Tuesday, October 8, 2019

In Defense of Halloween

                     two lighted jack-o-lanterns during night time

Growing up, my family never celebrated Halloween. Once or twice we attended a "Halloween Alternative" church event or put on costumes to bum candy off my grandmother. I did insist on carving a pumpkin most years, but only with a happy face, and that was the extent of it. And I just want to state upfront that I really respect my parents for taking the stance: "This isn't for us." Their reasoning behind that stance was loving and logical, and their application of it was consistent.

The following thoughts of mine have Everything to do with how I approach the holiday now as an independent adult, and how I'd like to approach it with my kids whenever Jon and I get around to procuring some. The following thoughts have Nothing to do with putting down anyone who has a heartfelt conviction that Halloween is evil.

I just want to state really clearly that it is wrong to go against your convictions. If your convictions change over the course of your life, and you grow or change into deeper or more relaxed convictions on different topics, that's great, but don't ever force yourself. Don't dive into a deeper conviction to please a human being. Don't loosen your convictions to please a human being. I believe that the only reason you should ever allow an edit to a conviction is with a genuine understanding that not all of your moral and philosophical convictions are 100% right at any given time, and allowing God to work with you to hone those is always appropriate. Just be careful you're not deciding that God told you cheating on your husband is His will. It's not. He didn't tell you that. You gotta be careful with your ears. Your ears are just as sinful as your eyes and only slightly less sinful then your tongue.

That said. This IS a post in defense of Halloween as suggested by the title, so here goes.

So the general concern I've heard from Conservative Christian people about Halloween is that it celebrates demonic activity, witchcraft, the occult, fear, and spiritual darkness in general. And this is a valid concern. I absolutely shared this concern until I started having conversations with non-Christian parents who explained to me what the holiday means to them and their children.

See, I think that Christians tend to react to what they perceive Halloween to be about without ever really understanding what the holiday actually is about.

I think Christians often react to the trappings of Halloween (witch costumes and horror movies) as well as some of the ways it's misused, and don't ever see the good in it--the really fantastic potential that Halloween has as a healthy family celebration of The Confrontation of Fear.

Let me say that a little more clearly:

I don't think that Halloween, at its heart or even in its historical roots, is a celebration of fear and evil. I think it is a celebration Of The Confrontation of fear and evil, and that is such an important distinction to make. 

In the same way that The Day of the Dead in Mexico is not a Celebration of Death, but rather a celebration of Life in the Face of Death and a celebration of the Lives that have Passed, even though it looks like a celebration of death...

And in the same way that Christmas is a celebration of the advent of Christ and of selfless love and family even though it Looks An Awful Lot Like a celebration of materialism...

...so I have come to believe that Halloween is a valuable celebration of something really important.

There are scary things in the world. It's important for us to face our fears and confront our demons and remind ourselves that Darkness never has and never will have power over the children of the Light. Darkness only ever has power over us when we let it--when we fear it and hide from it instead of shining light into it.

For a child, dressing up as the monster underneath her bed can be the best way to conquer her fear of that monster. For a child, walking around in the dark, safe with parents on a mission to get candy can be a Great context within which to discuss that which frightens us and why it needn't. It can be a great time to talk about spiritual light and spiritual darkness and our place in that Great Battle. It can also be a great time to discuss the difference between fear and prudence, i.e., "No, you don't need to be frightened of the monster under your bed, but yes, you need to look both ways before crossing the street and never take candy from strangers when I'm not here with you."

I believe it is So Very Important that we teach our kids not to be frightened of the trappings and symbols and exaggerations and cartoons of evil, but only to be wary of evil itself. Appearances can be deceiving, and if we spend our time teaching our kids that Halloween and Halloweeny things are evil because they look a certain way, I think we miss out on teaching them to tell the difference between something benign that's cloaked in black and something wicked that's cloaked in white.

It is really hard to tell the difference between good and evil sometimes. Anyone can put on a costume and wear it their whole lives. Even Satan appears as an angel of Light. The primary thing about Satan and his followers is that they are deceivers. The primary role of demonic powers in the world is not to scare us. It's to deceive us. I think a holiday that encourages the confrontation of fear and evil, a holiday about dressing up as something else but not forgetting who you are and not forgetting that everyone else is dressed up too, can be a really, really good thing. Also pumpkins are Super fun to carve and candy corn is bae.

For me, setting aside the month of October to get cozy and read scary books is a great way for me to grapple with the things in the world which are terrible and frightening and horrific and continue to hone my responses. This is something I've found is really healthy. There is something Incredibly Safe, especially to children, I feel, about setting aside a holiday on which it's okay, and even cool, to be scared. Rather than promoting shame about being frightened (something kids get bullied over all the time), there is a holiday season in the year where we, as a culture, have decided that it's fun to be scared, and to face down scary things, and to ultimately stop being scared in time for Thanksgiving.

Now that my piece is said, I want to invite all of you to share your thoughts and opinions and concerns with me. More than any other post, I covet your comments. Leave one below! Talk to you soon!


  1. So I love everything about this post. I'm not sure that I have anything to add without going way off topic. XD More on the topic of fear and less on the topic of Halloween, I grew up being very scared of everything, and I'm still a bit of a scaredy-cat today. One of the things I was most scared of was demons. And of course my parents SAID that we, as Christians, do not need to fear evil. But the way they ACTED said, yes we do because of the intense way they banned anything and everyone remotely "evil" looking. This didn't help my fear at all, and I had to deal with it on my own because there was no openness for talking about it. Recently, I've watched movies or read book that scare me, but I used to avoid anything that scared me because fear is wrong and obviously uncomfortable. But I've realized that doing this actually helps me face my fear in a safe environment. I really don't think extreme censorship of "evil" looking things is a great approach for Christians. I understand it for really young kids, but honestly, I think it's a missed teaching opportunity. Like you said, good and evil can be hard to discern between sometimes. Humans are flawed. Just because someone is a Christian, our friend, or our hero/mentor doesn't mean they don't make mistakes. And just because someone is not a Christian doesn't mean we can't learn anything good from them. (This also goes for any kind of intellectual line of thinking, like psychology, etc. that isn't labeled "Christian." We can still learn from it. Even if there are flaws, that doesn't mean it's all flawed.) Good and evil intermixes in individuals, including ourselves, so discerning between the two is an essential skill. And starting to learn how to differentiate with fiction is a great way to learn how to differentiate with real life. And I think some Christians look at certain types of media a little too shallowly just because a character presented as a hero isn't perfect or that a villain isn't totally evil or that certain characters make bad choices. Anyhow, that was mildly related, I guess. XD

    1. Preach it!!! Well said. Honestly, it is my Favorite Thing when people apologize for going off topic and then proceed to say all the things I wanted to say in my post, but didn't for fear of going off topic! Such Much Appreciated.

  2. *busts back from exams with vigour*

    Okay, so I looove Halloween and my family has never been big on 'you can't celebrate Halloween because it's evil' and we've instead done the whole 'let's make fun and unique homemade costumes and eat grilled cheese and watch fun movies together!' type thing (especially when we were younger). Growing up like that I've never seen the problem with Halloween, so it's nice to hear a different perspective!