Halloween Again

Every year I recommend the same article by Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary (where i was a student 1993-1994). And this year I again recommend reading “Making Real Decisions About Halloween”. Sorry if thats not very original of me . . .
Here is a good except from the article. You will find Richard very balanced.

“Halloween can be traced to ancient times, when some pagans set aside a day to commemorate the end of summer. The spirits of dead people returned to earth at this time, they believed, taking the forms of cats and witches and the like. Fearful that these spirits might do them harm, people attempted to scare them away by building fires and displaying pictures of grotesque faces. They would also place food offerings at their doors, hoping that any visiting spirits would take the treat and forget the trick. Our lighted carved pumpkins, masks, and trick-or-treat rituals have their origins in these practices.

Christians can know all this and still not automatically be opposed to Halloween celebrations as such. We need to be aware here of what logicians call “the genetic fallacy”—which occurs when we assume that because something started off with a certain meaning, it still has that meaning. Many of our Christian holy days, and the practices associated with them, have pagan origins—but this does not mean that we should not have Christmas trees in our homes or celebrate Easter at a time when the ground begins to “birth” new life.

But should Christians have special worries about Halloween? I think so. At least, we ought to be increasingly nervous about Halloween practices in light of new developments in our culture. When I was growing up, witches and ghosts were things we only read about in children’s storybooks. Today, with the re-emergence of Wicca and the new interest in seances and “channeling,” they are a very visible religious presence in our culture.

At the very least, this means that Christians cannot view Halloween as just another innocent childhood ritual. For many of our contemporaries, it has become, as it was in ancient times, a time to acknowledge the presence of very spiritual forces of good and evil in our lives. For others, the yearly event has provided a new excuse to thumb their noses at traditional standards of decency and decorum.

Does this mean no “dress up” for Christian children? Not necessarily. That needs to be a family decision. But it must be a decision. We can no longer take “innocent” Halloweens for granted. At the very least, it means that Christian families and churches need to do some serious instructing about what Halloween means to many people. And we must be especially diligent in teaching ourselves and our children that the real antidote to the threat of evil has been provided through the death and resurrection of the One who is the Lord of all our days and nights.”
Richard Mouw.

Read the full article here.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Isaac says:

    Last night at housechurch, one of the girls brought up halloween. Though she had always celebrated it, she had just had a nightmare about it, and had decided to do some research. We talked about a while. It was a little bit weird since someone there has been involved with wicca, but good.
    I thought I was just becoming an overly conservative traditional by saying that Christians should be wary of halloween. I was comforted that you had also taken a stand, but after reading about your WWJD sermon, I’m not so sure that you’re not a ‘overly conservative traditional’ yourself. :p

  • Bill says:

    Here is another point of view.
    Perhaps it doesn’t matter what the roots of Halloween are anyway, but I don’t know that it really has much to do with ancient Celtic rituals.
    Question: If people began to mistreat Christmas more and more, or Easter, would we start to become wary about them? Would we maybe decide we should stop celebrating them? Hopefully those are rhetorical questions.

  • Yaz says:

    I think the practical out working of halloween (as well as the spiritual side) is just as relevant in the debate about how Christians should respond. People get terrified of things happening to them & their houses (I’m particularly thinking of old people living alone) on the trick-or-treat night. Also, Bill, I have to say I would love to see us as Christians talking more about being wary of indulging in the secularized Christmas experience: the utter greed and waste of our rich western nations when millions starve and live without what we would regard as basic necessities… I think it’s a tough one and so hard to get God’s perspective on.

  • Sally Prittie says:

    As fairly ardent non-Halloween participators, who this year threw a prayer party for young and old and had a lovely time, we were very amused to see the following in the Times 30/10 compiled by Luke Coppen:
    “Schools in the United States have banned Hallowe’en because the authorities are worried that the celebration may offend real witches. Pupils who turn up in costume will be sent home from schools in Puyallup School District in Washington state. Spokeswoman Karen Hansen said: ‘Schools are teaching students to be respectful and take account of the discomfort felt by others. Witches with pointy noses are not respectful symbols of the Wiccan religion.'” (!!)

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