Here Comes Halloween

Bel Halloween

Once upon a time when we were living in England, I kept hearing this one particular song everywhere I went. I think it was around Christmas, so I was out shopping a lot – and the song was everywhere. It had a great vibe and I liked it, so I downloaded it and added it to the mix. My dad had taught me early on that you should always read the lyrics so that you know what you’re singing along to . . . and that’s a habit that has stuck with me to this day. As an aside, that habit is especially important as a parent – who wants to find out later that your kids have all memorized something filthy that you’ve been playing around the house every day? Anyway, I remember that I had looked up the lyrics to this song and they were completely nonsensical and poetically unimpressive, but there wasn’t anything problematic about it in that way. And it was a great song to cook to. I always love it when the music is turned up and everyone is in the kitchen helping, and like I said, this song had a great vibe. So it was definitely having a presence around the homefront as well as in the Christmas sales around Oxford.

After a week or so, apropos of nothing, I looked up the band. It wasn’t a group that I was familiar with, and so in a moment of curiosity I googled them.

What I found out was that a couple of the members of this band had met at a Halloween party – and they had instantly hit it off and had known that they were destined to be friends because of the costumes they were in. One of them was dressed as a botched back-alley abortion, and I can’t remember what the other one was but it fit in nicely with that first. Seriously, it turned my stomach – and that was the last of that song for me. I deleted it straight off my playlist and that was that – I absolutely couldn’t listen to them anymore without being completely revolted.

But why on earth am I bringing this up? I’ve been hearing a lot of Christians lately talking about how wonderfully symbolic it is to dress up as ghosts and goblins and demons and witches on Halloween – and the reasoning is that by dressing up as these things we are making fun of Christ’s enemies. But to be honest I’m dubious about that reasoning. Dressing up as a botched abortion is dressing up as an enemy of Christ’s – but I fail to see what kind of great postmillenial point could be made with that.

I’m curious if the folks that self consciously dress their kids as various members of the demonic team (as opposed to those who do so without thinking it through at all) would be equally ok with dressing their sons up as a transvestites, or their daughters as a couple of lesbian brides? Throw an abortion doctor in there? To be honest, I think most Christians would be horrified at that idea – and rightly so. I think this is because we intuitively know that dressing up as something is not actually how you mock that thing. A man wearing his favorite player’s jersey to the game is not mocking that player – and no one who sees him thinks he is. Everyone who sees him knows at a glance that this is an act of solidarity with the team, not the other way around. An actor in costume for his play is not in the act of mocking the character he’s dressed as. Heck – even a man in a hot dog suit who’s holding a sign advertising the nearby hot dog stand . . . he’s not mocking hot dogs. He’s telling all the passing traffic that if they are fans of hot dogs they should step this way. I actually can’t honestly think of one single instance of putting on a costume where we are all supposed to intuitively understand that this is an act of mockery.

I’m not arguing that parents who are doing this as an act of gospel symbolism are in high rebellion. If those parents are using this method to catechize their children about Christ’s victory then I believe them to be sincere . . . I just think that they’re mistaken about the way the symbolism works. In my mind it would be similar to teaching my kids swear words with entirely different meanings attached to them. If I told my kids that the f-bomb meant “Hooray!” then when they used the word they wouldn’t be guilty of swearing . . . they’d just be very confused. And so would everyone else be around them.

My second problem with this approach to Halloween is that, even assuming that the symbolism does in fact work, mocking the principalities and powers is actually something that we are forbidden from doing in Scripture. Jude specifically addresses this in verses 8-11:

In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

My thought is that if even the archangel Michael wouldn’t speak disrespectfully to Satan, and if the people who heap abuse on celestial beings are soundly condemned as having taken the way of Cain, rushed into Balaam’s error, and those who were destroyed in Korah’s rebellion . . . well I think that maybe we should think twice before launching a campaign with our children of, “Hey everyone! Let’s mock the devil!”

So I guess my two problems with this approach boil down to this. That’s not the way you mock the devil, and even if it was you probably shouldn’t do it.

So how do we celebrate Halloween in our house? The kids dress up and go aquire as much candy as possible. I’m totally on board with that. Yahoo for costumes, yahoo for trick or treating, and yahoo for sugar in bucketloads. We just don’t dress up as the other team.

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37 thoughts on “Here Comes Halloween

  1. I’m curious. Which band is this? I definitely don’t want them on my iPod. I can’t find them via google. And I totally agree with the dressing up as witches, etc… It’s cowboys and princesses here!

