fun for the kids and also a chance to open your door to the neighbourhood; a rare opportunity in our day.
How should we handle Halloween biblically?
Some may disagree with me, but I have primarily relied upon Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 to discern what to do about Halloween.
1 Corinthians 8:
In New Testament times much of the meat sold at markets had been used in idol sacrifice before being sold. The question was raised: “Should Christians eat such meats?” Paul argued that since Christians knew that idols were nothing more than hunks of wood or stone there was nothing inherently evil with meat that had been laid in front of them. Their knowledge in Christ gave them freedom to eat such meat.
However, Paul also acknowledged that some believers didn’t quite see it this way. There were some who felt conscience stricken about the eating sacrificial meat. To break their conscience on such matters would be leading them into sin. In this case Paul warned that if taking part in something you knew was ok would cause another brother or sister in Christ to sin or stumble in their faith then you shouldn’t do it. In such cases it was proper to surrender your own freedoms for the sake of your brothers and sisters in Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:
In Chapter 10 Paul carries on the same theme. He maintains the same view on meat as he did in Chapter 8 (“eat whatever is sold in the market without raising questions of conscience” (10:25). But he does warn that participating in the actual meal associated with idol sacrifice is sin. That’s because the rituals themselves are not spiritually neutral. They actually engage a person in participating with demonic forces. This a Christian cannot do. Not only because it will lead them into sin, but also because it would be actively encouraging others to worship demons.
How Should Parents Make Decisions About Halloween?:
Ultimately parents need to discern and decide what is best for their children and their family. Biblically I don’t feel that I can argue dogmatically one way or the other. I would say however, that the principles laid out by Paul help us ask some important questions when deciding what to do.
- How is Halloween observance generally understood in your community? Do most people see it as harmless fun for the kids? Or, are there notable segments of your community that seem to highlight the spiritual significance of Halloween? Depending on your answer you may want to avoid participating if doing so will serve to reinforce Halloween as a spiritually significant occasion to the people in your community.
- How is Halloween treated in your church community? Would participating be a significant stumbling block for any of your brothers or sisters in Christ? If so you probably shouldn’t for the sake of your brother/sister’s conscience. This is how we honour Christ and love his body the church.
- How do your children feel about Halloween? Have they ever expressed concern or fear about some of the scarier facets of Halloween? Conversely, are they showing an unhealthy fascination with some of the dark or evil elements of Halloween? If so I would take that as a sign that taking part isn’t a good idea for them. Doing so may be akin to causing them to stumble as Paul mentioned since their feelings of fear could very well be the Holy Spirit’s way of protecting them. And feeling of fascination may be an early warning sign that they are susceptible to dabbling in the occult.
- What does your conscience tell you? Let’s not overlook the Holy Spirit’s role in guiding our conscience. If you can’t give a good biblical reason for not taking part but still feel unsettled or not at peace about it, then err on the side of caution and take that as the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
- This isn’t a question, but of course you should commit the matter to prayer and specifically ask God for wisdom.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
How Should Parents Explain Their Decision to Their Kids?:
Should you decide not to participate in Halloween activities and need to explain why to your kids, here are some possible talking points:
- “Some people see Halloween as only dressing up and trick-or-treating. But there are others we know who see it as a time to think about or even celebrate evil things like talking to demons. Because of this we don’t feel it is honouring Jesus for us to take part, or for people we know to think that we think these things are ok. Does that make sense?”
- “Some parts of Halloween seem harmless, like trick-or-treating. But some people associated it with evil things like witches and demons. I’ve asked God to give me (us) wisdom about whether we should participate as a family, and he just hasn’t allowed me to feel ok with it. I take that as an answer from him, and so I’m going to trust him that this just isn’t something we should take part in. Can you understand that?”
What Should You Do If You Are Not Going to Participate in Halloween?
Some churches actually hold Halloween alternative events, which is great if you are not taking part but still want your kids to feel like they’re doing something special when all of their other school friends are trick-or-treating. If not, plan something else as a family. You don’t want to be around the house anyway while dressed up kids are ringing your doorbell asking for candy. Plan an outing like a movie or bowling. Or plan on getting together with like-minded friends for a games night.
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