Monday, September 29, 2014

What's Wrong with Halloween, Anyway?

Pumpkins & Candy - Traditional Halloween Fun
The observance of Halloween is a cause for endless controversy amongst Christians. Some love it, some hate it, and everyone gives reasons.

Members of the "love it" camp tend to make these arguments:
  • The kids enjoy it, and I don't want to take their fun away.
  • What's wrong with enjoying an American tradition?
  • Dressing up and eating candy - what's not to like?
  • This was the traditional way for Christians of the British Isles to denounce the Evil One, by pretending to "scare him away" on the Eve of All Saints Day (All Hallow's Eve)
  • What's wrong with dressing up as a Princess or a Fireman?

In response to the "love it" arguments, I think: If something is good, I want to do it. But I don't want to just "go with the flow" to fit into our culture if something is not good. I'm skeptical of the "Godly origins" argument for the holiday - it just doesn't seem consistent with the general aura of the day (or, month, really - since the observations start more than a month in advance nowadays). We can dress up and eat candy without using this for an excuse. 

And, as for the Princess and Fireman, I've noticed that these disappear in very early childhood to be replaced by things less innocent. They're rather like "gateway" costumes.

Members of the "hate it" camp tend to make these arguments:
  • Halloween has evil origins.
  • Creepy & Scary aren't Christian virtues.
  • Too much candy rots kids teeth out, and causes other health problems.
In response to the "hate it" arguments, well, every post I've seen on the evil origins of Halloween seems to indicate that Christians need to live in fear of the Evil One - as if his power could rival that of God's if we just tip the scales the tiniest bit. They often even detail things that Christians should never discuss (Ephesians 5:12) or post pictures that should never be put in front of Christian eyes (Psalm 101:3). All of this makes the Evil One look powerful and glamorous, when in reality, he has been defeated by the Cross of Christ.

And, I'm much less concerned about the history of Halloween than about the current practice. 

Besides that, I let my kid eat more sugar than she should at Christmas, too. If sugar were the only issue, I wouldn't worry about it.

I've never been really comfortable with either set of arguments, to be honest. 

I dislike Halloween, but I've never been able to put my finger on why well enough to explain it to my little one. I don't want to give her nightmares by trying to explain to her about all the creepy stuff other people do on this holiday. And, I think the Bible clearly instructs us NOT to give a lot of attention to wrongdoing (Luke 10:20), nor to try to oppose the Evil One by ourselves, but to depend on the Lord to do so (Jude 1:9-10).

As C.S. Lewis said so profoundly in the Preface to The Screwtape Letters,
"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the
devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to
feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally
pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same

So, while I always want to avoid what is evil, I also do not wish to give that evil undue attention, nor to make my daughter fear what Christ has already defeated for her (Matthew 10:28). 

A couple of years ago, my conversation with my little daughter went something like this:
"Mom, why don't we celebrate Halloween? I like playing dress up and eating candy."
"Okay, let me explain it like this, honey, what do we celebrate on Christmas?"
"The Birth of Jesus"
"What do we celebrate on Pascha (Easter)?"
"The Resurrection of Jesus."
"And, what do people celebrate on Halloween, I've never told you, but can you figure it out?"

Well, that should probably be enough to explain it. But, it was always more of a niggling feeling than something I could put into words. Until this year, that is.

This year, we have had the uniquely Christian experience of saying goodbye to a beloved devout Christian friend on his way from this life into Eternal Life. He prepared for his journey by participating in the Sacraments of the Church. As we lived this experience with him and his family, we touched the miracle of Jesus' Victory over Death. We said "Goodbye" not forever, but until we could meet again. We see our friend's body as Sacred - it will rise again at the Last Day, as the Scriptures say. We said prayers for him, his body was anointed, we made our Cross before his casket, we kissed his body, we kissed the Icon of the Resurrection, and we interred his body in the earth, like a seed awaiting Spring. Although every moment was filled with grief for our loss of him, every moment was also Holy, Sacred, a preparation for Eternity with Christ.

