Saturday, October 31, 2009

Is Halloween evil?

I was listening to our biggest local talk radio station yesterday morning. One of the hosts is very conservative, politically and religiously, and he said something negative about Halloween.

"I bet," one of the other hosts said, "you think Halloween is of the devil."

"Well, not only is it of the devil," the conservative host replied, "but you're also teaching kids to ask strangers to give them something for nothing. It's perfect training for future Democrats."

His "logic" got a laugh, and later he was teased about saying Halloween is "a conspiracy between the devil and Democrats."

I groaned at the radio host's views, but it did get me to thinking--

Is Halloween evil?

I grew up in a very conservative Christian family--my dad is a Baptist pastor. We had great fun with Halloween, and my other Christian friends celebrated the holiday too. Then when I was seven years old or so, my parents were given some information about Halloween's past and current pagan/occult/Satanic influences.

So, in the mid-1980s, when most Christians still had no problems with Halloween, we stopped celebrating. We still handed out candy, but didn't dress up or Trick-or-Treat. "Fall Festivals" and "Harvest Festivals" weren't popular yet, so we didn't go to any "Halloween alternative" celebrations. My mom did buy us candy--she didn't want us to feel too deprived! And I'll admit, candy has always gone a long way toward making me happy.

I wholeheartedly shared my parents' convictions about not celebrating a "Satanic holy day" but also missed the fun parts of Halloween. When we transferred out of a Christian school and into a public school, I was embarrassed that I couldn't participate in singing Halloween songs or coloring Halloween pictures. I felt it was worth it...but it was hard.

Now a great many American Evangelical Christians do not celebrate Halloween because of the scary and/or evil influences. This is a pretty popular view, and many kids from anti-Halloween families are now in good company, at least in certain parts of the country.

I'm still a Christian, I'm okay with Halloween. (Interestingly, my parents don't think it's a terrible holiday anymore either.) I've read opinions on both side of this in-house Christian debate. I tend to agree with those who make these points:
  • A few people who use a day for evil don't have to turn the day evil for everyone else.
  • Various holidays have pagan histories (including a certain now-Christian holiday at the end of December); the history of the day matters less than what we do with it now.
  • Even the "scary" parts of Halloween can be an opportunity for kids to confront fears, and to laugh at them. In our house we describe the bats, ghosts, and mummies as "silly scary."
  • October 31 and November 1 have been celebrated as Christian holidays in the past. In the future we may research this more and incorporate "All Saint's Day" into our family celebration.
This year our church is having a Fall Festival. We'll dress up our kids and go...and then we'll probably trick-or-treat in our neighborhood afterward. I think the Fall Festival is a great way to reach out to our community, and to give non-celebrating families a non-scary, fun place to spend the evening. But I also think trick-or-treating is fun, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to spend just a bit of time with our neighbors.

We have friends who do not celebrate Halloween. And you know what? That's okay. I believe one of the responsibilities we have as parents is to pass along the values and beliefs that are important to us. So whether they do or don't participate in _________ (fill in the blank with Halloween, Christmas, Passover, Valentine's Day, etc.), I support the parents around me. It's not my goal to convince others to come to the "pro-Halloween" side.

But if any of my Republican friends start arguing that Halloween is a Democratic holiday, I just might have to give them a talkin'-to.


SciFi Mama said...

We most definitely celebrate Halloween in this house. We have a rather large party planned this afternoon for Paige's friends. We don't think of it as anything good or evil. And yes, Paige has confronted some fears this year. We had 2 days of being scared of ghosts and last night she got scared by a blowup spider. For us it's just fun. Fun to dress up, fun to have a party, fun to go out on a walk with friends. And definitely fun to get candy. I think the best part has been planning the party and watching Paige get more and more excited about it.

Lindsay @ Makely said...

