Here’s the Wikipedia entry: Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”), also known as All Hallows’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints). According to many scholars, it was originally influenced by western European harvest festivals and festivals of the dead with possible pagan roots, particularly the Celtic Samhain. Others maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has Christian roots. Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (also known as “guising”), attending costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.
Again, how do you bring heaven to earth on a day that seems dedicated (quite literally) to “raising hell”? From the same Wikipedia article, here is a Christian perspective on the holiday.
Christian attitudes towards Halloween are diverse. In the Anglican Church, some dioceses have chosen to emphasize the Christian traditions associated with All Hallow’s Eve. Some of these practices include praying, fasting and attending worship services.
Other Protestant Christians also celebrate All Hallows’ Eve as Reformation Day, a day to remember the Protestant Reformation, alongside All Hallow’s Eve or independently from it. Often, “Harvest Festivals” or “Reformation Festivals” are held as well, in which children dress up as Bible characters or Reformers.
Father Gabriele Amorth, a Vatican-appointed exorcist in Rome, has said, “if English and American children like to dress up as witches and devils on one night of the year that is not a problem. If it is just a game, there is no harm in that.” In more recent years, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has organized a “Saint Fest” on Halloween. Similarly, many contemporary Protestant churches view Halloween as a fun event for children, holding events in their churches where children and their parents can dress up, play games, and get candy for free. Many Christians ascribe no negative significance to Halloween, treating it as a fun event devoted to “imaginary spooks” and handing out candy. To these Christians, Halloween holds no threat to the spiritual lives of children: being taught about death and mortality, and the ways of the Celtic ancestors actually being a valuable life lesson and a part of many of their parishioners’ heritage. In the Roman Catholic Church, Halloween’s Christian connection is sometimes cited, and Halloween celebrations are common in Catholic parochial schools throughout North America and in Ireland. Nevertheless, the Vatican has strongly condemned the traditions popularly associated with Halloween as being “pagan” and “anti-Christian”.
Some Christians feel concerned about the modern celebration of Halloween, and reject it because they feel it trivializes – or celebrates – paganism, the occult, or other practices and cultural phenomena deemed incompatible with their beliefs. A response among some fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches in recent years has been the use of “Hell houses,” themed pamphlets, or comic-style tracts such as those created by Jack T. Chick in order to make use of Halloween’s popularity as an opportunity for evangelism. Some consider Halloween to be completely incompatible with the Christian faith, believing it to have originated as a pagan “Festival of the Dead.”
For my part, I’m not planning to host a “Hell house” or go to a horror movie. I probably won’t dress up like Martin Luther or bob for apples. But I will try to do the work of the Kingdom throughout the day, go to supper at church tonight, stick around for Bob Higgins’ study of the Parable of the Net from Matthew 13 (which is scary in its own way), and then go home to hand out treats at the front door to the few trick-or-treaters who come down my street. Maybe I could say a silent prayer for each one of them as they turn to go down the steps:
Lord, bless these children. Help them live the promises you give. And even though, on this night, they are dressed up like ghouls and goblins, may they—in the light of a new day—become saints. Amen.