The pros and cons of celebrating Halloween

Halloween is fast approaching. Is it godly to trick or treat? Or should Christians give this sinister celebration a wide berth

Christians across the UK will have different opinions on whether or not to celebrate Halloween. Some believe it encourages children and adults to embrace spiritual darkness, while others see it as a bit of harmless fun for the kids. Others will view it as an opportunity to present the gospel.

Arguments for Halloween

Some parents consider Halloween to be more family-friendly than Christmas, as even the older kids who prefer to sit in front of screens all day can usually be tempted to dress up and venture out for it. The festival allows families to be creative, meet others in the local community and come home with a load of sweet treats. Some believe it would make their children feel isolated – and make them seem judgemental – if they refused to get involved for faith reasons. Surely you can dress little Dora up as a unicorn and Toby as a dinosaur without any terrible repercussions? Wasn’t Christmas once a pagan festival that Christians hijacked to celebrate Christ’s birth?

Phil Wyman, author of The Reformation of Halloween: rethinking Christianity’s relationship to Halloween, believes Halloween is the “most Christian” holiday in our calendar. He writes: "I see people becoming more generous, and more open to their neighbours… Halloween brings out the best in generosity; unlike Christmas, which is celebrated among immediate families and induces incredible stress upon the lonely… Halloween is a world of dark evils and miraculous interventions, but that evil is almost entirely expressed in drama and role-playing. If you ask me, dark evil and miraculous intervention sounds like an overview of the Bible.”

Arguments against Halloween

Aside from the spiritual arguments against Halloween, some would question the wisdom of encouraging children to knock on strangers doors at night asking for sweets, or to threaten them with a ‘trick’ if they don’t oblige. What if the stranger poses a threat to the child – perhaps not on the night, but at a later date? What if vulnerable strangers feel threatened by the child? Then there is the darker side of the festival. Is it a good idea to let children dwell on sinister things like ghosts, zombies, witches and all the rest of it? Could this not be seen as a gateway into the occult and a celebration of all things evil? Shouldn’t we be a light in the darkness rather than becoming the darkness?

Canon J.John claims that Halloween teaches children four lies: that evil is external, ugly, trivial and undefeatable. He writes: “What our children are taught today will affect how our adults behave tomorrow… We should be asking questions such as: ‘What does happen after death?’, ‘Where does evil come from?’ and ‘Who – or what – ultimately runs the universe?’ The tragedy is that the only answers Halloween gives to these questions are lies. Our children deserve better, more honest answers. So let’s raise these questions and answer them. And in the meantime, let’s pray as Christ Jesus taught us: ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”

A third option

Rather than fully embracing or rejecting Halloween, many Christians organise an alternative celebration. Instead of trick or treating, some churches will throw a light party so that children can still dress up and eat sweets, but in a safe environment and without any of the gore. This can provide an opportunity to explain why Christians don’t celebrate Halloween the way many others do, and even to present the gospel. Light parties are often open to families of all faiths or none, and can be a great way to connect with those in the community who are unlikely to rock up for a Sunday morning service. If resources don’t allow for a party, a snack-filled, dressing-up film night could be just as fun. These alternative options can help churches engage with Halloween without fully embracing it.

Scripture Union’s national director, Tim Hastie-Smith, writes: "At Halloween, we have the opportunity to explain the full gospel more easily, discussing things of darkness and the miracle of God’s light. All the captivating fairy tales of our childhood contain evil – ghosts, witches, wicked queens and jealous rulers – and yet we read these stories with our children, helping them to explore ideas of a scary and dangerous world in safety. But we shouldn’t forget the second half of the story, that of All Saints Day: death is not the end, but a glorious future living with Christ, as depicted at the end of the book of Revelation. If we deprive children of this narrative, then we are in danger of depriving them of the core of the gospel.”