The following day, I went to the grocery store and I was slapped in the face with what Halloween really is. There, on prominent display, was a creepy model of a skeleton of a human being with distorted features, covered in cobwebs. The plastic image did not remind us that this was the body of a human being, meant to be reunited with Christ at the Last Day, a seed to be planted in the earth and one day to be united with Christ. Instead, it was made to look loathsome, creepy, scary - horrifying. Not at all consistent with the Christian view of the reality of death.

And then, I realized the true function of Halloween in our culture.

The function of this so-called "holiday" (regardless of historical facts about its origin) is to make human beings repulsed and terrified at the idea of death and entering Eternity. And, in fact, to focus so much on either thinking about their fear of death, or refusing to think about death at all, that they completely fail to prepare for eternity. It is easy to notice on a moment's reflection that nearly every Halloween image is a distorted image of death - a lie about death.

Rather like someone who is terrified of flying, and must move to move to a new country, they could easily spend so much time thinking of their fear of the flight, that they completely forget to prepare to pack the right things in their suitcase, or give proper care to arranging for a place to stay upon arrival.

The Saints of the Church tell us "Remember Death" which is to say, keep our eyes on being properly prepared to enter an Eternity with God.

But, Halloween teaches us to be so frightened and repulsed that we avoid thinking about death at all costs. We cannot prepare for what we do not think about.

And, although I always hear people say, "It's just make-believe" the reality is that the fear that is engendered in human hearts through make believe, or fiction, often has just as strong an effect on the human psyche as does reality. We all know countless people who have developed strong fears by watching "horror movies." And, once those fears are planted in us, especially in childhood, but also in adulthood, they are incredibly difficult to overcome.

Even though the Evil One has been defeated by Christ's Death on the Cross, WE can choose live as if that defeat had never happened, to give the Evil One a place that is not his, by cowering and pretending he has a power he does not have.

Instead, we should see Death as what it is, now that it has been defeated by Christ. It is the door that opens when we enter Eternity. We need to live our lives preparing to walk through that door and enter a Holy, Eternal Life with Christ, rather than imagining that it is too scary to think about.

So, whatever your decision about whether your kids dress up as Princesses and Firemen and eat Candy the neighbors give them  - or don't - keep your focus on the reality. Be aware of the effect that the images of this season can have on the human psyche.

Eternity is what comes next. We're all going to "walk through that door" one day, if Christ should tarry.

Let's focus on being prepared, and as the Saints advise "Remember Death."

Here's a video I really like - perhaps you'll enjoy it too (it's only about 5 minutes.)

This is being shared at
What's Scarier Link Party
What'd You Do This Weekend
The Art of Homemaking
Modest Monday
Motivation Monday
Anti-Procrastination Tuesday 
In & Out of the Kitchen
Mom's Library 
Fabulous Fall Linky Party 
Think Tank Thursday
Inspire Us Thursday
Simple Saturdays
Teaching What is Good
Proverbs 31 Linkup


  1. I really like your contrasting the truly Christian view of death with what is portrayed so gruesomely at Halloween. More than once some of our neighbors have staged a graveyard in their front yard. Of course a graveyard is a holy place, so that's not bad. But in this case the graveyard was full of effigies of violent murders! I thought there ought to be a law against such a scene.

    1. Thanks so much for visiting again - I really enjoy reading your blog.

      We, too, have a mock "cemetery" in our neighborhood that I don't like my little girl to see when we're driving by it.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. We do not do Halloween in our home. We don't find it to be edifying and I do appreciate the reasons you have shared here too... Thank you for linking this thought-provoking article up to the Art of Home-Making Mondays this week.

    1. Thanks so much for hosting! I appreciate your nice comments : )

  3. Great post! You've shared some inspiration! I would love you to link at the Fabulous Fall linky party!

  4. Hi Anna. I don't know why it didn't work for you. I linked your post. It's viewable now. Thanks for trying and letting me know! Have a great Thursday. Come back and link any Fall post. The Fall parties ends the 31st. November 1 begins Thanksgiving posts. Come and join the fun.

