by Mike Couchman
Halloween is now the second highest grossing holiday in America, behind Christmas. It’s not as simple as being like “yay! Jesus is #1” though.
My single, church-going mom, raised me to abhor anything related to October 31st. We didn’t even hit up the church’s alternatives. But she didn’t object if I talked somebody else into letting me tag along. It kinda felt like a “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangement.
To this day, even though I know and trust what I’m about to share with you, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit feeling a bit guilty for even acknowledging Halloween, let alone enjoying it (at least the excuse to eat candy!). I still get creeped out by the darker elements; I don’t doubt the existence of the supernatural. (Neither does Jesus) But let’s rewind to the holiday’s roots…
- It originally marked the end of a Celtic year, and was called “Samhain.” They had some spiritual superstitions (good and bad) in their celebrations.
- When Rome took over the world, various populations mixed, Christianity spread, and Samhain got blended with “All Saints Day.”
- All Saints Day somehow morphed into “All Hallows Eve.” Both versions revolved around honoring Christians saints and martyrs. For a while, it was “one of the most solemn festivals of the Church.”
- Americans love to abbreviate. Immigrants in the 1800’s shortened “All Hallows Eve” to “Halloween.” (By my count, they only cut one syllable out of the ordeal, but hey, every little bit helps?) It was in the 1930’s that “trick or treating” went mainstream. (During the Great Depression. Coincidence?)
What you just read is of course a super reductive history of the holiday. The point here is that Halloween’s roots aren’t in a purely evil celebration of Satan. You could argue that Halloween is no less Christian than Christmas itself: Christmas was originally a pagan holiday before people of faith brought redemption into the mix.
As with so many things in life, the past matters less than what God calls us to do here and now. We can focus on darkness or we can focus on the light. Theology professor Justin Holcomb puts it this way: “Perhaps instead of fleeing the darkness in fear, we should view Halloween as an opportunity to mock the enemy whose power over us has been broken.”
This year, on 10/31 (along with every other day), say it loud and proud: “Not Today Satan!” And, love your neighbors the way Jesus loves you.