We think Halloween is just plain fun, too. We don't do scary costumes, scary decorations, or go to Haunted Houses - I didn't even like that stuff as a kid! We have had to teach Zack that the scary decorations he sees around are just "fake." He gets it now, and says, "Ghosts are fake."

Like you, I think the day is what you make of it. The people who make Halloween evil make every day evil, and we all need to just relax a little bit. Over here, we'll just eat our candy, carve our pumpkins, and ignore the crazies. :)

Happy Halloween (from a Big 'Ole Democrat)!

P.S. Sounds like you need to be listening to some different talk radio. ;) I have to pipe mine in from San Francisco, but it's worth it.

Autumn said...

I'm so tired of people saying Halloween is evil. It's just another day, it's how you choose to celebrate it that is evil or not. If you choose to use this day as a witch hunting day (going after everyone that celebrates it and calling them evil for it) then you are no better than the rest of us. (Not you Beth, people who say its evil, just to make that clear.) It's not up to man to judge the heart, that's for God to do and I promise you God judges the HEART. If you're enjoying the day as a fun family time to dress up as silly or goofy or IMAGINARY things (because let's face it there are some great imaginations out there that made a few Hollywood witches or ghosts or wizards fun and innocent not evil) then dont let anyone push you around for it. They are obviously not God and therefore have no right to tell you if you're being evil or not for something so trivial. (Although if you use it for a day to call out death or satan to do your bidding I may think of that as evil.) It's a day. It's like you said, certain pagan holidays that are now worshiped as Christian holidays aren't make them Christian days simply because someone said they were.
I blogged about this today too, feel free to read my view point on it :)

The Great Silence said...

I agree too much is made over Christians worried about Halloween. Maybe a balance should be made and a celebration of both Halloween and then Reformation Day. I used to work very hard going door to door getting candy on this day. I did not beg for it. I worked for it! ;) Enjoy the day!

Anonymous said...

It is funny how the same people claim that it is evil because it has pagan roots alway have Christmas trees and hide Easter eggs...

Call Me Cate said...

Late getting here and I've been itching to read it since you mentioned the post on Friday night.

I grew up much the same. Conservative Christian family but Halloween was a-ok until the church brought in a new pastor and suddenly Halloween was EVIL!!! Luckily, I was at an age where I didn't care all that much.

I don't think it has to be anymore evil than anything else. And if non-Christians can still celebrate Christmas by removing the religious aspect, I don't see why Christian can't celebrate Halloween by being selective as well.

Eternal Lizdom said...

I grew up without Halloween. Layers of reasons. 1. Mom didn't want me going out "begging." 2. I grew up in a single parent household that struggled financially. We couldn't afford to pass out candy so it didn't seem right, to my mom, for me to go out for candy. 3. The evil thing. 4. We were right in the height of the fear factor surrounding the candy- razor blades, tylenol, and so on.

In junior high, I finally got to go trick or treating. I went 2 years in a row. I loved it. My friends and I would exhaust ourselves... roaming street after street.

Then my parents went back to the anti-Halloween thing and started paying me not to go. $20 and a ba of candy plus dinner and a movie out. Sweet deal!

We do Halloween. The kids dress up, we go out trick or treating, we pass out candy. We don't really do scary- totally not my thing. But we do enjoy the costumes and candy and having a chance to be face to face with neighbors.

LEstes65 said...

If I were required to cut out anything that ever had a figurative finger in any pie that wasn't strictly Christian, I think I'd have to shoot myself to the moon.

The history is not as important as what we do with it now. I have had to answer quite a lot of questions about this holiday this year. My boys are at that age and also, I have family that, while in the same Christian ball park, are not seated in the same section as me. So my boys got an ear full of "it's celebrating Satan" and got all scared.

I was also rather horrified by another family member's church that gave a haunted house alternative. "Redemption House". They over heated the church basement and showed the kids what hell would be like. Then the apostles took the kids upstairs to a cool and happy "heaven" and gave them treats. Because, you know, apparently Hershey will have a franchise in heaven. My family member had just been telling me how they don't like the fear aspect of Halloween. So I said, "Right - so taking the kids into hell in stead - that's not fear based at ALL." I have to really get my sarcasm in check.

