Redeeming Halloween

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tricktreatIn a short time, as children dress in all sorts of costumes and go around the neighborhood collecting candy, many in the church will once again ask, “Is celebrating Halloween okay?”

Many have taken various stances on this issue. Some join in trick-or-treating. Trying to avoid celebrating it as the world does, some churches hold events for kids. A pastor I know would take his son and invite others to Chuck E. Cheese to play games. One person told me how his family would turn off all the lights and sort of hide in their own home, ignoring the knocks at the door.

We often times talk about how the world has hijacked certain Christian holidays. They’ve taken Christ out of Christmas and inserted a goofy bunny into Easter. But if we were to dig into history, we discover that these “Christian” celebrations were actually once pagan holidays. With the spread of Christianity, came a desire to redeem these secular celebrations and give them a new meaning.

Halloween is no exception. Once a very pagan Celtic celebration, the church introduced a new tradition of remembering the saints and martyrs – the faithful departed. The night before All Hallows Day (or All Saints Day) became known as Hallows Eve (or Halloween). Over time, remembering the impoverished souls became part of the tradition, and poor children would go door-to-door collecting food called “soul cakes.” As Halloween spread, other traditions were introduced, and we see much of its negative aspects in our secular society.

As a child, I grew up celebrating Halloween, though my wife’s family did not. For me, I never thought it was a big deal. I’d go around, collect candy, and then come home and indulge in a sugar binge. In fact, I loved the idea of free candy so much, I trick-or-treated until I was 15.

When we got married, my wife researched Halloween, and we decided that if we were going to participate, we would do it purposefully. We read about the origins of the pagan celebration and what the church did to redeem it and point it to Christ. So we decided that instead of just celebrating Halloween as the world did, we would redeem it.

When my oldest daughter was two, we told her about the story of the poor children who went around the neighborhood collecting soul cakes and praying for the saints. At each house, our daughter held out her bag, received candy, and then returned a blessing. “God bless this house,” she said. You can imagine the adorable sight of a little two-year-old swimming in a monkey costume pronouncing blessings. This year, we’ll continue the tradition with all three of our kids in our new city. It may seem like a small gesture, but we see it as teaching our children the power of prayer walking.

Please don’t take this message as a Christian trying to convince you to celebrate Halloween. I think that is an issue better left to your own conscience. Rather than take a stance on whether one should or shouldn’t celebrate Halloween (there are plenty of articles you can read if you would like to be convinced one way or the other), I’m going to take a similar position that Paul took regarding eating unclean meat. If you regard Halloween as the devil’s holiday, then don’t celebrate it. But whatever you do this Halloween, whether it’s trick-or-treating, going to an alternative location, or turning off all your lights and watching a movie, use it as an opportunity to glorify and honor God. Every moment of our life is an opportunity for redemption. What we choose to do on October 31st is no different.

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