Before we move to why Christians should celebrate Halloween, we need to work through some people’s arguments for not celebrating Halloween.
Many from my past argued that Halloween “comes out of paganism.” But that sounds a little inconsistent since Christmas and Easter both “come out of paganism” as well. Why do we still get to celebrate Easter with bunnies (a symbol of fertility based on the ancient pagan rituals) but can’t dress up on Halloween? There are others who would argue that we should not celebrate Halloween because “it celebrates evil.” The problem with is that Halloween is not a person. “It” doesn’t celebrate anything.
The reason we are okay with celebrating Easter and Christmas, even though they are based on pagan festivals, is because the ancient Church just changed the meaning of the holiday. Holidays don’t “mean” anything, they have different meanings for different people. If you are a Christian, Christmas means something to your Christianity. But if you are not a Christian, Christmas means something completely different. I do not own the calendar. If people want to celebrate family on the day that I celebrate the birth of Jesus they are allowed. There is no “objective” meaning to Christmas (as evidenced by the fact that December 25 was not chosen because it was the date that Jesus was actually born as well as the fact that it wasn’t celebrated for the first several centuries of the Church), it is a cultural phenomenon. I celebrate it because it means something to me. This also means, on the “opposite” end, as holidays go, there is no “objective” meaning to Halloween. I am free to celebrate it however I wish. If I am a Christian, I will celebrate it Christianly. If I am a pagan, I will celebrate it paganly. If I am a kid, I will probably celebrate it with candy.
But my main point is that we should not just “tolerate” Halloween, giving our kids the uneasy “okay” to visit our neighbors to ask for candy — as long as they dress up like Jesus/Peter/Noah/Jonah/David (most Bible character costumes look the exact same, so you can just substitute names every year and use the same costume). No, we should be one of its biggest supporters. Halloween is a friend and ally to Christianity.
I only say this because I assume one thing: the primary enemy of Christianity in our culture is no longer other religions but a lack of imagination (which ironically, many Christians also suffer from in our culture). It is the inability to see “the possibility of another world.” Along with the beauty of science often comes a mindset of cold determinism, that “what you see is all there is.” A worldview where there is nothing more to love than firing neurons and chemical imbalances. That all there is to poetry is the evolution of language. That if we cannot see the afterlife it cannot possibly exist. It is not paganism that will topple Christianity, as many Christians still naively think, but a lack of imagination, a depreciation of art, an inability to think of mystery as a positive rather than something to be attacked and eradicated.
And if this is true, then Halloween is on our side. As Christians, we meet weekly to remind ourselves that the world of “what we see” is not the world “of all there is.” But Halloween is the one day in our culture where we all still get to excite the imagination, Christian and non-Christian, where we get to set aside our usual skepticism, even if just for one day.
Halloween is the celebration of the possible. For one day we get to live in a world where orcs and hobbits exist, where The Force is real and evil will one day be vanquished. The entire culture gets reminded that maybe not everything in our lives can be explained away and controlled.
Yes, as Christians we should be some of the biggest supporters of Halloween, believing on behalf of a unbelieving culture what a growing number of us only reluctantly admit from time to time: that maybe, just maybe, our story really is bigger and better than meets the eye.
*This is an updated post from last year.