There was a lot of hype in certain Christian circles some years back about Halloween and its appropriateness for Christian living. The thought in those circles was that Halloween was a bad holiday, a celebration of the devil and the forces of evil. There was, for a number of years, a proliferation of churches holding "Anti-Halloween" parties for children, gatherings for families where the Halloween festivities were ignored in favor of good, wholesome fun.
Whatever wholesome means. I for one can't quite figure out how children dressing up as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and going to neighbors homes collecting candy is anything less than wholesome.
No, no, wait. To be fair, there are ways in which this holiday has been co-opted, or maybe just intensified, to become a celebration of the occult by some. Halloween isn't just about pumpkins and costumes and candy. It is, indeed, about witches and vampires and monsters and demons, about black magic and death and evil.
I mean, not that vampires exist. Or monsters either. Except, of course, in the closets and beneath the beds of small children, and then they can be kept away by monster repellant. You can find one recipe for extra-strength monster repellant here, but while this one makes a nice project for children to work on, I've always preferred a recipe you can actually spray, so the children can smell it in their room and know that it's working. Water mixed with a little bit of scented oil will usually do the trick.
Anyway, I have my doubts about black magic, too, but if I'm honest, I'm less certain about its non-existence than, say, vampires. And as for witches, well, one of my friends from college describes herself as a kitchen witch, and I know she exists. And we all have demons. And death and evil are certainly real. So, should we, as Christians, allow such a holiday to be a part of our lives, and especially a part of our children's lives?
The truth is that while some people do really celebrate the evil side of humanity on this holiday, most of us do something very different. Something wonderful. Something holy, even. We look at those evil parts of the human condition, and we firmly and gleefully stick our tongues out at them.
Why not revel, for one night, in bats and mummies and zombies and blood? They're ridiculous things! Ridiculous and absurd. And not just because there's no such thing as a real zombie.
On Halloween, we make fun of evil. We play with the occult because we know it has no real power. We delight in death (and un-death) because we know that death is fighting a losing battle. Christ has already triumphed over evil and death. The power of Jesus Christ has made a mockery of these things, and we truly ought to mock them.
Avoiding Halloween is a sign that we're allowing death to frighten us. Celebrating Halloween is a way of frightening death away.
So I, for one, am headed out this Saturday. I'm going to put on that cheetah costume I made for Vacation Bible School this year, and meet up with a friend for dinner. He's going to have bleached hair and a striped shirt, and I'm going to pretend my spots are stripes. Calvin and Hobbes, you see.
I can think of no better way to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ--that God has swallowed up death forever.