  5. Very well articulated! You're right. It is the fear of death that is propagated through all the advertising.

    1. Thanks so much for the sweet comment. We miss you!

  6. I think you're completely right about how Halloween treats the dead (or UNdead--vampires, zombies, ghosts, etc). It's not how God wants us to think of death at all, and it's a completely unBiblical view of it. Thanks for tackling this subject!

  7. Thanks for the post. This time of year I really have to avoid most cartoons on t. v. for the children because it makes things difficult in our home. "Why can't we do Halloween?" and so on. Some of the children really get it, and some really want to dress up and get candy.

    I really appreciate your fairness in portraying both sides. However, I'm not certain it's bad for us to fear death because Death is the enemy. It's natural to fear death. If Death were a fuzzy pink bunny, I'm not sure we'd appreciate Christ's sacrifice to save us from it quite as much.

    On a funny note, we never get trick-or-treaters at our door. . . is it because we're so very far in the middle of nowhere? Or could it be that visitors to our home must past through a graveyard (a real one) on our driveway which is guarded by our three black cats? I've wondered that for a while now.

  8. Well, I slept on my comment which I with which I wasn't completely happy. I'm still not able to put into words my exact meaning, but I'll at least try.

    I think death is not natural, not how things were created. It is scary. BUT as Christians we should acknowledge the horrible thing that death is while still looking forward expectantly to what waits on the other side of death. If there is no fear of death, if death is welcomed and normal and fine, then what of suicide and euthanasia and murder and so on?

    And I don't think anybody was saying that death is totally cool and wonderful, don't get me wrong;) The more I blather on I realize why I don't normally comment on theology.

    1. You make some fine points, Jody. It is difficult for us Christians to see the great sadness of death in contrast with the great potential Joy of Eternal life and express ourselves well about it all. My reflections on the topic certainly aren't flawless here. But, I do feel like the modern practice of Halloween is not a proper & proportionate respect for death, but rather a distorted & grotesque attempt to make it seem different from what it is.

      No matter how we *feel* about death (even if it were ,as you said, the fuzzy pink bunny) , murder, suicide and euthanasia would always be wrong because they involve Man attempting to put himself in the place of God.

      Death IS an enemy - but a defeated one that we need not be in complete terror of.

      Hope that makes sense - I appreciate your comments very much!

  9. after I typed my last reply to you, Jody, I realized you're the one with the delightful blog I surfed by the other day - and subscribed to : ) I love "The Spice of Life"

    1. Yes, your explanation made more sense than mine. And I agree with you about Halloween. I just wish it weren't so commercialized. It feels like high-school peer pressure at its worst when you walk down any store's aisle this time of year. Then again, I also think stores go way overboard on Christmas and Easter, too.

      Thank you. I found your blog thanks to your comment. We're definitely not anything close to vegan in our household, but I appreciate well-written blogs with food ideas. I write a column about every other week for my local (and very, very small) newspaper, and at the end of each column I have a recipe. I'm sure I'll need more inspiration if I'm going to keep up the writing.

    2. I really appreciate your comments : ) I very much agree about the commercial push for Halloween - this blog post was generated largely by my pondering how to answer my little girl's questions about why we cannot have all of that "fun." Not only do the stores have yummy looking candy & fun looking costumes to walk past, but we also deal with a constant stream of well-intentioned grown ups saying "Are you ready for Halloween?" "What are you going to dress as this year"

      If ever you find a food idea or recipe on here that you'd like to share in your column - leave a comment & let me know. More than likely, I'd be happy to let you share it with the link/URL attached (my copyright tab has details). I'd be honored if you find a recipe you like & want to share : )

  10. OH I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this post soooooooooooo much Anna! Thank you for taking the time to write it :-)

    1. Thank you so much, Sandy : ) I'm truly honored that you like it so much : )


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