How should a Christian celebrate Halloween?

“The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.
The one who eats, eats in the honor of the Lord…”

(Romans 14:6)

There is a tension that comes with Halloween, much like the tension of Christmas.  With Christmas, it is difficult not to get swept up in the commercialism, the “Currier and Ives” nostalgia, and the flat out hedonism of the “I’ve-been-good-give-me-what-I-want” mentality.

Halloween carries its own jumbled baggage.  The early church celebrated All Saint’s Day to commemorate the lives of the saints who had died as martyrs and witnesses of the faith.  To honor, or “hallow” a saint, sometimes leads to idolatry, elevating the life of a man to a demigod like status, but the abuse of an honor ought not negate the honor.  The author of Hebrews recites the Faithful Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11, honoring the great witnesses of our faith as a way of encouraging our continued life of faith.  The night before this day of remembrance, All Hallows Eve – or Halloween – as one Pastor writes, “was thought to be a last ditch party on the part of unholy ones — devils, witches, fairies, imps and so forth.”

None of that really matters today; we’ve lost all sense of tradition or purpose behind Halloween.  Having jettisoned every element of honoring the lives of the saints, the All American Halloween is – like everything else – all about filling your bucket.  Add to that a hyper-sexualization (“Sexy Witch” or “Naughty Schoolgirl”), or ghoulish morbidity (zombie, vampire, etc…), or a combination (“Sexy Zombie Nurse” – which really doesn’t make any sense), and there is little to commend about Halloween.

Still, we want to maintain an “in the world, but not of the world” practice, and if you live anywhere near children, you will surely have a few trick or treaters to entertain tonight.  So what do you do?  How do you celebrate this day without compromising your witness?  Here are a couple of points:

  • Be Gracious
    Remember that there are some Christians, maybe within your own church, who will choose not to participate in the festivities of the day.  Call it what you want, a Fall or Harvest Festival, they want nothing to do with it.  Then there are those whose yards are all decked out, and the fog machine is running, and they greet you at the door in full costume. Faithful Christians disagree about Easter (or is it Resurrection Sunday), Christmas, playing cards on Sunday (or any day for that matter); so you know they will disagree on how we participated in Halloween.  Let this be your guiding principle, “Treat one another with the same grace, patience, and forgiveness that God has shown you in Jesus Christ.”  That kind of love will cover a multitude of sins.
  • Be Hospitable and Joyful
    Here’s a thought from Doug Wilson, “When neighborhood trick or treaters come to your door, I would encourage you to give them more candy than unbelievers give, as opposed to a glare and/or a tract about the fires of hell. We want to behave during this time in such a way that their celebrations are revealed as far more anemic than ours (not to mention twisted and gross).”  We talk a lot about living our lives so that others may see our joy and want to be a part of it.  No watered-down, imitation celebration will do that.  Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine so that everyone marveled.  Do you seriously think that the lollipop and “Jesus sticker” is going to get anyone’s attention.
  • Glorify God
    Whether you celebrate the day as Elvis, or turn off the lights and pray the “hottentots” won’t come to your door, let us remember that in all things we are to glorify God.  If you celebrate the day, celebrate it in a way that will bring glory to God.  And I’m sorry, but I don’t see how demons, ghouls, zombies, and half-naked witches do that.  If you do, then you have a difficult argument to make.  Let your costumes, and your conduct, show the glory and light of God in a darkened world.  Let this be the guiding principle in all of your ways, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).


Of Cats and God…

“All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit.”
(Isaiah 44:9 ESV) 

This Sunday is “All Hallows Eve” otherwise known as Halloween.  I’ve tried to get my kids to dress up this year as the movers and shakers of the reformation (Calvin, Knox, Luther, or Idelette de Bure (Calvin’s wife)) since this Halloween falls on reformation Sunday.  Alas, we will instead have Athena, Jango Fett, Thomas the Train, and Yoda – you can’t win them all.

I am always impressed at how Halloween brings out our long buried superstitions.  We pay more attention to black cats and full moons now than at other times of the year.  Just the other day I was talking with a friend when a black cat crossed our path.  My friend was visibly troubled, and expressed her fear about her ensuing bad luck.  I tried to encourage her, but to no avail.  Just a couple of days later, she informed me that her computer had crashed when she tried to install a new program.  She was sure it was because of the black cat.

There are a lot of superstitions that people still hold onto today:

·         Friday the thirteenth is an unlucky day

·         A rabbit’s foot brings good luck

·         To find a four-leaf clover is to find good luck

·         If you walk under a ladder, you will have bad luck

·         If a black cat crosses your path you will have bad luck

·         To break a mirror will bring you seven years bad luck

·         To open an umbrella in the house is to bring bad luck

But my question to my friend, and to anyone who holds to these or any other superstitions is this: “How do these beliefs relate to your faith in the Almighty and Sovereign Lord?”

We confess every Sunday that we believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  We affirm the faith of the confessions which teach us that “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass… for the manifestation of his glory” (Westminster Confession of Faith), and that “Jesus protects us so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation” (Heidelberg Catechism).  We believe that the great God of the universe has created all things for his pleasure, and has the “whole world in his hands.”  We confess that God is all-powerful, that His will cannot be thwarted – unless, of course, you happen to break a mirror, or come across a black cat.  Then God’s hands are tied.

It’s like this: God, in his eternal decree, has planned today to do you great good.  Perhaps he has ordained that this is the day for you to be set free from sickness or debt, or to find your heart’s true love.  Suddenly, you drop a mirror which shatters to the ground, and a voice from heaven thunders, “Oops!  That’s too bad, I had such great things planned for you.  See you in seven years.”  When you look at it this way, it makes the common superstitions we hold seem a little absurd.  Who has greater power, an untimely placed black cat, or the God who made you, the cat, and the world you live in?

The problem is, we tend to put too much faith in the foolishness of this world rather than trusting in the wisdom of God.  We see a cat or a broken mirror and start looking for bad things to happen, and eagerly assign the cause and effect.  Or maybe we have success and we attribute our accomplishments to a lucky number or our lucky socks.  We forget about the grace of God that has protected us from greater harm and blessed and prospered us with life, hope, and peace.  We’re always looking downward watching for cracks so we don’t break our mother’s backs, that we forget to look up and see the glory of God reminding us of his strength and love.  Holding to these superstitions is nothing more than idolatry – we are giving more power and honor to these lesser things than to the one true God. 

Christ died to set us free from such false gods, and to secure our faith and trust in the Living God.  Shouldn’t we see the rainbow and remember God’s promise?  Shouldn’t we see the golden fields and know that God has blessed us; giving Him all glory and honor?  Shouldn’t we hear the gospel message and know that “neither death nor life, angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor black-cats nor open umbrellas, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Happy Reformation Sunday!