  2. Regarding understanding lyrics…I speak German. There is an extremely popular German hard rock band called Rammstein. They have a song called Du Hast. Wonderful tune. Awful lyrics. Du Hast is the most anti marriage song I have heard since Billy Idol’s White Wedding. Another thing to be aware of; be careful of the accuracy of translating software when it comes to foreign song lyrics. I have seen German songs translated so badly, it had to have been deliberate to prevent people from knowing what is really said.

  3. The whole “mock the devil on Halloween” is something I hadn’t heard of until this month. A side angle of this issue is whether it is good or bad to culturally trivialize death and evil. I was struck by another blogger’s comment that Christian cemeteries used to be a striking witness for our faith in the Resurrection, but now have become a silly prop for gory parties. That seems a shame.

  4. So, I’m really a loner on this issue but I can’t understand how even partaking in this day is edifying. In our home we celebrate October 31st as Reformation Day (the day Luther nailed his 95 thesis was October 31, 1517). I’m all about freedoms in Christ, fun and candy but I feel like a lot of us trade celebrating a huge even in church history for partaking in a pagan, dark-rooted holiday. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not judging anyone at all. This is just something I’ve been struggling with for a while, or every October. We know nobody who celebrates this day as Reformation Day so don’t think I’m trying to start a trend. Like I said, we are definitely loners on this issue and trying to make decisions based on where we feel God is leading ; )

  5. “We should celebrate Jesus, because pagan evil holidays are wrong.”

    Lady, give it a rest. Religion is a man-made concept created to make you feel inferior. Let your kids enjoy a harmless costume holiday, or they’ll grow up and go 180 degrees the other direction to liberate themselves from your iron-clad grip on their social progression.

    This isn’t the 1800’s. Morals weren’t created in the church, they were created from within our very humane, very real acknowledgement and alignment with our resources, our planet, and our recognition of each other.

    Halloween is fun. Stop ruining it with zealous dogma.

  6. Dear Tiffany,

    I’m not judging you either. I am just letting you know, as a kid whose parents thought the same way. It stinks for your kids. Do what Mr. Wilson said. Let them dress up as something non demonic: a baseball player, a Disney character, or a dinosaur and let them go get bags of candy. There will be plenty of days to teach your kids about the Reformation. On one day though, let them be kids with imaginations and who love candy.

  7. We don’t dress up as the bad guys either, but when your 6-year-old wants to be a Black Rider it’s hard to squash his Tolkien enthusiasm.

  8. Good article! Thank you for posting this.

    But remember, postmillers don’t have to obey the New Testament. So much of it was meant for the period before the tribulation which happened in AD 70. So all that stuff about the god of this world and how we deal with the devil no longer applies to believers. Postmillers can pretty much do whatever they want as long as they say they are redeeming or reclaiming something for Christ…which they can do with anything they like. :)

  9. I agree with the whole not dressing up as the other team thing and this was a powerful post – thank you! We dress up to celebrate Reformation Day in our church and there’s even a big conference (I think it’s annual) to celebrate it in Pretoria. I’m a teacher and I always explain to the kids where Halloween came from (All Hallows Eve is the night the dead come out – how is that a good thing?) and tell them what they’re doing when they dress up as the devil or witches and wizards. Our kids in church look too cute dressed up as Protestants! Perhaps that would be a good alternative to what the world does? And that leads to an opportunity to explain the good that was done on Reformation Day. Dressing up as cowboys, princesses, dancers or whatever and fetching candy for trick or treat is fine I think – after all, why should our kids miss out on candy! lol

  10. You’ve never seen anyone in a Nixon mask? That’s an example of “costumed mockery” that came to mind without any effort; I’m sure there are more.

  11. Bekah, I completely agree with your point and am totally with you. I just have one question about the place of mocking the devil and other principalities and powers. Your verse from Jude makes it clear that you shouldn’t mock what you don’t understand, but Colossians 2:15 says that Jesus did make a “public spectacle” of the devil and his minions. As Jesus’ followers, wouldn’t there be an appropriate way for Christians to do so as well? One way we have taught our kids about this in the past is by laughing at the devil’s pride.

  12. I didn’t realize what a sensitive issue this is. I learned much from this post on not mocking the devil. Hmmm. I always thought it was fun to make sport of satanic things, that they do not have power over the Kingdom of God. The Lord rebuke you is in order.

