Why Christians Should Celebrate Halloween*

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.

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11 responses to “Why Christians Should Celebrate Halloween*

  1. Jared, for millions of Christians Halloween was never abandoned. For many the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls are the most touching most reverent Holy days. As I have gotten older I experience more frequently the loss of friends and family and become more sensitive to the losses that others experience. As a result IO have a more mature and somber understanding of the Vigil Feast of All Souls (Halloween) than I did as a child…but I do not begrudge anybody who has the luxury of experiencing these days without the pains of separation.

    And importantly, the Mass at the Feast of All Saints has elements that bring the celebration of the Easter Vigil to mind. The connection between Easter and Halloween is experienced most profoundly by the mourning and suffering soul.

  2. One difference between Halloween and Christmas/Easter is that the Christmas and Easter are both still associated (just about) with Jesus’ birth and resurrection; Halloween is now primarily associated with demanding goods with menaces.

    As Garry points out, the festival was once linked with church celebrations of ‘All Hallows’ – the community of the living and the dead in Christ – but for the majority of the population that link is long gone. Now it is surely just a secular festival of vaguely scary fantasy, filling a retail gap before Christmas (or Thanksgiving in the US).

    I see your point about encouraging wonder and imagination, but have strong reservations about equating Jesus with witches and orcs (do people really dress up as orcs and hobbits for Halloween in your part of the world?!?). And when has witchcraft ever been associated with evil being vanquished?

    • I don’t see it this way. For me, when this debate comes about every year, I always recalled a Halloween when I was a child many years before I became a Christian. During my trick or treating with friends, we came to a house and knocked on the door expecting candy and fun. Instead, we saw a dark nose through a mail slot exclaiming, “We’re Christians, we don’t celebrate Halloween!” And quickly shut the mail slot as if slamming the door on us. Luckily, instead of being upset, my friend humorously responded, “I don’t care lady, just give me some candy.”

      This story illustrates how much we waste this day as a means to be a witnessed to the world. Instead of isolating ourselves, scared of the world, we should show how Christianity is relatable, how we can be in this world but not of it, and ultimately display that Christians can have fun in anything — a positive mentality. Sadly, some of our brothers and sisters hide in their homes keeping the wonders of Christ to themselves. It’s as if the greatest candy that can be handed out is denied because of regulating oneself to being cognitively and religiously simplistic.

      Today, as an adult, I believe that Halloween is what you make of it. Like everything else in this life, if you come with an evil heart, evil will transpire. But if you come with a Godly heart, then people will only see His love. I think we can surprise the world by being love rather than bringing fear and judgement.

      Good stuff and great post.

    • I agree there are differences. My point was about the logic of “we can’t celebrate Halloween because it has its origins in paganism, not that there aren’t any differences. I am also not equating Jesus with witches and orcs, just suggesting that a healthy imagination is helpful for Christian faith and practice. Thanks as always for your input though, it will cause me to think more thoroughly about this!

  3. Easter the Church comes together. Christmas families come together. Halloween neighbors come together. Christianity needs a neighbor holiday.

  4. I agree with you, jbyas! We have a big (the kids in the neighborhood say the BIGGEST) selection of candy, and invite them to take a fun little script with the candy, giving the kids a prayer to pray before they go to sleep, thanking Jesus that He is there for them, no matter who else is, and to tell them that the other “world” is as real as this one, and that He has made it safe for them. A kind of “come on in, the water’s fine!” An Invitation to imagine that world, and include and celebrate Jesus as the Savior of it. They like it, and some of them read the script while they’re still at our door, and I love seeing their smiles and their eyes lighting up. The kids know! They’re closer to that world than grownups are. Let’s encourage their wide-eyed wonder, and quit being killjoys!

  5. I don’t disagree with the need excite the imagination on Halloween, and maybe that’s where we can engage our creativity to celebrate our own respective ways as Christians. Fair enough.

    My perspective comes from my wife, who is a licensed professional counselor. She has worked with clients (once children) who have suffered from satanic ritual abuse and they can never be casual about Halloween or compare it to Christmas or Easter. These are people whose painful memories are forever etched to every Oct. 31. To them, it IS a person (that did unspeakable harm and abuse), and there IS an objective meaning (the perpetrators’ high day for satanic worship).

    So while we are free to celebrate it however we wish, I am free not to celebrate it at all because of what the meaning has become for so many — a day of evil, practiced by evil people, at the suffering of many.

    • Point well taken, and I think it compliments my thoughts well. We are free to celebrate it or not, based on the meaning (positive or negative) it holds for us. Thanks for your perspective.

  6. Pingback: On Why I Say Xmas* | Jared Byas

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