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What about Halloween?

October 26, 2010 No Comment

by Warren Hamp
This year the costumes and plastic pumpkins were already in the stores by mid-August. Halloween is starting to look a lot like Christmas—the merchandising comes so early that the actual day might become a little anticlimactic for the kids.

It also gives Christian parents more time to think about how to respond to this annual festival of ghouls and goblins, pumpkins and, most of all, candy. How will our children celebrate this holiday? Will they or should they celebrate this holiday? (By the way, Halloween, is getting to be a big adult holiday too, grossing almost $5 billion in North American sales in 2009. The sales are second only to Christmas.)

So what are we Lutherans going to do with Halloween? We could try to remove our children from the events surrounding the day. We could set up alternate activities to ‘trick or treating’ and Hallowe’en parties. Yet I wonder how necessary that may be.

There’s no doubt that twentieth century Halloween is a pagan festival. There is little one can do to ‘Christianize’ it in any meaningful way. And certainly as parents who confess the living Christ who is victorious over death and the devil we do not want to glorify the enemy by dressing our children as witches or skeletons or some other macabre fiend for the night. As faithful stewards we may also not want to excessively buy into the consumerism of Halloween, just as God would have us avoid some of the excesses of other commercialized holidays.

However, I do not believe we should be overly reactionary either. For many, Halloween is just a fun night to dress up the children as princesses and hockey players and walk through the neighbourhood to collect enough candy to provide desserts in their lunch boxes for the next month or so.

It’s easy to see the devil at work in Halloween and to jump all over it in pious revulsion. It’s not so easy to see the devil at work in the pride we might then take in having avoided the evils of our society. As a seminary professor said, “the devil always brushes his teeth” when he really wants to sink them into us. The obvious evils are not always the ones that entrap us.

Most important, though, is the truth we confess to our children that they are baptized into the grace of God in Christ. Their chief defense against the devil and his hordes is not their ability to avoid every evil influence in the world, but rather the promise of God in Christ to keep them in forgiveness and life.

Resting in that promise, I’ll probably dress them up and go for the candy this year.

Rev. Warren Hamp is the father of five children and pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, Kitchener, Ontario.