How to… Participate at Halloween and Not Lose Your Witness

When I was growing up, we never went trick-or-treating. I don’t remember feeling like I missed out either. Halloween basically came and went as just another day. The only celebrating we did that time of year was doing something for my dad’s birthday the day before Halloween.

When I went to college, started living on my own and then for the first few years of married life, I continued to overlook Halloween. That all changed, though, when I became a mom. Not sure how my mom avoided this, but I suddenly felt pressure to participate in costumes and candy. Of course, it was for my son’s enjoyment, not mine.

Participating in Halloween never did and still doesn’t feel right to me. Something inside of me just feels awkward participating in Halloween festivities. My kids still want to dress up, so we’ve found seemingly innocent ways for them to do so through Fall Harvest Festival type events. We don’t allow certain Halloween activities like haunted houses, and we do our best to avoid the actual word “Halloween.”

Yet, I’m still not entirely comfortable with the Fall Harvest Approach either but acquiesce since I can’t quite come up with a solid argument either way. At least it separates us from the world’s approach to celebrating Halloween with ghosts and graveyards and glorifying evil.

And in my discomfort, I also fully realize that Halloween isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, statistics indicate that Americans will spend $7 billion on Halloween this year with $2.5 billion going to costumes, $2 billion going to candy and, get this, $310 million on costumes for pets.

Stats like that take my mind in several directions. First, I wonder if people are simply curious about evil, like to dress up, or are bored because it’s been too long since the last holiday. Second, I imagine all the good that could be done with that $7 billion, especially when I realize the needs of missionaries around the world. Third, I wonder how much Halloween contributes to our overweight society. Lastly, I wonder what all those animals think about dressing up.

I also wonder if Christians can participate in Halloween without losing their witness. Honestly, I’m still struggling with answering that question. Turns out I’m not the only one. In What does the Bible say about Halloween?, Mary Fairchild addresses this somewhat controversial issue and aptly portrays the struggle that many Christians have with Halloween.

My personal approach reflects much of what Fairchild suggests. Here’s how I explain my Halloween perspective should the subject arise.

  1. Don’t make a big deal. What I mean by that is don’t tell people they’re evil for hanging a sheet from a tree in their yard and don’t forbid your kids from wearing a fun costume and playing games at church. Personally, we don’t decorate short of a jack-o-lantern towel in the kitchen and maybe a couple of carved pumpkins. And I try really hard not to shake my head in judgment when I pass by a front yard made to look like a graveyard. God is working on me here.
  2. Allow light festivities. My oldest dresses up for a Halloween Band Concert (he has to play in it for his grade but doesn’t have to dress up), and both boys participate in some sort of Fall Harvest Festival and carving pumpkins.
  3. Avoid obviously evil elements. No scary costumes. No skull or ghost decorations. No movies that promote and sensationalize darkness and evil. There are some elements that clearly epitomize evil, and we simply avoid them altogether.

I want to reflect the love of Christ in all I do and hope my approach to Halloween doesn’t hurt my witness in any way. But I also realize the importance of not letting the world change me. What do you think? As a Christian, how do you approach Halloween?

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18 thoughts on “How to… Participate at Halloween and Not Lose Your Witness

  1. Kari,

    I have never had any problem with Halloween. I guess I viewed it more as a time to dress up and have fun versus promoting evil in any form. All the years that I participated in trick or treating when I was young and now through all the years doing it with my children I never once considered anything that we did promoted evil in any way. It is a fun way for people to dress up and do something traditional as a family. We always craved pumpkins and most of the time they had stuff like a football team or initials in them. My kids remember the fun we had doing this as a family; the craving of pumpkins and the giving out of candy.

    I guess if I was challenged on it I would say that I do things on other holidays that have nothing to do with the holiday. At Easter I give our kids candy and the kids do Easter egg hunts. At Christmas we have many non spiritual traditions that are wonderful but not a direct result of us celebrating Christ’s birth. Those traditions are something that are very meaningful for our family.

    I also think the only way to reach the world is to be in it. I also have no problem with someone who does not think they should have anything to do with Halloween. I think if you asked people to define Halloween the modern definition would just be a time that we dress up, crave pumpkins and get candy.

    • What you're saying really does make sense. I am just disturbed more and more by the focus so many kids have on evil things and the little focus they have on the things of God. Maybe that's where I am coming from. It's just another distraction. While I can't quite put my finger on it and even though most people, as you mentioned, just think of it as a fun holiday to dress up and get candy, something within me (discernment) is telling me to be cautious and also limited in my participation.

  2. I have to admit, the best part of Halloween for me, growing up, was getting to run thru my neighborhood at night on a school night!! I love to be outdoors. However, I've never cared for masks so my costumes were always minimal and fun. We never took it as scary, although we all enjoyed one house who always did something fun to scare kids coming up the hill to their door. We all knew it was in fun, even us young ones.

    Definitely don't pooh-pooh other families who have lots of decorations. I don't have kids, but I know how that sounds even as an adult hearing someone do that. It really impresses kids and helps them be more judgmental.

    I guess I'd be a bunch more concerned about the video games kids are playing and movies/tv they are exposed to than I've ever been about Halloween itself.

    When I was a youth counselor we had a youth director who pushed the idea of using Halloween to "poke fun at the devil" by simply having a great time together as a youth group, doing both Halloweeny things and non-halloweeny things together over those few days.

