J. John writes:
As October comes to its end, children all across the country focus their attention on dressing up as ghosts, witches, skeletons and zombies.
This year, spending on Hallowe’en merchandise in the UK is likely to top £200 million while in the US it is measured in billions of dollars.
However, it is not universally welcomed. Many Christians, along with many followers of Islam and other faiths, dislike its focus on the dark side of the spiritual world. So I suggest that it is about time we took a hard look at Hallowe’en.
First, some background. In pre-Christian Europe there was probably a widely celebrated pagan festival around the end of October. Perhaps in an attempt to provide a more wholesome focus at this time of year the church designated November 1 as a festival day to celebrate the believers already in heaven, the ‘saints’.
The result was All Hallows Day, still celebrated in some churches as All Saints Day. The evening before, October 31, became All Hallows Eve – Hallowe’en.
What is Hallowe’en actually about now? There are three emphases: the magical (or supernatural); the macabre (or scary); and the malicious (the trick or treat side of things).
The strongest element is the magical – dressing up as witches, wizards, vampires etc. Most Christians are very uneasy about this. For us, the spiritual world exists, having both good and evil components and, whether we recognise it or not, we are involved in it.
The Bible does not talk a great deal about supernatural evil but wherever witchcraft, sorcery or spiritualism is mentioned it is condemned in the strongest terms. In the New Testament we read that Jesus Christ destroyed the powers of evil through his death on the cross. Although these powers are ultimately defeated they still have enormous potential for harm.
So for Christians, even if children dressing up as witches and wizards is not a serious attempt to get involved in the supernatural, it is not something to be encouraged.
However, two sorts of people are likely to object to this argument. The first is the atheist, who says that there is no spiritual world and so Hallowe’en poses no risk. But first, to deny the existence of the spiritual world is as much an act of faith as to say that it exists.
Second, if we examine human culture worldwide and over time, we find that the vast majority of people have believed in spiritual forces of some kind or another.
A second sort of person who would be unhappy with the Christian rejection of
Do we really want to celebrate evil and encourage the malicious?
Hallowe’en would be one who accepts the existence of a spiritual world but sees it as harmless. But at Hallowe’en what is celebrated is not the good side but the very darkest side of the supernatural.
Now let us turn to the macabre aspect of Hallowe’en, the celebration of the ugly, the scarred and the horrific.
Why celebrate the macabre? And why should ugly, scarred or burnt people be associated with evil? We need to say loudly and clearly that there is absolutely no relationship between having a deformed and distorted body and being evil. Being ugly and being wicked are two very separate things.
Finally, what about the malicious element in Hallowe’en? In most cases the tricks are fairly harmless, but in some cases they aren’t. But trick or treat is a curious principle, isn’t it? Normally we would call it ‘demanding with menaces’. It may only be youngsters and sweets but it’s the same principle: ‘Give me what I want – or else.’
So in every area there are arguments against Hallowe’en. To some extent it is immaterial whether or not we believe in the existence or not of spiritual powers. Hallowe’en stands condemned on other grounds: it is a dark celebration that focuses on evil, horror and wrong. A key point is that in the modern Hallowe’en there is no element of good triumphing over the darkness.
If you are someone who has to make a decision about whether you and your family or your organisation is involved in Hallowe’en, may I suggest that you at least limit, if not cancel it?
If you are at home and you don’t want to subscribe to Hallowe’en then I recommend that you put a note on your door saying ‘Hallowe’en not celebrated here, but we do celebrate life and truth so knock on the door and we will give you some delights.’ To defuse any ill feeling, draw a nice smiley face underneath!
I urge you to think through the issues that Hallowe’en raises. Do we really want to celebrate evil, glorify the macabre and encourage the malicious? I think not.