  13. Hi, read your post and I find it so hard to understand why anyone who believes in Jesus Christ would want to take part in Halloween…..whether dressed as a princess, cowboy, ghost or a witch. We should not be associating with this dark, dark day & is it ok….just so they can get some candy. Do people realise that this is still a day when real witches etc get together & worship the evil one. My question to you would be…..how happy would you be to join in on this night if you were walking along outside with Jesus Christ? Do you think He would be taking part…just to get some candy? We are here to be different on this earth, not to compromise and be ever so slightly different from the rest of the world. Light should be light and stay well away from the darkness. I hope that you would seriously consider this,would Christ be joiningin? God bless you all

  14. I agree that we can learn from Jude to not mock the devil, but I thought it worth mentioning that imitative mockery is a thing I’ve seen lots of times. I think it’s often in a lighthearted way (all the more reason not to use it to mock the devil, even if one were to mock him). It’s not a big deal, just an FYI for thoroughness. Here is one of my favorite examples: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Utu5SnO9PIg

  15. “If I told my kids that the f-bomb meant ‘Hooray!’ then when they used the word they wouldn’t be guilty of swearing . . . they’d just be very confused. And so would everyone else be around them.”

    But “heck” is totally different.

  16. Amen. Good article. I think understand the well-meaning intentions in the original festival is a good thing, but rosary beads and keeping the Scriptures out of the hands of the public also had good intentions. Halloween has become like the clerical dog collar – it now means something entirely different. The way to redeem it is to start something entirely new.

    Also, there’s the fact that in other countries, such as Australia, where Halloween isn’t observed by many, the American fascination with it isn’t something we (aside from retailers) want to import.

  17. I grew up celebrating halloween by going trick-or-treating and loving it. But then I had kids and had to ask myself why I loved it, and it was because I got to be completely selfish and indulgent with the sweets. The costume was a necessary means to acquire it. Then I asked myself if I wanted my kids to grow up with this same drive for candy–would it be edifying to them and their little budding characters or would it be a stumbling block for them, greed to unlearn? I rather find myself in the latter camp, because I don’t think my love for candy was (or still is) a unique thing to me. I would really appreciate insight from other Christian parents who let their children celebrate halloween. Dark and evil overtones of the holiday aside, how do you train their hearts to be generous and to a certain extent self-denying on a day that encourages the opposite? Have you been successful or is it a struggle? Thanks!

  18. Here in Austria we have christian version of halloween. (Actually our tradition is older so halloween is the pagan version of “Adventsingen”) Were the children and the adult who drives them, go from house to house and sing christmas charols and read the nativity story to the people.

  19. Tiffany, our family celebrated Reformation Day as well! We always have a big candy eating spree and watch “Luther.” We have never done Halloween either. You aren’t alone! :)

  20. I liked the post. Here in Australia, Hallowe’en hasn’t ever been a very big thing, and so we have never needed to work through the issues. We’ve lived in numerous places around the country and would be lucky to have one lot of kids come knocking on the door each year. Commercialism is starting to push the Halloween wagon – another way for them to make money….. I think I like the tradition that Matthias described – definitely sits more comfortably in my mind. Chocolate and dress-ups is nearly a daily event in our household anyway 😉

  21. Sarah– one thing our family has enjoyed is making a point to reconnect with neighbors with little gifts while we trick- or-treat. We stick to a fairly modest radius around our home and to our near neighbors bring something like a mini loaf of pumpkin bread or homemade jam. Just one idea!

  22. We don’t do Halloween, either. It glorifies death and evil, and even if you have a princess or fairy on the doorstep, she will be likely joined by someone in an objectionable costume. We didn’t want our kids to feel sad about this family decision, though, so we rent or buy a fun movie, make special snacks and treats, and have a ‘family night’. We’ve also honored Martin Luther and the reformation day angle as well on some years.

  23. Our family has chosen not to celebrate Halloween. We do celebrate Reformation Day. We learn reformation history by reading lots of biographical stories. There is no fiction that can compare with the story of Tyndale. It has it all, intrigue, betrayal, courage, gore, really good guys and really bad guys. The same can be said about most Reformation stories, so why not tell the stories. The kids love them. Thankfully, the families of our local church love to celebrate the Reformation as well. So, we all get together and the kids play Bible Smuggler (a variation of tag where the monks and priests seek to capture the smugglers), Escape from the Nunnery, Reformation scavenger hunts etc. The kids love it. I grew up in a family that did not celebrate Halloween. I’ve never regretted it. I guess that’s because my Mom and Dad knew how to love much and party hard. When raising kids it’s not about what you don’t do. It’s about what you do do. Growing up we had lots more fun than any pagan could ever imagine, and I hope, by God’s grace, our kids will think the same.

