‘Halloween’ began nearly 2000 years ago in Ireland as a Celtic festival involving the warding off of ghosts. It was co-opted by the Roman Catholic Church 609 AD.[i] Immigrants from Europe revived old country traditions around “All Hallows Eve” in the United States in the 19th century. The day became associated with vandalism until there was a shift in the 1950’s. At that time, Halloween morphed into the family-friendly neighborhood holiday we now celebrate.
Today, Halloween is a $6 billion industry in America. Some Christians feel followers of Jesus should not celebrate Halloween.[ii] I respect the argument Jamie Morgan makes in the article cited in the footnotes. I don’t agree with him, but I respect the case he’s making. If a person’s participation in Halloween festivities truly is a celebration of witchcraft, then I would join him in renouncing all participation in the day. In this line of thinking, I would renounce non-Christians legends around Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and other holidays. But, I think you can have a good time with costumes and candy without giving any ground to witchcraft (which is real and very dangerous), just as I think candy canes and Old St. Nick are OK for Christmas. Our legends and traditions are part of who we are and they don’t have to be inherently evil or in conflict with our deepest reality, our identity in Christ.
For my family, Halloween is a time to enjoy dressing in costumes and being out in the neighborhood with friends. It is communal and family fun. Aside from the need for added rigor in dental hygiene, I find Halloween harmless. It brings my family tremendous happiness when we look at old Halloween trick-or-treating photos. My oldest is now 14. Soon he’ll be too old for this. The thought of it makes me sad.
My decision as Christian to participate in what I see to be a benign, religiously ignorant holiday should not be taken to mean I don’t believe in spiritual warfare. I most certainly do. I believe demons are real and roaming about, spreading mayhem and harming people on the earth. I have been present for exorcisms, both successful and unsuccessful. My reading for this morning, Luke 4:31-37, is one of many passages which deal with demon possession. Before Jesus exorcises the demon, it is able to throw the possessed man to the ground. Jesus saves him, but some damage has been done.
Yes, I believe demons are very real. And maybe, Halloween can be a time for demons to wreak damage in the lives of men and women. However, I believe demons are just as potent at all times of the year. We constantly must be on our guard against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6). Prayer is how we stay on our guard. We have to, through worship, prayer, Bible reading, and acts of service, build up our relationship with God in Jesus Christ. We have to learn to listen to and heed the voice of the Holy Spirit. In these ways, we are connected to the God who protects us. In the light of God, those dangerous demons are utterly impotent.