Is Halloween an appropriate holiday for a Christian? Is it harmless fun, or a dangerously inappropriate custom? What should you do on October 31 when the ghouls and goblins arrive at your door?
On October 31, millions around the world will celebrate Halloween with an evening of parties, games, costumes and candies. In the United States, Halloween has become the third-busiest party day of the year, surpassed only by New Year's Eve and Super Bowl Sunday. Retailers expect that U.S. consumers will spend more on celebrating Halloween this year than the $6.9 billion that Time Magazine reported was spent in 2003. Nearly 90 percent of families with children under age 12 participate in the holiday, according to The Halloween Institute.
Most who participate in Halloween do not believe in—and some are unaware of—its anti-Christian roots. The debate over "trick or treating" focuses more on whether it is safe than on whether it is sending children a wrong message about greed. Even so, Some people may wonder whether they should celebrate a day that began as an ancient Druid holiday, Samhain, when the dead were believed to return and mingle among the living.
Some say it is acceptable to observe Halloween, as long as one does not believe in its non-Christian elements. Others think it is proper to turn the holiday into a "Christian" celebration. Still others suggest that it is best to shun the custom entirely. What should you do?
Should true Christians celebrate Halloween to mock the Devil and remember his defeat? Mount Vernon Nazarene College professor Anderson M. Rearick III made that suggestion a few years ago, in a Christianity Today article ("Hallowing Halloween," October 5, 2000). In response, we might recall the proverb: "Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor" (Proverbs 14:9). God tells His people: "Do not learn the way of the Gentiles" (Jeremiah 10:2). Christians, observing the world's false religious practices, must not ask themselves: "How did these nations serve their Gods? I also will do likewise" (Deuteronomy 12:30). After all, God's annual Holy Days—which Christ Himself observed, and taught His followers to observe—already give true Christians several biblically authorized occasions to remember their Savior's death, resurrection and victory over the devil.
Even Professor Rearick, who considers Halloween acceptable for churchgoers, concedes that the holiday is not appropriate for all. "For those who have been redeemed from the occult, Halloween in its foolishness may contain what was for them deadly seriousness," he wrote (ibid.).
"But I wasn't redeemed from the occult, so it's OK for me to celebrate Halloween," you might respond. The Bible, however, teaches that in an important sense all true Christians have been "redeemed from the occult"—called out from a world "under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). Those who hunger for Christ's return recognize that most of the world is currently under Satan's influence, rather than God's. So we can see that, for anyone looking forward to Christ's return and the establishment of His Kingdom, it is a matter of "deadly seriousness" to follow a custom rooted in the worship of a false god whose rulership will cease at Christ's return.
Remember, too, that Christians must not "love the world or the things in the world" more than they love God (1 John 2:15). Anyone can recognize idolatry when it involves bowing to a physical idol, but coveting worldly ways—putting "fun" or "candy" or "popularity" ahead of your desire to obey God—is also a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Whether your "god" is Moloch or Milky Way, celebrating Halloween will find you honoring a false god.
This year, when Sunday, October 31 arrives, and children dressed as goblins are ready to appear at your door, what should you do? Instead of waiting by your door for "trick-or-treaters," why not take your family on a wholesome outing instead? Instead of trying to conform to worldly customs and seek the world's blessings, why not turn your attention instead to the many blessings God gives to those who obey Him?
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