Building a Legacy of Faith ~ Halloween — A Mixed Bag

31 Oct

Halloween – A Mixed Bag


“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Personal Reflection: A couple of days ago my oldest granddaughter asked me where Halloween originated.

I’ve enjoyed helping create some of her costumes over the past few years. One year, she dressed up as a scarecrow (but the straw was too “scratchy”); and our favorite costume was Annie. I also have fond memories of making my own children’s costumes (a pumpkin, leopard, and a crayon).

So, where do you stand on Halloween, to celebrate or not? It’s definitely a mixed bag.                                                              

I first faced this dilemma when our children were in elementary school.  I had recently learned that some modern-day Halloween practices were associated with pagan roots. My initial reaction was one of fear. So my husband and I quickly decided to “opt out” of Halloween. Since my memory seems to fade with years, I asked our oldest daughter if she remembered how we handled Halloween “back in the day.” Her text read: “I remember at some point you stopped letting us dress up.”

(The history of Halloween below is very brief, so I urge parents to do more extensive research.)

History of Halloween

Some of today’s popular celebrations associated with Halloween have pagan roots originating from the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. This harvest festival of the Druids escorted in the New Year, starting on the evening of October 31, with the lighting of bonfires and the offering of sacrifices. As the Druids danced around the fires, they celebrated the ending of the summer season and the beginning of the season of darkness. It was also believed that at this time of year the invisible “gates” between the natural world and the spirit world would open, allowing free movement between the two worlds.

During the 8th century in the diocese of Rome, Pope Gregory III moved All Saints Day to November 1, officially making October 31 “All Hallows Eve,” with some believing this was a way of claiming the celebration for Christians. However, this feast commemorating the martyrdom of the saints had already been celebrated by Christians for many centuries prior to this time. Pope Gregory IV broadened the feast to include the entire Church. Inevitably, some of the pagan practices associated with the season persisted and have been mixed into modern celebrations of Halloween.  

Fast forward nearly thirty years, I am once again faced with the same dilemma–to celebrate Halloween or not. The answer to my granddaughter’s question, why do we have Halloween, was simple and to the point. I told her that a long time ago there were a group of people who did not follow God, but rather, worshiped other gods, by practicing evil rituals, and unfortunately, some of these rituals still occur on Halloween. I went on to tell her the meaning of the word Halloween. Hallow is to make or to declare something or someone to be holy. And Halloween is a form of All Hallows Evening, or All Hallows Eve; Hallowe-‘en, which is the evening before All Saint’s Day, typically observed on November 1.

Speaking to a nine-year old, and wanting her to grasp the truer meaning behind my somewhat vague answer, I left her with this statement. “We don’t celebrate evil or anything to do with pagan beliefs, but rather, we celebrate God and His Holiness, lived out through His holy people, who are called Saints.”

I love this quote, popularized by Eleanor Roosevelt. “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

Parent Challenge: Please don’t take every tradition at face value. Educate yourself first, by researching traditions/holidays such as Halloween, to learn the history (past and present) behind them. Also, make it a matter of prayer, study God’s Word, and at times, seek wise counsel from a trusted Christian advisor about any tradition or holiday that you have little or no knowledge of.

Faith Forward: Teach your children clearly, the distinct differences of good and evil. Do a word search as a family, looking for the words good and evil. Use individual Bibles or use an online Bible program such as Bible Gateway. This is also an opportune time (if age and maturity warrant) to discuss the meaning of sin, and God’s wonderful remedy for sin. See suggested resource below.

Here are a few suggestions for families who choose to observe some form of Hallows Eve.

         —  Always give careful guidance by helping your child select friendly type costumes. Absolutely no costumes that would signify evil in any way.

          — Rather than participating in scary haunted houses or other like events, choose a family friendly fall festival or other Halloween alternatives, that many churches offer their communities.

         —  Use the month of October/November, to read together as a family, about one or more heroes of the faith from the Bible. (Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Esther, Daniel, Jesus, Paul) Others may also include: Susanna Wesley, John Wesley, Jim Elliot, Corrie Ten Boom, Mother Theresa, etc.

Suggested Resources:

Torchlighters® are animated DVDs, true-life stories of Christian heroes retold for young people. (Adults are also inspired by them.) Each Torchlighter® episode comes with a documentary and other features. May be purchased through Nest Learning:

“My Best Friend, Jesus” Booklet (Leading a child to Christ) published by Word Action.

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Posted by on October 31, 2013 8: 26 am - in Building a Legacy of Faith, Holiday Traditions


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