As I sit here in my office it’s the afternoon of October 31, Halloween. Halloween has become quite a holiday. I read recently that “One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.” I’ve also noticed that Halloween decorations are becoming more numerous and elaborate. In fact, I’ve heard a radio news report declare that only Christmas surpasses Halloween in consumer dollars spent. Suffice to say that Halloween has become a major industry here in the US.
For Christians, Halloween presents a conundrum. The holiday’s focus is on ghosts, goblins, devils and fear. TV producers bring out all their macabre movies. Some of the kids going door to door dress up like zombies, vampires and the like. Pumpkins are carved with eerie faces. Store windows are littered with ghoulish decals. The theme seems to be “Let’s see how we can scare people.” Yet the Bible quotes God – over 300 times – saying “Fear not!” So often we Christians turn off the lights and hide ourselves away, not wanting to participate in the whole creepy thing!
On the other hand, the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” [I Corinthians 9:22] How can we affect the people around us if we hide away from them till the holiday is over?
Halloween has an interesting back story. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a time to honor all saints. It became “All Saints Day” and soon began to incorporate some of the same traditions. The evening before November 1st was known as “All Hallows Eve,” and later Halloween. Over time activities like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns were added and then accepted as the norm.
So we have quite a mixture here of saints and ghosts, fellowship and fear. It’s comforting to think about this being harvest time with colorful leaves and a chill in the air. Yet Halloween carries scary movies, blood gorged vampires, houses tented in toilet paper, etc. etc. We want to take a stand against fear, yet we want to be light and salt to a world around us that need a relationship with their Savior. What will we do? How shall we conduct ourselves?
I guess this comes down to the place where most controversial matters must come – we’ll each have to follow our own heart. The Bible dictates that we pursue peace and let it be our umpire. What’s your heart telling you?