John Stonestreet: What Christians Should Do With Halloween

Today is that strange holiday that many of us don’t know what to do with. Here’s a history of Halloween, and what it has to do with Christians.

Every year around this time, the ritual begins anew. The weather cools off, leaves change color and Christians start arguing about Halloween.

Many people love this night. It gives them an excuse to host parties, kick off the holiday spending season, and it provides economic stimulus for the dental industry. Others use it as an excuse to flirt with things much darker than plastic skeletons and creative jack-o’lanterns. But what is Halloween really about? Is there something spiritual behind all the ghoulishness?

“Halloween is a satanic holiday,” say some. “It’s a celebration of death,” insist others. Back when I was a kid, a series of comic-book style tracts went around claiming that Halloween was a pagan holiday called Samhain, where ancient Druids used to carry out human sacrifice under a full moon.

Even modern pagans who love Halloween admit that this story is mostly made-up.

The very name “Halloween” means “holy evening”—a throwback to when Catholic Christians prepared for the Feast of All Saints on November 1st.

A few years back, Kirk Cameron urged Christians to make the most of Halloween’s Christian origins. In 2014 he told the Christian Post that Christians should be throwing “the biggest Halloween party on your block.” He argued that not only is it a great way to make fun of the devil, but a great opportunity to proclaim Jesus’ victory over sin and death to our neighbors.

In fact, in his book “For the Glory of God,” historian Rodney Stark argues that Christians in the early centuries of the church frequently reacted to pagan practices like fortune-telling, alchemy, and even sorcery, by not taking them seriously. Stark records how Augustine, for example, myth-busted astrology by pointing out how twins born under the same star sign were often very different in personality. St. Boniface taught that “to believe in ‘witches’ is un-Christian,” and pope Gregory the Great even advised a missionary to Britain to destroy idols but to re-purpose pagan temples for Christian worship.

Steven Wedgeworth, a pastor writing at the Calvinist International, gives a third perspective. In one of the best overviews out there on Halloween’s history, he concludes that while there are definitely echoes of paganism and Christian re-purposing in Halloween, the holiday of today—especially the costumes and trick-or-treating—is a recent invention. Like the commercialized secular Christmas, he writes, Halloween as we know it has more to do with department stores than druids.

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Source: Christian Post