With Halloween upon us, a familiar debate is once again creeping up: Should people of faith — particularly Christians — participate in the festivities?
There’s no easy or definitive answer, as intense division over the issue abounds. While some believers see costume wearing and candy consuming as entertaining and harmless, others shun Halloween altogether and opt for alternative celebrations on Oct. 31.
The debate, which comes every year, has as much to do with the holiday’s complex history as it does its contemporary practice.
While trick-or-treating is a modern-day phenomenon, Halloween’s roots were actually set nearly 2,000 years ago.
History.com has a condensed version of the back story:
Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.
Considering the pagan celebrations that were once prominent this time of year, it’s understandable why some God-fearing Americans might be cautious, however today’s traditions are certainly very different from the Celts’ practices (read History.com‘s expanded article for the complete history).
Concerns over these historical elements and the contemporary choices that some make to glorify evil have led some to decry the holiday as one that should simply be abandoned.
As a result, many churches have come up with alternative plans. Often dubbed “harvest festivals,” these parties and activities provide children and families with candy, Bible games and other alternatives. In a sense, these celebrations provide an opportunity for families and kids, alike, to enjoy the holiday while keeping away the ghosts, ghouls and dark elements.
In 2011, we first covered this issue and asked readers a simple poll question — “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?” At the time, we received a fascinating response.
Sixty percent of the 10,596 respondents who took the poll said that the holiday is permissible for Christians. That said, many of these people noted that there should be some restrictions surrounding how believers observe the holiday.
An additional 32 percent answered “absolutely not” to believers participating, with an eight percent claiming that they were in the middle on the issue.
This year, we took to social media to again ask readers whether they believe Christians should participate in Halloween. On Twitter, there was no shortage of debate over the issue. Many Christians responded that the holiday should be off-limits.
Here are just a few of those responses:
Others, though, said that Halloween is harmless and that it’s really about how families choose to celebrate. If evil isn’t a part of the festivities, some said they have no problem with it.
So, there you have it. There are clearly two sides on the matter and it’s likely that the debate won’t be settled anytime soon.
What do you think? Should Christians celebrate Halloween? Take our new poll, below:
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