Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

Every year in October, my newsfeed lights up with posts, articles, and videos asking the question, "Should Christians celebrate Halloween?" Some argue that, due to the holiday's pagan roots and often dark themes, Christians should have nothing to do with it. Others maintain that, with prudence, families could legitimately enjoy some of the fun features of the day. 

In no particular order, let me throw out some considerations as we work through the question word-for-word.

Should vs. May

The word “should” implies moral “ought-ness." In the absence of a biblical command or biblical warrant, Christians should not bind one another’s consciences where the Bible does not. In the absence of any Biblical command, we are under no moral obligation to positively celebrate the holiday. The real question we are asking is this:  “May Christians participate if they desire?” Can Christians choose to participate in Halloween without sinning? That is the question. Even if the answer is “Yes, they may,” that does not mean that all Christians should. We could have several possible answers: "No, Christians should not. To participate would be sinful." Or, "Yes, Christians may celebrate, but might find good reasons to not celebrate."  

Celebration: of what? 

Next, we need to consider the word "celebrate." 

Many Christians maintain that, because Halloween's origins are pagan, any involvement in it, including trick or treating, holding trunk or treats at church, or even greeting people at your door with candy is tantamount to condoning Satan worship. After all, texts like Ephesians 5:11 warn us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” II Corinthians 6:14-17 declares an utter antithesis between righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness, Christ and Satan, and so on. I Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Further, the Bible proscribes demons, witches, and wizards—common elements in typical Halloween displays. Thus, any participation in the day is sinful and dangerous. 

However, in my judgment such applications of these texts is somewhat simplistic. Drawing a straight line from these texts to Halloween is assuming (rather than proving) that (1) all Halloween celebrations are demonic, and (2) any participation on any level constitutes “fellowship” with the unfruitful works of darkness. We need to drill down a bit deeper to understand whether or not a particular celebration is demonic, and we also need to establish what level of participation in an event constitutes "fellowship."  

I Corinthians 8-10 helps us out here. Writing to Christians in an actively and thoroughly pagan city, Paul address these pressing questions: can Christians eat meats that have been offered to idols? What about attending idol feasts at the idol temple? And what about Christians whose consciences respond differently to these things?  

At risk of oversimplification, Paul asks, “Can Christians participate in activities that are tangentially connected with idolatry? Does eating meat that was offered to the idol constitute idolatry?" The Scripture is crystal clear: Christians must not engage in idolatry (I Corinthians 10:14). But what crosses the line? Paul seems to be quite clear that merely eating the meat is not condoning idolatry, but attending idol feasts is idolatry.  

I Corinthians 8:1-6 makes it quite clear that the idol itself is nothing, the meat offered to it is just meat, and there is only one God who made everything, meats included, to enjoy. Therefore, eating the meat is not inherently evil. It is not spiritually tainted or demonically inhabited by being placed in front of a stone idol. He makes the same point in 10:25-26. Therefore, eating meats offered to idols is a matter of Christian liberty and does not inherently involve idolatry. 

However, Christians must beware lest their use of legitimate liberty bring lasting spiritual harm to a brother (“cause my brother to offend”) in leading him to go back to the idol temple to become involved in idolatry itself. Love for a weaker brother potentially limits Christian liberty (I Corinthians 8:9-13).

After a sidebar in chapter 9 (Paul limited his liberty to be paid for the sake of others), chapter 10 carries the argument forward. Here, Paul warns against, not merely eating the meats offered to idols, but actually engaging in idolatry itself by way of going to idol temple feasts. Paul describes the “cup of devils” and “table of devils” and draws a parallel to the celebration of communion with the church. This signals attendance at an actual idol festival with idolaters, not merely enjoying the meat. This is different level of involvement, one that Paul denounces in the strongest terms (I Corinthians 10:20-23). 

Simply then, Christians have liberty to eat meats offered to idols, but should be willing to limit their liberty for the spiritual well-being of others if necessary. Christians may not, however, directly participate in idol feats.  

