What Are You Wearing This Halloween?
by Dale Reeves
Pastor of Creative Content
Every year on October 31, parents face a number of questions regarding Halloween:
“Should we allow our children to go out trick or treating?”
“Are we participating in the devil’s holiday?”
“Will our dentist be happy with the amount of candy our children consume that night?”
The answer to that last question is obviously yes—you’ll be seeing him in the future, contributing to his children’s college fund!
Seriously, what’s a parent to do? Without a sufficient knowledge of Halloween’s history, it’s hard to answer these questions, and it becomes something every parent must sort out for their children.
During the “Dark Ages,” in the Celtic countries of Britain, Gaul (France), and Germany, the Druids, who were the priests and teachers of the Celts, set aside October 31 to honor Samhain, their lord of the dead. They believed that Samhain summoned the souls of dead sinful men and that these witches, demons, and goblins roamed the earth on the eve of November 1, which began the Celtic New Year. They believed that these evil spirits might inhabit themselves in an animal, such as a black cat. The Druids offered the spirits good things to eat (“treats”) in order to protect themselves. They put on masks and costumes, hoping to “trick” the spirits into following the crowd out of town, thus getting rid of the bad souls.
Later, in the sixth century, Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel to “all saints.” In 834, the feast of “All Saints,” or “All Hallows Day” was moved to November 1. This day was set aside to honor all the saints who had no special days of their own. The night before was known as “All Hallows Eve,” or “Hallows E’en,” and finally “Halloween.” Elements of the pagan Celtic practices and Roman Catholic practices mixed together to form the Halloween traditions that are celebrated today.
So, where does this leave today’s parents? I have been on staff at several churches throughout my lifetime and have encountered parents representing complete opposite sides of the spectrum. Some parents absolutely want to stay away from anything that would “give the devil a foothold,” so they don’t let their children go trick or treating, or dress up on Halloween night. Instead, they may opt for a “fall family festival” or a “harvest party,” choosing to celebrate God’s goodness, thanking him for his harvest of autumn foods. Some churches I have been affiliated with have allowed children to dress up for their “harvest party,” but have asked them to dress up as biblical characters. And, some children are delighted to discover that the Gadarene demoniac and the witch of Endor are among the characters in the Bible who represent the “dark side.” And, of course, Lazarus was one of the “Walking Dead.” One year when my wife was at home with our newborn baby, I took my older daughter to a church party dressed as the Holy Ghost. It was the easiest costume I ever made for one of my girls—a bed sheet with holes cut out in numerous places.
Other parents have chosen to participate fully in the community’s Halloween trick or treating and other celebrations, citing that many non-Christians view Christians through the lens of intolerant individuals who seem to be against everything. They see this holiday as just a way for their kids to have some harmless fun. Do your neighbors know what you stand for, rather than what you’re against? Do they see you as people who love to have fun, or people who sit in judgment of others?
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, or not celebrate Halloween with your family, here are a few practical takeaways I would suggest:
- Pray for the protection of your children during this season of the year as well as every other day.
- Celebrate God’s goodness in the life of your family by thanking him for the many blessings and favors he has shown you this year. Thank him that he is the Lord of life, not the lord of the dead.
- Don’t let the devil get any credit for the fun you will have as a family.
- The best costume you could put on is one that honors Christ. Romans 13:14 says this: “We can’t afford to squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence . . . Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!” (Romans 13:14, The Message).