Many conservative Christians are pondering whether or not it is appropriate to participate in Halloween because of what it might symbolize. Understandably so, since as Christians we inherently believe in the supernature of good and evil entities, both of which inhabit and transcend the natural world. It would be unwise to celebrate or participate in any event that might go against what would be pleasing to God (not to mention, unbeneficial). It is important, however, to determine whether or not what we’re doing is truly against what we find in scripture, and whether or not we have a right to protest fellow Christians in participating in such events. That being said, what is Halloween truly about?
To boil the story down, Halloween is a mash-up of the Celtic pagan holiday Samhain (pronounced sow-ayne) and the Christian holiday All Hallows Eve. Samhain occurred from October 31st to November 2nd, and it symbolized the embrace of the final harvest, death, and the introduction of winter. Many believed that during Samhain, the spirits of dead would roam the earth and visit the living. The tradition of wearing masks comes from the idea that a person could disguise himself/herself as a way of tricking a spirit into thinking that he/she was also a spirit—thus causing the spirit to overlook the person and leave them alone. The idea of trick or treat comes from the tradition of offering goods (treats) to the spirits so that they will take the gift and restrain any kind of harm. Failure to offer up goods to the spirit could result in a trick where the spirit may antagonize the person for not complying.
All Hallows Eve represents the beginning of the celebration of All Saints Day where Christians would remember the martyrs of the past. As you might have guessed, we have derived the name Halloween from All Hallows Eve, which was traditionally a Christian holiday.
So is Halloween an evil holiday? Well, like most things, it isn’t that simple. You have the emergence of a superstitious, pagan holiday with a Christian holiday celebrating their Christian martyrs. You have a semi-resemblance of certain Samhain practices, though void of spiritual content. But is it wrong to celebrate? Here are a couple of things to remember. 1: Christ is triumphant over the dead (1 Cor. 15:55-57, Col. 2:15, Rom. 6:9). 2: Evil is everywhere, and there is no reason to suspect it is more present on Halloween (1 Pet. 5:8). 3: We are told to be in the world but not of the world (John 15:19). 4: We are told to spread the good news of the gospel (Mark 16:15). You won’t find a verse in the Bible that explicitly says that it is wrong to participate in Halloween. Therefore, we gather the truth of scripture as a whole, and against it, we measure our convictions, intentions, history as we know it, and considered ideologies. From there we make our judgment.
The bottom line:
Whether or not you chose to participate in Halloween is left to your own convictions. It should go without saying that Christians should not participate in any kind of witchcraft, divination, or anything else where there is an attempt to communicate with spirits. These are things that people can get themselves into at any time during the year, not just Halloween. We should approach holidays with an understanding of what they represent—being careful to do our research and being hesitant to be overly-dogmatic about our opinions, lest we disguise our opinions as truth. Halloween has roots in both a pagan holiday, as well as in a Christian holiday. We should use our good judgment, partnered with the solid truths of scripture and the guidance of the Spirit to determine what is harmful, and how we should engage the culture that we live in.
[Edit] To clarify, it is certainly possible to cross a line where certain traditions, though not necessarily inappropriate in themselves, can be used as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. I would certainly agree that there are Halloween practices and costumes that can cross the line into inappropriate behavior, and we should use our better judgement in order to identify them. We find this to be the case with nearly all pop-holidays. Wearing green on Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t likely going to fly the flag of immorality, whereas irresponsible drinking would. Putting up a Christmas tree isn’t likely to be sinful, whereas excessive materialism would be. Giving love-themed Valentines Day gifts isn’t likely to be sinful, unless those gifts are lecherous.