Trick or Treat?

Last night small bands of children roamed suburban streets here in Brisbane, dressed in a variety ghastly costumes. Ah, Halloween. While traditionally Aussies have never really celebrated this occasion, it’s becoming more popular. Why? A few reasons come to mind: the significant influence of the USA on our culture, the commercial incentive as retailers see an opportunity to increase sales in the lull before Christmas, boredom, and the fact that our individualistic society teaches us that our identities are something we create for ourselves – hence, it doesn’t matter if “Australian culture” has never really celebrated Halloween. If I want to celebrate it, I can. I will.

Oh, and another reason that Halloween is popular is that it’s official currency is ‘lollies’ (or ‘candy’, according to my children). And who doesn’t like ‘candy’? Ask my dentist.

As far as I can see, it all looks like a bit of fun. The kids get dressed up, socialise, and get exercise. Nothing wrong with that.

I’ve seen some Christians getting concerned about the dark overtones of Halloween. That it’s about Devil worship. Evil forces. Hence, it’s something to be grumbled about. 

As a Christian, I understand that concern. Surely there’s enough death and evil in the world, without teaching our children to think it’s fun!

But I think that misses the point.

The history and meaning of Halloween finds its roots in the church. I suggest you go to this article to get a better understanding of the religious roots of this unusual celebration. But whatever the history, the observance of Halloween has been largely emptied of any Christian content. And in that sense, it’s just like Christmas and Easter. The Christian truths behind the Christmas and Easter stories have been meshed with ancient pagan practices (like egg hunts, Christmas trees, etc) and more modern themes to create the holidays we know today.

Hence, while some people are celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus, many people will celebrate the Easter Bunny and give eggs as gifts; and while some are celebrating the birth of Jesus, people will erect pointy trees, wreaths of (plastic) holly, and wait for Santa. In both cases there is a clear Christian kernel which has been appropriated and changed for a variety of reasons. The same applies – at least in my opinion – to Halloween. It seems to have started within the Christian context, and has spread and taken on a non-religious life of its own.

I recently saw a thread on Facebook where a bunch of Christians were expressing their concerns about this dark festival. One well-respected minister replied that everyone should stop their whining. He said instead of grumbling about it, we should use the opportunity to connect with other people in our community, and remind them of the Christian heritage of this festival. Like Christmas and Easter, let’s be people who show the reality of the Jesus in how we engage lovingly and thoughtfully with others, despite the secular and pagan overtones.

Let’s be people who show that the light isn’t scared of darkness. 

Here’s a clever spoken-verse piece about Halloween which will reward careful listening.

Halloween: Trick or Treat? from on Vimeo.