It goes without saying that apart from Christmas, Halloween is the annual celebration that children anticipate most. Each autumn sees youngsters brainstorming their costumes, planning their candy-collecting routes, and even scheming what tricks they might play on their friends…well in advance of October 31. In fact, many adults look forward to the occasion with nearly as much enthusiasm—the parties, house/yard decorating contests, and even their own costumes. However, regardless of age, should those professing faith in God participate in Halloween activities?
The purpose of this article is not to present encyclopedia entries about the beliefs and practices associated with Halloween (All Hallows Eve, Samhain, etc.). However, it is worth reminding that at its core, Halloween is a celebration based on spiritual traditions, supernatural entities, and ultimately death. Many of its customs and games spring from dark or even gruesome origins. With this knowledge easily accessible and already prevalent around the globe, why would believers choose to take part in such an event?
The common mindset by most Halloween participants is that it is simply innocent fun. The majority will outright declare that they are not worshipping the Devil, sacrificing animals, foretelling the future, summoning spirits, hexing anyone, or doing anything else dark and evil. After all, it is only about cheap costumes, strands of fake spider webs, spooky music, make-believe graves, black lights, dry ice, carved pumpkins, and pounds and pounds of candy, no? What could be harmful about that, right?
When we are challenged with the question “Is Halloween really so bad?” we are prone to look at it from the perspective of our upbringing; our level of involvement; and, sadly, from the mindset of “Everyone else is doing it.” We even defend it based on the cute or fun side we see—the things our children love so much. However, do we ever stop to look at what the Bible tells us about such things? Do we ever try seeing it from God’s view?
We are repeatedly warned in Scripture not to imitate or follow the customs of pagans—not even to honor and worship God in their ways (Deuteronomy 12:30-31, Leviticus 18:1-5, Jeremiah 10:2, 2 Kings 17:15 and many more). That is exactly what Aaron did when he made the golden calf for the disgruntled Israelites during Moses’ prolonged absence. After building an altar in front of the idol, Aaron said that they would have a festival to the Lord (Exodus 32:5). If you read the rest of the story, you will see God’s reaction to that way of thinking.
Regretfully, we treat many such “holidays” with that attitude, using pagan things to enjoy ourselves and even honor God, often beautifying pagan practices and symbols with Biblical significance to make them seem acceptable to God. However, here are a couple hypothetical questions we should consider. If we put a statue of Baal in our living room and try to convince ourselves, others, and even God that it is merely a decoration—a harmless showpiece—does that change the fact that we are paying homage to a pagan deity? Don’t forget the lesson of the golden calf! What about if we use tarot cards and Ouija boards, or we rely on luck and warnings from palm readings or daily horoscopes? If we try to rationalize that we are just having fun and don’t mean any harm, is that truly acceptable to God? Does He just chuckle with a shake of His head, accepting our dabbling as nothing more than experimentation or amusement? Well, for us to knowingly carry out pagan traditions and celebrate a day that honors death—all in the spirit of “fun”—we are essentially slapping Him in the face. We are in fact rebelling against God.
In Deuteronomy 18:9, we read God’s warning to be very careful not to copy pagan customs. When we continue to verses 10-13, we see that those customs included fortune-telling, using sorcery, interpreting omens, engaging in witchcraft, casting spells, functioning as mediums or psychics, and calling forth the spirits of the dead. Those Scriptures indicate that people who do such things are detestable to the Lord. When we imitate fortune-tellers, witches, wizards, vampires and various undead creatures for Halloween, does God think it is cute and innocent? Is it wise to mimic something ungodly for the sake of having a good time?
Something else to consider is that a major theme of Halloween is fear. People get a thrill out of seeing others cringe at their horrific costumes. They thrive on trick-or-treaters getting shivers, laughing nervously and even screaming from their macabre yard displays and haunted houses. Much of that fear is caused by images of death, torture, unnatural creatures and supernatural phantoms, often accentuated by ethereal or discordant music. Well, since our Messiah came to deliver us from fear and death, why would we decorate with those symbols? Why would we intentionally embrace darkness, fear and death when they have no place in a believer’s life…when they are not of God? We are certainly not thrilled or amused when a loved one dies, nor do we relish being in terrifying circumstances, so why would we equate death and terror with fun?
It is obviously not popular to go against the flow of culture and tradition by refusing to participate in things like Halloween. People may call you a spoilsport, religious nut, killjoy or party pooper, and that never feels good. However, as believers, we are not supposed to try to emulate and blend in with the world. Instead, we are supposed to be God’s light shining in the darkness around us (Matthew 5:14-16, Ephesians 5:8, 1 John 1:5-7, Philippians 2:15). We are instructed to come out of—be separate from—the rest of the world and not partake of its filthy practices (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). Further, if we try to befriend the world and be accepted or popular in its eyes, we are declaring God as our enemy (James 4:4). Naturally, nobody wants to be disliked or rejected by family or friends; however, our focus should not be to impress or seek the approval of mankind, but obey God and imitate Him (Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 John 2:6, Matthew 16:25-27).
We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 to stay away from every kind of evil—from even the appearance of it—and we are warned more explicitly in 1 Corinthians 10:21-22 that we cannot simultaneously fellowship with demonic things and the Lord; otherwise, we rouse His jealousy. Further, as believers, we are a chosen people who belong to God, who called us out of the darkness and into His light (1 Peter 2:9). To corroborate this, we are told the following in Ephesians 5:8-11, 15-17:
“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”
With that clear instruction, do we still feel comfortable with participation in Halloween? Mind you, there is nothing evil about simply wearing a costume or disguise (though it may depend on the theme of the costume and the intent of the wearer). It is not sinful to give treats and gifts to people. Candy, caramel apples and popcorn balls are certainly delightful and bear no inherent darkness. Why, then, do we offend God by celebrating a particular night of the year where those pleasant elements are incorporated into something unholy?
Many well-meaning people try to diminish their participation or soften the occasion with alternate themes and activities. However, even if we refuse to dress up, decorate our houses and yards, or play creepy music, is it still acceptable to hand out candy and treats (even with Bible verses or gospel tracts tossed in)? Is it still okay to have “fall festivals” on Halloween night, including non-scary costumes, treats and games? Those alternatives might seem innocent—the intent of giving children a safer option is indeed noble—but we are still participating in, condoning and even perpetuating a dark celebration. Changing the mood and appearance does not change the event itself. Otherwise, if it weren’t Halloween, would we still have those alternate activities? If not, why?
As the previously mentioned Scriptures indicate, it is better for believers to avoid even a hint of imitation and approval of something that is contrary to God’s nature. After all, celebrating one night of the year should never be worth even remotely offending the very God who loves us so much that He paid the ultimate sacrifice to deliver us from death and darkness.