A few thoughts on Halloween

halloween-illustrationEach week, Sophie, Matthew and I go to several different local toddler groups. They love the toys, crafts, and snacks, and I love getting out of the house, not having to clear up the mess, and having other adults to talk to.

This week, we went as usual to one of the local church-run groups, the last of this term before the half-term break. It’s a great group, very popular with local parents, not just those who are church-goers. I was really surprised, this week, to find that the craft table was populated with little people making sparkly bats decorated with pumpkins, ghosts, and spiders. I had felt certain walking there in the morning that I wouldn’t have to make a Halloween craft with my child. I was disappointed to find that I was wrong.

I made the craft with Sophie. After all, she has no idea what Halloween is, and to her the bat was just a vehicle for glitter and stickers. I did find it surprising, though, and pretty uncomfortable, that a church-run group would have a Halloween-related craft at all.

You could put it like this: ‘Dear Toddler Group, I was so pleased to find that the church has fully accepted the pagan festival of Halloween into its annual celebrations. I had thought that it would be at odds with the church’s message of light and salvation, but I am gratified that the opposite is the case. Sincerely yours, Satan.’

Why am I so upset by what could be seen as such a trivial thing? Halloween seems harmless enough, and some Christians even join in, especially in America apparently, where it seems to be as big a festival as Christmas and bigger than Easter.

Last year there was an article going around by J John about his six objections to Halloween. I read it, and I agreed with it. This year, with Nick’s help, I’ve refined my position a little. J John’s first objection is that ‘Halloween celebrates evil.’ To me, that’s not exactly right. If you were to ask people out on the evening of 31 October, dressed as witches, vampires, or whatever, why they were celebrating Halloween, they would not say they were celebrating evil. They would say they are just having some harmless fun. Dressing up, knocking on doors, getting candy. It’s the same reason that non-Christian families celebrate Christmas. They don’t give any thought to the origins of the festival, they just do it for fun and just because that’s what they’ve ‘always’ done. So although the roots of Halloween are somewhat sinister (at the celebration of harvest, it was believed the dead came back and played tricks by wrecking crops), most people don’t see it that way.

So, modern-day Halloween doesn’t exactly celebrate evil. In contrast, it seems to actually trivialise evil. People dress up as make-believe evil figures as fun. Rather than celebrating evil, Halloween seems to pretend that evil doesn’t exist, or isn’t scary. Halloween trivialises fear too, by bringing fear-inducing figures to life and calling them fun. It pokes at people’s fears and says they are unfounded.

The Bible is clear that evil is present in our world, and although it may not take the form of vampires or werewolves, it is real. It is not something to be taken lightly or laughed at. Halloween takes a real problem and pretends it is not real. And in disregarding the problem of evil, and making fear a non-issue, it tells people that there is no need of rescue, no need of salvation. Moreover, it’s lumped together with Christmas and Easter as festivals with roots in some sort of ancient belief, which is seen as irrelevant to us today and is now just a reason to have a bit of fun.

As a Christian, I’m not happy condoning Halloween, and I felt disappointed that a church toddler group could so flagrantly miss an opportunity to present the alternative view on the world: that the world is full of darkness, but Jesus is the light. Our family will not be celebrating Halloween. The only thing – the only person – we celebrate, is God.