Great question. Let’s start with a quick origin of the word ‘Halloween,’ from the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM):
The word Halloween is derived from the term “All Hallows Eve” which occurred on Oct. 31, the end of summer in Northwestern Europe. “All Saints Day,” or “All Hallows Day” was the next Day, Nov. 1st. Therefore, Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day.
From a Christian perspective, we have much to celebrate on October 31st and November 1st. October 31st is celebrated throughout much of the world as Reformation Day, which commemorates Martin Luther nailing his ‘95 Theses’ to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, in the year 1517. That event sparked the Reformation. Much of the Christian Church also recognizes November 1st as All Saints Day, a holiday meant to honor the saints in the Christian faith who have come before us. In the Biblical calendar, days start in the evening; so, All Hallows Eve (Halloween) is the beginning of All Saints Day, which has roots that can be traced back to the 5th Century AD.
The contention some Christians have with Halloween comes from the fact that many people dress up as witches, ghosts and goblins – a tradition many historians believe is derived from ancient pagan festivals. Yet even if that origin has some truth to it, what would Jesus command us to do? I believe He would tell us to take back what is His. I believe He already told us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Matt 28:19), not to shrink back from preaching the Gospel on the day when unbelievers need to hear it most. We are to be salt and light in this dark world, knowing that we have the authority to cast out demons (Mark 16:17) because Jesus has given it to us. Shrinking back from a chance to spread the Gospel on Halloween is avoiding our responsibility as Christians.
If we’re going to rule out Halloween as a day to preach the Gospel, we also have to rule out every other day that has ever been associated with pagan traditions. The word Sunday means ‘Sun-day’ (dies solis in Latin). Pagans tried to make it a day of the week to worship the sun, and Christians reclaimed it as a day devoted solely to worshiping the One True God. Does the fact that there are some possible ancient associations between Sunday and pagan traditions mean we should stop going to church every week? Absolutely not! Sunday, like every day, belongs to God. So does Halloween. It is our job to go out and take possession of it for Him.
At CityLight Church, we offer an alternative to traditional Halloween festivities. We have a Fall Festival, which gives us the chance to invite the entire neighborhood to church. We have games, prizes and fun activities for kids of all ages. And yes, we encourage kids and parents to dress up in costumes. Why? Because it’s fun. That’s it. When the kids who come to our Fall Festival grow up, we want them to remember church as the place they went every year around Halloween and had the time of their lives. If we don’t offer an alternative to Halloween as a church, who will? If our members don’t go out and preach the Gospel every day of the year, including Halloween, who will?
If we sit back and worry about whether or not we can participate in the most culturally active and relevant days of the year, we risk becoming irrelevant as Christians and passing up opportunities to share the Gospel. Our goal for every major holiday (Christmas, Thanksgiving, and even Halloween) should be to turn those days back into what God intended for them to be: a chance to gather with our loved ones and honor Him.
So, here is what we recommend. If you have any serious reservations about Halloween, don’t participate. It’s your choice. If you know anyone who would be thrown off from his or her Christian walk because of your participation in Halloween, don’t participate. Plain and simple (see 1 Cor 10:23-33 for an analogous discussion from Paul on eating meat sacrificed to idols).
However, any holiday – regardless of origin – is defined by what it means to you, here and now. If you understand that complete freedom in Christ means you can dress up and go door-to-door asking for candy just for fun, then feel free to do it. But don’t forget to use every day – especially Halloween – as a chance to evangelize. Dress your kids up as angels instead of demons and send them around with CityLight Church postcards or Gospel tracts. They can go from house to house in your neighborhood and invite people to church as they receive candy. You’ll be training a bunch of pint-sized evangelists. When kids come to your house, hand them invitations to our Fall Festival along with a Snickers bar. That way, they can come to our Fall Festival on November 2nd and bring their parents. We promise to preach the Gospel to their whole family.
-by Pastor Mike White