On the 31st of October, we celebrate the reformation of the church which began with Martin Luther, way back in 1517, when he nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg Castle doors. These theses were usually one or two lines indicating a wrong teaching by the then Roman Church. Of course, being part of the churches that were formed after the reformation, we really appreciate what God did through men like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cranmer and others. The great doctrines of grace which we hold dear, find their roots in the reformation. What a great privilege to know that we are saved by faith alone, grace alone, in Christ alone, guided by Scripture alone and all this to the glory of God alone.
Unfortunately, this wonderful, celebratory day has been high jacked by what is often referred to as ‘Halloween’ night. Halloween is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts and evil spirits. People often gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints and martyrs. Since there were too many saints and martyrs for the days of the year, one day was nominated to remember them. The evening became known as “All Hallows’ Eve” which later became “Halloween.” Over time, Halloween has evolved into a secular, community-based event characterised by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating.
I guess the question needs to be asked whether we as Christians should participate in any way or should we trash it? On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much harm in children knocking at your door and asking for a trick or treat. However, knowing a little bit about the history of Halloween, and Scripture’s warning not to meddle with spirits and mediums, it is a question with which parents need to decide upon.
Scripture does not speak at all about Halloween, but it does give us some principles on which we can make a decision. In OT Israel, witchcraft was a crime punishable by death (Exo 22:18; Lev 19:31; 20:6, 27). The NT teaching about the occult is clear. Acts 8:9-24, the story of Simon, shows that occultism and Christianity don't mix. The account of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:6-11 reveals that sorcery is violently opposed to Christianity. Paul called Elymas a child of the devil, an enemy of righteousness and a perverter of the ways of God. In Acts 16, at Philippi, a fortune-telling girl lost her demon powers when the evil spirit was cast out by Paul. The interesting matter here is that Paul refused to allow even good statements to come from a demon-influenced person. Acts 19 shows new converts who have abruptly broken with their former occultism by confessing, showing their evil deeds, bringing their magic paraphernalia, and burning it before everyone (Acts 19:19).
So, is it possible for Christians to celebrate Halloween without compromising one’s faith? Is there anything evil about a Christian dressing up as a princess or disguising yourself in some other way and then joining some friends and knocking on doors to receive a trick or treat? Probably not. Are there things about Halloween that are anti-Christian and should be avoided? Absolutely!
If parents are going to allow their children to participate, then perhaps they need to make sure their attitude, dress, and most importantly, their behaviour would still reflect a redeemed life (Phil 1:27). So that is at one level. However, what do we do when children knock at our door asking for a trick or treat? I don’t think slamming the door in their faces is very winsome, so that isn’t an option. Perhaps, as some Christians do, we could see this as a small mission opportunity and we could have a little bible verse ready along with a sweet lolly to give them as a treat. There is nothing too tricky about that, and the blessing of knowing the way of salvation unto eternal life is not to be trashed either. JZ