This post is Part 2 of 3 in my Halloween series.
- Christians and Halloween: A Taxonomy of Perspectives
- Is Halloween the Evil Holiday?
- My Top Ten Benefits of Halloween
Sometimes Christians argue that Halloween should not be celebrated because it is unlike other holidays. “Christmas and Easter may have a secular counterfeit that corrupts the original Christian purpose, but there can be no connection between Halloween and Christ.” Or so they say.
I disagree. Every holiday can be and has been corrupted by pagan or secular cultures. But every holiday, if it is somehow realistically connected to the world, has a redemptive angle that connects to the gospel. By my definition, this has to be the case if Jesus Christ is Lord of reality. If the gospel meets the felt needs of every culture’s unfulfilled longings, then even a holiday like Halloween must be able to express gospel truths that are fulfilled in Jesus.
I know. I know. I know. That’s a really big assertion. I don’t expect you to believe it without a convincing argument. Let me show you why I think this is true of all holidays, even Halloween, if you celebrate holidays as a Christian to the glory of God.
Let’s start with Christmas since it begins the Christian Year (I won’t consider holiday seasons like Advent and Lent for the sake of simplicity). Obviously, Christmas is a celebration of the incarnation of Christ. Baby Jesus in the manger. But we don’t actually know the season when Jesus was born. So the early church picked a day to combat a popular pagan holiday near the beginning of winter. One could say the pagan origin of the holiday closely associated with Christmas was a celebration of the winter solstice and the darkness. Then there is today’s secular holiday with the Santa Claus mythology that celebrates sentimental childish fantasy, family, consumerism, humanist love, and moralism. What is the Christian truth expressed? You are not alone in Jesus.
Next there is New Year’s Day. From a Christian perspective, this holiday celebrates God’s blessings in the past year, and trust of God in the year ahead. But there is a case that the holiday’s pagan counterpart was a celebration of the same to false gods, and a reason to indulge in sinful revelry. Today is a different story. Our secular holiday celebrates football, sobriety after the New Year’s Eve party, and the end of “holiday break”. What is the Christian truth expressed? Your future is secure in Jesus.
After January 1 comes the holiday single people, divorcées, and widows love to hate: St. Valentine’s Day. For a Christian, Valentine’s day is a celebration of God’s common grace blessings of romance, love and marriage. But the pagan counterpart was a celebration of romance, love, and eroticism. That’s not much different than the contemporary secular holiday which celebrates romance, love, and sex. What is the Christian truth expressed? You are lovingly chosen in Jesus.
St. Patrick’s Day in March traditionally celebrates the conversion of pagan Ireland to Christianity through the missionary ministry of Patrick. But the way many celebrate the holiday today is similar to pagan holidays that celebrated nationalism and drunken revelry. The secular holiday today celebrates all things Irish and drunkenness, all with a green tint. What is the Christian truth expressed? Your people are redeemed through Jesus.
Although not generally celebrated outside Christianity, Good Friday is applicable to our discussion. For the Christian it celebrates the forgiveness of sins at the cross of Christ. Sacrifice, atonement, propitiation, and forgiveness all have counterparts in the pagan world. These concepts in their pagan origins celebrate the appeasing/manipulating of god(s) to assuage guilt. While these are not secular categories, they manifest themselves in celebrations that atone for wrongs done and rights not done, especially in Mother’s and Father’s Days (but also in gift giving driven by guilt during other holidays). What is the Christian truth expressed? You are forgiven in Jesus.
Easter is a big (maybe the biggest) Christian holiday. It celebrates the resurrection from the dead of Christ. But the pagan counterpart finds its origin in the celebration of fertility, new life, and rebirth. The corresponding secular holiday celebrates the season of spring, especially in throwing off moral inhibitions for Spring Break. What is the Christian truth expressed? You are alive in Jesus.
Near the end of the Christian year comes the relatively recently created holiday of Thanksgiving. For the Christian, it celebrates God’s providence in the blessings of sufficient food and community. The pagans know how to party too. Their “thanksgiving feast” was a celebration of harvest and wealth. Today, the secular holiday celebrates family, food, and is now developing into Black Friday Eve. What is the Christian truth expressed? You are provided for in Jesus.
What about Birthdays? These are not really holidays in the strict sense, but many people celebrate them as such. Christians who celebrate birthdays typically highlight the gift of a person whom God gave to the world on the anniversary of his/her birth. The gift is a family member, a friend, or some important person deemed worthy of honor. But birthday celebrations can be corrupted like any secular holiday, filled with narcissism, spoiling, and over-the-top adulation. What is the Christian truth expressed? You are lovingly created in Jesus.
So what about Halloween? Is it irredeemable? Is it somehow different? May I suggest that Christians may observe Halloween by celebrating Christ’s victory over the powers of darkness. Of course the pagan origin was a celebration of the powers of darkness. But the secular holiday is understood by many as a celebration of autumn, dressing up, childish make-believe fantasy, the neighborhood, and candy. Others choose to celebrate hooliganism, mischief, and forbidden spirituality. What in the world could possibly be the Christian truth expressed? I humbly submit: You have spiritual power over evil in Jesus.
So there you have it. From my perspective, Halloween is not fundamentally different from other holidays. (One could even make a case that Halloween is less spiritually dangerous than other holidays because the corruptions introduced in them through pagan and secular influences are more subtle and therefore possibly more insidious.) Halloween, like other holidays, can be redeemed by Christians and celebrated for the glory of God.
You may not be convinced. But if this is impossible, then I don’t see any consistent middle ground when it comes to observing certain days as holidays. If a Christian wants to take the position that Halloween cannot be celebrated in good conscience, then it seems to me that in order to be theologically consistent he must adopt the Puritan view of holidays (holy days). “Give the pagan holiday spoil back!” After all, it would be hard to deny the corruptions associated with non-Halloween holidays are either expressly evil things or good things that are often treated as idols. Such a denial is on the path of traditional Puritanism stance regarding holidays. That means Sunday Sabbaths only. No Christmas, no Easter, no Thanksgiving, nothing but 52 Lord’s Days a year when you are obligated to participate in public and private worship, rest, and do works of necessity and mercy. A joyous way to live on Sundays, but in my view an overly restrictive, unbiblical way to live for the rest of the week. The Puritans would discourage celebrating holidays during the week (apart from Sunday Sabbaths). It’s a well-known fact that “American Puritans did not celebrate religious holidays such as Easter or Christmas. The weekly ‘Lord’s Day’ was celebration enough.” As I understand it, they were reacting to the proliferation of holidays under the Roman Catholic system of celebrating saint days and various anniversaries within the church calendar. Puritans specifically objected to people not working on these extrabiblical holidays, hence the naming of the “Puritan Work Ethic” (no days off as holidays except Sundays). But I’m arguing that we are free in Christ to celebrate other holidays apart from Sunday Sabbaths. My point is that if you want to enjoy holidays, feel free to celebrate Halloween too.
“Love God and do as you please” is a saying attributed to Martin Luther. This is a wise rule for doing anything in life, including observing holidays.