Halloween is a controversial holiday for many Christians. Feelings about this holiday range all the way from fear and loathing of its satanic overtones to glee at the idea of candy, costumes, and fond childhood memories.
Anyone who has done any research into Halloween’s origins realizes it has roots in paganism and superstition, if not outright devil worship and witchcraft. However, by the time my own childhood Halloweens arrived, all this day meant to me and my peers was one special time when we could set aside our everyday selves and step out of some of life’s rules and routines.
We could wear different clothes and pretend to be another person entirely. Children who were taught never to ask for treats were encouraged to become mini-extortionists, going door-to-door threatening dire tricks if we weren’t paid off in candy and homemade goodies… and folks greeted us with smiles and praise for our costumes. Some invited us in and took our picture. Children who were usually admonished to be home before dark were suddenly allowed to roam the night streets in raucous packs, even playing pranks and indulging in mild mischief without fear of retribution. We could eat sickening amounts of candy, stay up late, and be as silly as we liked, knowing that the next day everything would be back to normal.
Our culture today is not so simple and safe as in my small town childhood. There are real dangers for children wandering dark streets. Parents wisely accompany their little ones on Trick-or-Treat and examine the treats carefully before doling them out in healthy quantities. The innocence of a few decades ago simply doesn’t exist.
Today, celebrating some Christian variant of Halloween, such as a Harvest Festival with Biblical costumes, is the norm in many churches; while this is seen by some as unnecessarily narrow-minded and prudish.
Personally, I can no longer feel comfortable with the day. I hand out candy to the children who come to my door, but I don’t put up any spooky decorations. I am ambivalent, abhorring the thought of giving support to superstition, paganism, or even commercialism, yet nostalgic for the magic evenings of my memory.
In today’s post-pandemic world, when all our holiday celebrations are changing and we are encouraged to wear masks every day, perhaps it might be a good time to rethink Halloween.