This is such a tricky time of year. Some people get pretty excited about Halloween. Others get offended. Just this last weekend I was asked a question. “Why do some Christians celebrate Halloween and some don’t?” That question has another (more pointed) version. “Is it okay for Christians to celebrate Halloween?”
For me, the short answer is pick a side and be gracious to people who disagree. Here are five possible options, amongst the many, for how people view Halloween.
- The opposition: Current popular texts often suggest a sinister or pagan origin for Halloween. Those holding to this view often oppose any traditional Halloween celebrations.
- The scholar: Some scholars argue that such stories are recent inventions. They often embrace the festivities, but want to study the origins, so they miss the good parties.
- The critic: Others believe Halloween is so influenced by consumerism that its origins are irrelevant. They may join the opposition or the celebration depending on their tolerance for consumerism.
- The saint: Some hold to a view that Halloween is a development from “All Saints Day.” People in this camp generally either embrace or tolerate the day, and try to at least acknowledge the faithful who have gone before us. There seems to be a lot of research to support this view.
- The neighbor: Others may or may not know about the various theories, but they focus on the chance to get to know their neighbors and share some candy. This is the group I want to spend the holiday with. They have the most fun.
Regardless of which group fits you, try to consider the amount of thought behind all five. Whether you agree or disagree with someone’s view, try to be gracious. Faithful Christians may believe it’s important to celebrate a variation of All Saint’s Day, or they may be uncomfortable with a holiday of uncertain origin. Either way, they’re trying to be faithful.
Whether your neighbors celebrate Halloween or not, find out why. At the very least, you’ll get to know your neighbors better. If you’re lucky, you may even get some chocolate out of it.
Written by the Rev. Derek Davenport ’05, director of enrollment and program co-director of the Miller Summer Youth Institute at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Derek is also an alumnus of the Master of Divinity (MDiv) Program. He researches church symbolism on his website www.preachingsymbols.com.