So the question you must ask is this: is my participation in Halloween eating a meat offered to an idol (potentially permissible), or attending an idol feast in a pagan temple (not permissible)? There are levels of involvement, from merely eating the meats to attending the festivals. It is a mistake to collapse these two categories together and throw out a blanket ban against both. Paul refused to do this, and so should we.  

"Celebrating Halloween” can mean nothing more than dressing up as Superman, and canvassing the neighborhood for Snickers bars. This would be eating a “meat offered to idols,” an activity that falls under the umbrella of “Christian liberty.”  

Conversely, “celebrating Halloween” can also mean delving into very dark themes, dabbling with the occult, and attending raucous adult Halloween parties. Christians rightly should flee all such activities, for the activities themselves are un-biblical and dark. Simply, trick or treating and offering a blood sacrifice to Baphomet are not the same, and it is silly to treat them the same. 

Going door to door in costume asking for candy is not an inherently religious or pagan activity. It is, in fact, a uniquely American (rather than ancient pagan) practice that has little to do with the historically murky origins of some Halloween traditions. I Corinthians would seem to allow for Christian liberty in such matters. 

In other words, the answer is not as simplistic and black and white as, “No Halloween of any kind!” Rather, we must use biblical discernment to evaluate the activities themselves and determine our personal level of involvement. 

Halloween: Do Pagan Roots Matter? 

We now come to the last word: “Halloween.” 

The reality regarding Halloween's origins is more complicated than we might be led to believe. It is true that the pre-Christian celebrations of the day are rooted in pagan spirituality, particularly in the Celtic festival of Samhain. It was supposedly a day when it was believed that the spirits of the dead roamed the earth. Its celebration involved Druids, animal sacrifices, bonfires, and lots of weird stuff. 

While it is often repeated that the day was later Christianized, it appears that celebrations of the Christian feast of All Saints' Day arose independently of the Celtic traditions. The celebration of the feast on November 1 began on the continent, not Ireland, and seem to have nothing to do with Samhain. Indeed, it could be argued that "All Hallows Eve" (from which the name "Halloween" derives), the day before the Christian holiday of All Saints' Day, is more closely related to Medieval Christianity than pre-Christian paganism. 

While Halloween might have pagan roots in the murky past, today’s expression of it is mostly about fun, candy, and huge profit margins for candy-makers. Like so many things in the modern world, there is a messy mixture of ancient paganism, early Medieval Christianization, and late American capitalism. 

If consistent in rejecting all pagan-tinged activities, Christians must reject the names of the month (many named after Roman gods), the days of the week (same thing), the use of money (weird symbols on the $1 bill), and on and on. 

But more to the point--the origins of something do not alone determine its rightness or wrongness. It is not what is outside us that defiles us, but what is inside (Mark 7:21-23). We should be far more concerned about the evil in our hearts than the evil influences of carving a face on a pumpkin and eating candy corn (yuck!) because people long ago allegedly thought that costumes and pumpkins drove off evil spirits. 

To conclude: should Christians celebrate Halloween? It depends. 

Here are some guidelines to help you evaluate what you will do. 

First, follow your conscience. 

Christians are by no means required or expected to participate. If your conscience does not permit it, then do not celebrate. If your conscience does permit it, do not mock those whose conscience is not as strong as yours. See Romans 14. 

Secondly, evaluate the activities you will engage in. 

If you choose to participate in some form of Halloween, evaluate the activities themselves. Will you be involving yourself in that which is obviously idolatrous? Will you be eating the meat that has been offered, or going to the temple feast? If your kids are going to dress up, what are they representing? Will your celebrations of the holiday become an excuse to engage in sin, or will they be clean enjoyment? Will the event/party etc. lean into the pagan elements of Halloween, or the candy elements of Halloween?  

Finally, choose to glorify God in whatever you decide. 

Can you glorify God in the way you participate or don’t participate? Can you use your non-participation or participation as a way to get the gospel out to your neighbors? 

In my experience, Halloween is one of the few times people interact with their neighbors, leave the light on, and open the door. What an opportunity to build relationships and live out the gospel! Even if you don't send the kids out trick-or-treating, consider how you can practice hospitality and get the gospel to those who show up to your door. 

So should you celebrate Halloween. No. May you? Yes, depending on what that looks like. 


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