  24. We don’t trick or treat because my little girls are disgusted by the gore. Taking a walk the other day, they saw a house that had murdered baby dolls in the yard. They were revolted and traumatized. They have no desire to participate.

  25. Hallowe’en can be such a dilemma. A local church has “Hallelujah” night instead – candy, costumes etc (but of course nothing demonic) and a local Christian school used to have “Costume Day” (same thing). I wasn’t sure how that was different from a Christian family doing actual Hallowe’en (with no demonic costumes). One year we carved “Jesus loves you” into our pumpkins and other Christians I know give out “Testa-mints” (candies) or tracts. One Christian organization (Living Waters) calls Hallowe’en “National Evangelism Day” because the unsaved come right to your door! :)

  26. Thank you for this, it’s good of you to stick your neck out on an issue that seems to get people quite worked up!
    I think in the UK Hallowe’en is not quite as big as in the States, and I don’t know many Christians who celebrate it at all. We do have parties in churches as alternatives, kind of to give the children something to do that night that’s fun and not ‘dark.’
    I also think trick or treating is probably more popular in the suburbs and villages (I grew up doing it), whereas I now live in central London where you can’t really go round ringing people’s doorbells in the tower blocks.
    So I’m thankful that it’s not as much of an issue for us, and I don’t think our children will feel they’re missing out. But I appreciate that these are difficult issues for Christian parents to work through with wisdom. (Also my children are still under 5 so it may become more difficult as they grow!)
    Thanks again.

  27. Tiffany, you’re not alone. We never “celebrated” Halloween as a family either in the traditional sense; costumes, trick-or-treating, etc. Our church’s Harvest Party was as much as we participated in. If our kids wanted to dress up at other times we did (alot!) and candy, no problem, but not in recognition of that which doesn’t include Christ. I also am not judging others who do. Each needs make a personal decision about how we honor and glorify God in what we do. I just wanted to tell you there are others who see October 31st as you do.

  28. I have a hard time with all of ‘that kind’ of candy, not to mention the rest of it. We do believe that you need to replace one with a another though. Glad you brought this up.

  29. As much as we despise the gore of Halloween (my 7 year old is so sensitive to it that one year he didn’t go out in the front yard for the entire month of October because our neighbor had gouls in his yard), we see an amazing redeeming value in seeing our neighbors face-to-face before the long winter draws us all indoors. So instead of shutting off our porch lights, we turn on every light in the house, swing open the doors, pull up the blinds, open our garage, pull out the hot dog grill and the hot cider, have leaf piles in baby pools to dig for trinkets, pumpkin painting and bowling, and the best candy on the block. We are to be a light on a hill, and if all the neighbors are out on one night a year, for whatever reason, you’d better believe we should be out there, too.

  30. “Also, there’s the fact that in other countries, such as Australia, where Halloween isn’t observed by many, the American fascination with it isn’t something we (aside from retailers) want to import.”

    Besides – pumpkins in spring just seems silly. Like bunnies & chickens in autumn (Easter). And snowflakes in summer (Christmas). Such is life down-under.

  31. My parents always appreciated the Harvest Festival that Logos School would put on around Hallowe’en; it gave us kids a chance to dress in costume (which is always fun) and to get candy by competing in games.

    They considered that a better lesson than the lesson taught by Trick-or-Treat, which is “People give you candy if you threaten them.”

    “How to commit extortion” is not really… appropriate… as an activity for children.

  32. Totally distracted from the point of this post by your example of throwing out a piece of music because the people who made it are disgusting people. I mean, dear me, I hope you never read any music history. I don’t like disgusting people either, I’m with ya there, but I’m still gonna listen to the music of Gesualdo, Berlioz, Wagner, Scriabin and countless others….good heavens, Mozart!

  33. @Tracy: I was hoping someone would mention Halloween as an opportunity to reach out to neighbors! We do those things as well and in our old neighborhood we hosted an annual chili cook off which drew all sorts of people we wouldn’t have met otherwise. It is a wonderful night to introduce ourselves to neighbors and get to know people a little bit. I DO believe that Jesus would have been out on the streets on Halloween. Its the one night of the year that all your neighbors actually leave their houses (voluntarily!) to interact with the community! What a waste if all the Christ-followers remove themselves and any opportunity of shining His light on such a dark night. Storm the gates with Jesus, right?

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