    • Terrific advice Kellie! I am definitely aware of my tendency to judge others by the decorations they have at Halloween, and God is really working on me not to do that. I keep my mouth shut, especially when my kids are around. I know I am making assumptions that are probably largely incorrect, and I am working through that mindset. I do want to caution my kids, though, to stay away from those things that could give the devil a foothold. And I agree that video games are just as if not more dangerous than Halloween. We are very careful with both, actually. I like the idea of turning Halloween around to make fun of the devil too. Something for me to definitely consider with my kids. Thanks again for the advice. These are some long-held though patterns in my life that I am working through. I think Halloween CAN be dangerous and is in many ways, but I also think it can be a fun way to have fellowship too. Be in the world but not of it.

      • Kellie, Kari,
        I 'll have to admit that although I think of myself as a pretty brave guy it scares me to think of myself as poking fun at the devil. I have enough trouble handling what he throws at me without me tempting more. 🙂

        • I get what you're saying. Personally, my "poking fun" would entail just showing that we can have Christian fun where he meant for evil. Though I do feel caution for not getting to wrapped up in this approach. As you can probably tell in these discussions, this is a tough topic for me to take a firm stance in.

          • I always think of Michael the Archangel's reply to the devil in Jude 1:9 when he refused to make accusations towards the devil and I think no way am I.

  3. Kari, We handled Halloween much like your family. Our children dressed up in fun costumes, and we too stayed away from the evil scary ones. I decorate for Fall rather than Halloween. We pass out candy and in our area the children tell jokes and riddles in order to get their treat. I've always loved that part of the festivities. I think we can enjoy the day as long as we keep it from being a celebration of evil. That's the part with which I have always struggled. Thanks for sharing this. It's a good topic to think about. Blessings to you!

    • Decorating for Fall is another great suggestion for enjoying this time of year. I'm not a big decorator other than at Christmas (and that's because my kids want to do it), but I know a lot of people who do decorate for every season & holiday. You get at the idea of balance, and I think that's the key. Thanks for your input, Deb.

  4. Kari,
    I read an interesting take on Halloween from a lady's blog I read who is a missionary in China. I quote her ". It’s the ONE night a year in America where we are socially sanctioned to wander around our neighborhoods, knock on each other’s doors and greet one another. The ONE night". I thought that was a different point of view. I know it is true that we in America tend to isolate ourselves even in our own neighborhoods. Something to think about. Here is the link to that post: http://www.messymiddle.com/2012/10/27/take-back-t

    • Thanks for the additional resource, Mark. I read the post and she does have some great insight into this topic. I do like the idea that Halloween could be a night were neighborhoods bond and interact. Unfortunately, as I observe trick-or-treating, it's kids going up to houses to get candy and parents staying in cards or at the end of the driveway. I would love for there to be interaction with neighbors, but I am not seeing it happen.

  5. Hi Kari, Mark pointed me over here having left a comment on my blog (I wrote "Take back the streets … again!" at messymiddle.com) — I'm a fan of trick-or-treating because it's the one night in America that we are encouraged to engage our communities and can just walk up to their doors and knock without having any big agenda (other than give me candy :)). But I do know that for a very small percentage, horrible things have happened on that night. But sigh, that's true for any night or any holiday. Anyway, enjoyed popping in and chatting!

    • Just read your article, and I do like your perspective. As I commented to Mark, I would love for Halloween to be a night where neighbors and friends connect, but I just don't see that happening. I do like the sorting through candy aspect that our family goes through. That is a lot of fun and does bond us in a strange way. I do hope that more people do as you suggest with regard to connecting with neighbors during trick-or-treating. I think our neighborhoods, cities & country could use more interaction between neighbors. Thanks for stopping by Struggle to Victory. Hope we stay connected. I appreciate your insights.

  6. I have had some of the same struggles with this secular holiday. Thank you for bringing up this topic. The scripture in the Holy Bible speaks volumes to this subject. I find myself more sober and cautious during this time where when I was a child on this topic had nothing to add positively and only to join in on the evil games. Remember, if you seek out the truth on this topic you will find the person of the Holy Spirit who will guide you in all truth. The God of Israel is angry at the ones he calls and turns away from Him and the devil is happy during this time.
    I pray the full armor of God be over you and your families.

    1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because[a] your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

    Ephesians 4:25-28 25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil [a]an opportunity. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with [b]one who has need.

    • When we struggle like this, and I too obviously struggle with this topic, it's helpful to realize that struggling means we're not just giving in. It means we are seeking truth and fighting against our fleshly tendencies. So, in that, I find hope in the struggle. The scripture you bring up are great ones for this topic. Be vigilant… resist the devil… speak truth… These are all aspects of the struggle. As I have been processing this topic over the past week or so, I am realizing that as I make my personal decision to not participate in the holiday, I need to let others make their decisions too. I state my beliefs, sure, but I hold back forcing them on others because that usually does the opposite of what I intend. Thank you for sharing your struggle here. Admitting the struggle somehow gives us strength to keep struggling. At least, that's what it does for me, which is really one of the main drives behind this blog.

  7. We don't really make a big deal about it. My kids could care less about the costumes at this point and only care about the candy. Plus, they're dressing up as a turtle and Thomas the train so it's pretty cute. I think parents can make a big deal about it and end up blowing it out of proportion – one way or the other.

    • I think that's a good approach. My mom didn't either, and now it's just not a big deal to me. That's why we're allowing our oldest to go trick-or-treating tonight because he wants to hang out with his friends. He knows how we feel about Halloween and not giving evil a foothold, and he simply wants to hang out and get candy. By the way, he's a knight and my youngest is a pirate, and it 13 and 11 (14 and 12 in two months), it's STILL cute.

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