Monday, October 31, 2011

Is Halloween evil?

As with Christmas and Easter, Halloween is a mixture of pagan and Christian traditions. It seems that about this time every year I hear about some Christian leader, local or national, getting upset about the pagan elements connected to the history of Halloween. Perhaps this concern should not be ignored, but I don’t get excited about the shady portion of Halloween history because the overwhelming majority of people in our culture know nothing about it.

For example, our modern practice of trick or treat is apparently connected to something that Christians did to replace the ancient Celtic practice of leaving out food and wine for roaming spirits. (That’s a long story for another day.) The Celts also wore masks to disguise themselves from the wandering spirits which may help to explain our practice of Halloween costumes.

As for our modern Halloween observances, I’ve never heard of anyone these days deliberately trying to keep alive the pagan, Celtic tradition. Have you heard anyone at Halloween time saying, “Honey, did you remember to put some food on the front steps to appease the wandering ghosts?” When is the last time that you told your children or grandchildren, “We’ve got to get you a Halloween costume so that the wandering spirits won’t recognize you.” In my experience there is no deliberate attempt to further pagan rituals on Halloween.

For the most part our observance of Halloween looks like an annual, huge costume party with some candy thrown in. If the evil in such a practice is measured by the motives of one’s heart, then I don’t see Halloween as predominantly evil. Certainly there are some folks who seem bent on getting drunk or violent or destructive on Halloween and these acts must be discouraged in any season. But most folks are just trying to have a little fun and exercise a little creativity on this day. Where’s the evil in that?

Of course, in many ways Christians continue to attempt to redeem Halloween for godly purposes. Many churches hold a “Fall Festival” that is largely for young people as an alternative to less positive Halloween activities. “Trunk or Treat” is another popular church Halloween tradition that involves decorating car trunks and filling them with goodies for young people. Christians frequently use Halloween as an opportunity for fellowship and outreach.

There is some Halloween ugliness every year and, again, this is to be discouraged. But, for the most part, this day is about harmless fun and, for many Christians, a chance for fellowship and outreach. So I don’t see the point in getting all worked up about some pagan Halloween roots that were largely forgotten long ago.