Christians and Halloween: A 50 Year Cycle

I know what you are thinking.  Halloween is past and we are on to thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But let’s back up a moment.  For the past few weeks, I have been mulling over what Christians have been writing and saying about Halloween.  I realized that in my 50 plus years on this earth, Christians have turned a full circle on what to do when October 31st rolls around on the calendar.  This article is not going to argue for or against Halloween.  It is merely to observe the shifting opinions that have dominated different times in my life.

1.  A Cultural Community Event

In my early years Halloween was a community event.  One did not have to go to the church building to participate.  Christian kids and teenagers celebrated like the rest of their neighbors.

2.  Scaring the Devil

Sometime during my teen years, some Christians decided that they would turn the tables on Halloween.  It became an opportunity to scare hell out of teens and kids.  Tracts and Hell Houses became the tools of choice.

3.  Avoiding the Pagans

With the rise of the Christian sub-culture in the 80’s, Christians learned about Druids, Wiccans and Pagans.  If these misguided people were celebrating on this date, then Christians would act as if the calendar for October actually ended on October 30th.  We would move straight to November.

4.  Sanctified Trick or Treat

Soon kids began to question why they were being punished by not getting any candy like their less committed or heathen friends.  Costumes could be worn if they did not represent anything devilish.  Superheroes and cartoon figures abounded.

5.  Pumpkins and Orange Leaves

When razor blades in candy became publicized, the church often provided a safe alternative.  But the church couldn’t call it Halloween if it was held inside the fellowship hall of the church.  So we called them Fall Festivals.  Sort of the same principle that culture uses now to have Winter Festivals instead of Christmas – much to the dismay of those who brought us Fall Festivals.

6.  Back to Wittenburg

Finally somebody hijacked the day altogether.  Since Martin Luther had hammered his nail into the church door on this date in history, we would forget all about Halloween and have Reformation Day.  I’m not sure what we would do if Luther had used his hammer on September 22nd.

7.  If You Can’t Beat ‘Em

This year every church hosted something called Trunk or Treat.  Individual Christians were left to attend these or participate fully with their culture apart from the church activity.  The internet became inundated with blog articles telling us that this is the best way or even the right way to do October 31st.

Personally, I like to reflect on the Reformation Day aspects of the date.  I like history and think that the significance of justification by faith alone is worth contemplating.  I would caution others to show grace to others who differ on the celebration of this date.  In my lifetime alone, serious Christians have wrestled with this issue and arrived at varying conclusions.  These conclusions all are couched in biblical and theological thought, but have also been shaped somewhat by our culture.

How did you celebrate October 31st?