It happens each year. The air cools; the days shorten; leaves burst into brilliant color, soon to fall to the ground. Inside things are happening too. Lights are carefully placed on the mantel; pumpkins, ghosts, spiders, and bats fill my living space; soon it will be Halloween.
I love this festive season. The kids look forward to trips to the pumpkin patch. There is firewood to be delivered and Jiffy Pop to burn. Leaf piles grow, inviting all to jump into with glee. Cider, don’t even get me going about the cider. The smell of spiced cider simmering on the stove delights the senses and promises of pumpkin bread yet to be devoured. Soon jack-o-lanterns will be carved and pumpkin seeds will be roasted and seasoned to perfection.
What a time to play dress up and to stay up late watching your favorite “scary movie.” Kids visibly tranform into monsters, heros, princesses and frogs and run door-to-door demanding a treat else you suffer the risk of a “trick.” Adults get dressed up as well, playing with their children and with one another. Oh, the games they play.
These are the activities of the season – ingrained into our culture as much as apple pie and baseball, yet so many Christians stand opposed to these festivities. Why? This has always baffled me. Why stand outside and opposed to your culture? After all, most Christians have no problem celebrating Easter or Christmas, but Halloween, now that’s a different story.
I’ve heard Christians tell me that they want no part in Satan’s holiday. Are they kidding me? What makes Halloween more depraved than any other celebration? They tell me that dressing up in monster outfits honors demons and shames Jesus. Seriously? Thay insist that Halloween is the day of witchcraft and black magic. Huh? Okay, One of my kids did dress as Darth Maul and Darth Vader. True, they used the Force and enslaved the free world through violence and oppression, but Satanic? I think not. Geez.
Occasionally, Christians argue that this holiday was rooted in a pagan festival called the Samhain. Basically, the Samhain was a Celtic harvest festival which celebrated the end of summer at which time the Celts believed that the boundaries between the living and the dead were able to be crossed. In order to protect and hide oneself from these evil spirits, the living had to masquarade as the dead; thus, deceiving the Banshees, and therefore, escaping Death’s clutches yet another year. To disguise oneself became a matter of survival in a dark world ruled by the fear of death. So, it seems that Halloween may indeed be linked to a pagan festival. But what of other more “Christian” festivals? Are their origins any less godless?
Christmas’s origins are as pagan as Halloween’s. December 25th corresponds with the winter solstice. On that day, Romans celebrated the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. This was the birthday of the Unconquered Sun. This allowed for many solar deities to be worshipped on the same date. The Persian god Mithras, Roman Sol, and Syrian Elagabalus all were worshipped throughout the Roman Empire on the 25th. Christian Christmas also corresponds to the Roman Festival, the Saturnalia, where social roles were reversed, as masters became servants and servants masters, and much merrymaking occurred. The church fathers, such as Bede, even agreed that Christ was most likely born in the springtime. Therefore, Christmastime has more incommon with pagan celebrations and debauchery than with Christianity.
Though Easter’s origins can be tied to the Jewish Passover, many argue that this holiday has the most pagan of beginnings. The etymology of the word “easter” has its base in the names of fertility goddesses, such as Eostre. Most fertility goddess had festivals in spring which directly corresponded to the time of Easter’s observance. Also, other “resurrection” gods were worshipped in the springtime. Among the “gods” celebrated are Bacchaus, Adonis and Attis. The most compelling correlation, which supports pagan beginnings for Easter, is between Attis and Christ. Attis was the consort of the Phyrgian fertility goddess Cybele. He was believed to have had a virgin birth and was gored to death by a wild bore after he self-castrated himself. He died as a result of this violence, but was reborn, bearing the scars of his death, as a eunuch. Therefore, many argue that Easter has a great, if not greater, connection to the occult.
So, if Halloween is to be feared and avoided by Christians, then too ought Christmas and Easter. Perhaps Paul said it best in his letter to the Colossians.
16 So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. 18 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. 20 You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. Col 2:16-23
See, we were set free from this world. As Christians we have a new freedom to live as beloved sons and daughters. We no longer have to worry about conforming to the things of this world. It’s not about what you do or don’t do. It’s about who you are, because of who Christ is.
Halloween is fun. Kids love it. Communities act like communities. It’s one night a year that people go door to door and greet their neighbors. People slow down and talk to one another. It’s fun and it’s freedom in practice.
If anything, Christians should be even more involved in this hallowed evening. Christians should have the best parties, have tastefully haunted displays, open their homes to neighbors, display the warmest hospitality, give out the best candy, and above all show your community that you are a part of it!
This past weekend my friend, who’s a Christian, hosted a great get together in our neighborhood. She invited friends and opened her garage to the local high school students. Those students put on the best PG haunted house in town. The high school students had a great time socializing. What an amazing way to be in the world and not of the world. This is Christ’s witness – Christ focused love.
Kudos, Angie. May Christ be glorified through your serving endevour.
Christians, instead of whining about how terrible kids are and how wicked Halloween is, do something radical. Throw the best party in town – it doesn’t have to be huge. Just make a statement for Christ. One that is anything but whiny.