~Katie said...

Almost ALL Christian holidays have pagan roots. The Pope changed the celebration of most Christian Holidays to coincide with Germanic pagan holidays so that they could slowly convert the pagans to Christianity back in good ole Rome way WAY back in the day. (I can't remember the year, but as in before Protestans, but I believe after Constantine moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople.) That includes Halloween, Easter, Christmas, etc. If I remember right, Easter should be celebrated in June or July, if my Christian history classes serve me correctly.

Our church does a Trunk-or-Treat every year. Something safe and fun for the kids in town, and it's always reallly popular. To me, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because it can be so wonderful for an active imagination. I just kind of think it's the same at Disney, Harry Potter and all other mythical stories; it's important to teach and understand the difference in reality and fantasy.

Anyway, I didn't mean to write you a book, I just stumbled on your blog and thought this was a neat post. Try researching Halloween; it has some really interesting origins. Mostly Harvest/preparing for winter and celebrating the lives of those who have passed. Super natural, maybe, but not really evil at all. That's been done by modern day lore mongers. :)

Autumn said...

LEstes65 I love your sarcasm! Sometimes people need a little sarcasm to see how silly they are being :)

Katie I didnt know it was the Pope who had officially changed the holidays! Cool, we learn something new every day (at least I did)

I wish our church offered a little more for the kids this time of year, they do a 3-5year old based program that bores my girls to tears. But then there's just something fun (for me) about wearing the kids out by walking from house to house. :)

Heidi said...

This is an interesting debate, even within my own house. My husband is extremely anti-Halloween. Even before he had kids he would buy candy to give to the students in his jr. high small group because he didn't want them trick-or-treating. I, on the other hand, am "ok" with it. I actually am sad that our kids won't be allowed to dress up and have been having a very hard time this week seeing my friends post about their family activities.

In our Christian circle we are the only ones who don't celebrate, which makes it even harder because our kids' friends from church still celebrate.

For right now I am deferring to my husband's strong views while sad for my kids and all they will miss out on.

Faith said...

We don't do Halloween, but we don't do other "Christian" holidays either. We do Christmas much in the way we do Thanksgiving - food, family, fun, but no "Jesus birth". We don't believe we're commanded to celebrate his birth on a certain day. Anyway - the point of all this is.

Halloween is evil!!!! Who in the world could possibly think it's a good idea to give children that much candy in one sitting? That's the evil part of it!!

Autumn said...

Faith, I'm telling you, the dentists made up halloween!!! Lol. My friends and I all agree only the dentist ends up benefiting from that much candy on one night! (haha just kidding)

Megan Fletcher said...

Like you Beth, I grew up doing the trick or treating thing until a certain pastor taught on it and its evil roots. :-) I believe that was when I was around 14. I wasn't dressing up by that point, but we decided to not participate and go to a movie that night instead.

As a college-age student and then serving as a youth director, I tossed back and forth. I was able to waffle on the subject for a few years since it didn't really influence me much. The issue began to arise again as we became parents. By this point, the pastor above and his congregation were now hosting a fall festival! :-) It has been a great outreach to the community.

My husband and I let our kids dress up. They went trick or treating for the first time this year (b/c they're so young) and had a blast. We went to a fall festival, but it was very crowded, so we left. We don't do the evil stuff, but find it to be a GREAT opportunity to talk to our kids about fear, death, and our hope. We don't have to be afraid. We try to use every tool set before us to point to Christ and the hope we have in Him.

I'm glad that well over a decade ago I was asked to question my participation. I'm grateful for a pastor who encouraged me to examine things for myself and stand by my convictions. And, I'm most grateful that he also hasn't been afraid to have his mind changed and let everyone know that's okay!