Cross Talk: TRICK OR TREAT? What Does Halloween Mean for Christians?
Halloween, in the Christian faith, is a tricky, (or is it treaty?), holiday to deal with. What do you do with a holiday that originates in pagan worship, that encourages humans to imitate, and to dress up, and to get excited about being something other than what/who they are for the sake of candy, and accolades, and “best costume” prizes? To participate, or not to participate . . . That is the question.
For some Christians, Halloween is nothing more than just one more harmless encounter with culture, where we get to participate and be in the world yet, not of the world. For other Christians, the very idea of Halloween is in itself a form of idolatry and turning our focus away from God and placing it on disguises, whether sweet or scary. Many Christians take such a hard stance against Halloween because they feel it is in direct opposition to God. Let us turn our thoughts to what Halloween also represents: All Hallows Eve, a day to remember the dead. The day before, All Saints Day. It also marks the beginning of Dia de Muertos in Mexican culture.
If we dig deep, there is an ancient tradition in “remembering.” Have we simply lost sight of what Halloween could be from a Christian standpoint? Christian “remembrance”? After all, Jesus Christ wasn’t necessarily born on December 25, yet we celebrate fervently the day of Christmas . . . remembering his birth. Have we lost sight, as Christians, of “remembering” those who have gone before in the faith? Martyrs whose blood was spilt in their steadfast hope in Christ? Those who died defiance of a culture that said, “we must keep these Christians quiet and in the shadows, if we catch them doing these things openly, they must be executed.” Those who didn’t stay in the shadows, just because it was scary?
Halloween . . . All Hallows Eve. Hallowed. Sacred. Is this day not an opportunity to regain the sacredness of “remembering” those who have got on before us in the faith. And, how do we remember? Various ways. But, we should “remember”.
Yes, there is something scary in our past. The death, massacres, martyrs whose lives were offered up to the people for sport, toyed with, tortured, burned alive, boiled alive, flesh being mutilated, lacerated – the beautiful creation made in God’s image, transformed into something grotesque and barely resembling “human”. This is God’s church. Have we forgotten how to remember?
Costumes could become wearable Icons that can interact, reminding, walking in community with non-believer, when they open their doors and ask, “and, who are you supposed to be?” You could respond with, “ I am Perpetua, I was martyred for my faith in Jesus Christ by the Roman Empire.” Our costumes could be our message! Instead of masking who we are, showing it. We have a story to tell! And, our neighbors . . . don’t know them! We are strangers knocking at their door, and even in the scary costumes, they give us candy! They give without hesitation . . . Without reserve! How beautiful a reminder from this un-Christian holiday. How Christ-like . . . Such remembrance of the divine!” “Even while I was yet sinning, Christ died for me!” “I was ugly, scary . . . and still got candy!”
Have we forgotten what grace looks like outside of our sanctuaries? Have we forgotten to “remember” as often as we drink . . . Not just around the table of Eucharist at church, but even at our own tables? Could we stretch ourselves, submit ourselves, to remember and grow in our faith though a simple “worldly” giving of candy whether you look like a princess or a monster? Have we forgotten to look for Christ among those who need healing? He is there! Sometimes witnessed in something as simple as underserved sweetness!
At its core . . . Halloween may not be the most Christian of holidays, I get that. But, the cross wasn’t a Christian symbol until Christ transformed it forever! We see the image of a cross (the instrument of death of Jesus day), and now we see hope. We see hope, because we “remember,” just as we were instructed to do at the last supper. Do we have to participate in Halloween festivities? No. Should we? We are back and forth on that one, and probably always will be . . . But, let me leave you with this thought. If we have a story to tell, shouldn’t we tell it? If we have an opportunity to “remember” and grow in our faith, Shouldn’t we experience it . . . And, allow others to remember as well?
Halloween can seem scary, but what is scarier is the thought that God has something eternal interwoven into this day . . . this day that God created, and humans have somehow, for some reason set aside . . . God made this day . . . set it apart first . . . said it is good . . . and we might miss it. That is scary to me. Let’s keep this Halloween hallowed. Holy. Worshipping God for the sweetness, for the grace that no candy-wrapper (and no grave) could ever hold back. Let’s remember Jesus this Halloween! And, let’s remember those who died to pass each sacred remembrance on.
Whether you participate in the culture, (yet not of it), or perhaps in a Christian alternative, or perhaps your way of honoring God is by ignoring the holiday altogether, let’s thank God together for the gift of Jesus, the gift that we freely receive even when we look like monsters . . . yes, we need it most because we look like monsters. May God bless you and keep you, smiling at the sight you!