- (This is one of the first posts I ever wrote, for Civil Religion. As I’ve started to see a few anti-Halloween items show up in my Facebook feed, I thought it might be time to share it again.)
- When I was a little girl Halloween was all about candy and costumes. The high point for costumes was the Halloween march around the school gymnasium, showing off our finery. The candy came on Halloween, of course, when my brother and I would walk the streets until we could walk no more – no adult supervision required. Back at home, we’d spill our loot on the floor and start working out trades. Our mother would confiscate anything unwrapped in order to protect us from razor blades and poison, the only perils that my Christian parents associated with Halloween.
As a teenager, my enjoyment of Halloween was less about candy and more about costume parties, many held at church. I didn’t see any evidence that celebrating Halloween was incompatible with being an evangelical Christian. But something changed in the ’80s, as I was transitioning into adulthood. By the time I became a parent in 1991, a discussion among evangelicals about celebrating Halloween could stir up the kind of passions that would later come with mentioning Harry Potter. Concerned with what they perceived to be the satanic roots of the holiday, many Christians opted out of Halloween all together, or joined in church harvest festivals (an attempt to give children the fun of Halloween without the spiritual danger).
I’ve always come down on the pro-Halloween side of these discussions, though I have ambivalent feelings about the state of Halloween in the 21st century. Would it sound odd to say that I think Halloween has become too commercialized? Who could have imagined 30 years ago, when I was going door to door in my cheap plastic Cinderella costume, that Halloween would become such a big business? It’s almost impossible to see the hand-carved pumpkins through the forest of inflatable witches and animatronic axe murderers. And as the mother of three girls, I have serious misgivings about the direction costumes have gone in recent years, a situation illustrated in this clip from “Mean Girls” (note: some may find content offensive).
But are there other concerns for Christians? In the past several years it seems that the Christians I know have relaxed in their attitudes toward Halloween. Is that a healthy openness or a thoughtless assimilation to the culture? Some clearly still feel that Halloween should be avoided. Consider this post, from the Christian Broadcast Network. But information about the origins of Halloween (even when accurate – and there’s a lot of misinformation available) doesn’t take in to account the various meanings and traditions that have been added to Halloween through history. What does Halloween mean now, if anything?
For one view of Halloween from a Christian perspective, I recommend Lint Hatcher’s book “The Magic Eightball Test: A Christian Defense of Halloween and All Things Spooky”. I heard Lint present a talk on this very subject at The Cornerstone Festival’s Imaginarium in 2006 and was delighted to hear a joyful Christian faith combined with a love for what Flannery O’Connor might have called a “proper scaring”. Lint even has a website entitled ChristianHalloweenFan.com. If you are interested in hearing a variety of Christian voices address Halloween, dig into this synchroblog on the subject put together in 2007. The synchroblog even links to a neopagan’s reponse at MetaPagan. Between these sites there’s enough about the history, traditions and meaning surrounding Halloween to keep you busy all week as we approach Halloween day.
As a fan of candy, a well-chosen costume and a proper scaring, I wish you all a Happy Halloween.