“Is it alright for a Christian to put up Halloween decorations and celebrate it? I was always told it was the devil’s holiday.”
As soon as pumpkin spice and flannel shirts replace the store aisles of back-to-school supplies, questions like this become the hot topic in discussion groups for former Jehovah’s Witnesses. Christians of various denominations also have conflicting opinions on what to do with this season. Do we send our costumed kids into the neighborhood for candy or offer a Trunk-or-Treat day at church? Furthermore, should we even call it Halloween or just say we’re having a Fall Festival?
I confess, of all the celebrations I gave up to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Halloween was the toughest.
As a kid it meant costumes and candy, and my parents weren’t stressed out hosting any big holiday meals with relatives. So Halloween became my favorite holiday. When the calendar page turned to October, all the kids at school had the same question: what are you going to be for Halloween this year? And my creative juices went into overdrive with the excitement of it all. Yet, I don’t recall ever choosing to costume myself with blood and carry an intimidating weapon in order to scare people. I wasn’t into the “spooky” aspect of it. I simply enjoyed dressing up and getting candy without any thought of the demonic. As I moved into my adult years, I continued to enjoy the costume parties and contests at local bars but didn’t really appreciate the over sexualized costumes that tend to show up there. My husband and I usually chose to portray funny characters from Saturday Night Live such as the nerds “Todd and Lisa” and “Ed Grimley” the Pat Sajak fanatic. We’ve also gone as farm animals.
Even though dressing up as a cow didn’t register as “pagan” or “demonic” with me, I still made a very sincere and prayerful choice to denounce the funnest celebration of the year after studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1996.
And I maintained that choice during the 7 years I was active with the organization.
They presented good reasons for me not to engage in a celebration which condones evil for some people. But I wasn’t into the “evil” aspect of it anyhow. The reason I gave up Halloween was the same reason I gave up everything else. It belonged to “the world” and when you’re being indoctrinated, every and anything outside the organization is “worldly.” By the time I got to the 5th lesson laid out in the Watchtower publication “Knowledge that leads to everlasting life,” I was persuaded that “we must make sure that we avoid religious holidays and other customs that violate God’s principles” (page 49, paragraph 16). Even if I only wanted to dance in a cow costume on October 31.
But here I am 15 years out of the Watchtower now and hear the same debate going on, not just among former Jehovah’s Witnesses but people at church as well. There are those who take a hard stand as I did and have nothing to do with Halloween, those who allow it as long as it’s not scary or sexy, and those who just call it something else. And then there are those who use the day to drop a Jesus tract in with the candy when the Trick-or-Treaters come to their doors. I call that the Romans 12:21 approach “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
My religion had not taught me to overcome evil, only to hide from it and let it carry on as I waited for “the end” which was always “just around the corner.”
Could it be that as a child I was unwittingly overcoming the evil influence others sought to place on this day by being allowed the creative indulgence to have fun with the good things God had provided? My “worldly” parents never withheld Halloween from me and yet I still sought God and am a Christian today. Do you see the irony of this?
As I scroll through the stories of those who were raised by JW parents who now shun their own children, I am saddened by the backfiring of their good intentions. These parents were preserving their children for Jehovah by hiding them away from the world, and yet so many mistrust the very mention of God now because of such sheltering. And parents and children can’t bond over happy memories of getting candy from their neighbors while playing make-believe in a princess or cowboy disguise.
So what do we do with the question posed at the start of this article?
The answer is complicated. You probably already knew that from your own experience. And as I read through the responses to it in the discussion group, it wasn’t much different than what I’ve heard from the various Christians I meet.
“doesn’t it bother you that the roots of this is satanic?”
“the roots of letting children dress up to walk around our neighborhood to get candy is Satanic?”
“We are celebrating Reformation Day, never Halloween. I don‘t understand how can you glorify our God by celebrating Halloween…”
Notice how one person centered on the “roots” of Halloween. This is a common concern among those trained by the Watchtower. If it’s origins or practices are pagan or satanic, members are instructed to abstain from it today — even if they have no intention to perpetuate that evil. But is the Watchtower even consistent in their reasoning about this? In a 1971 Awake! article they made it sound as if piñatas were responsible for drunkenness and crime.
…Catholic teachers employed piñatas in giving the Indian natives religious instruction. … Piñatas also came to be used in connection with Christmas. … Nowadays the Posada in Mexico features disorder, drunkenness and criminal activity. The celebrations are used as an excuse for wild and immoral living. … Today, however, many give little thought to the religious aspects of Posada and the breaking of the piñata. …
But even though the use of the piñata is quite popular in some places, there are those who have serious misgivings about the false religious practices connected with it.” —Awake! 1971 Jun 22 pp.23-24
Just like October 31 can be either a day of creativity and fun or occultic evil, a prop like the piñata can be associated with a teaching moment or a drunken crime spree. Should we hide from piñatas? As the Awake! pointed out, some have serious misgivings about the piñata due to some past religious practices connected with it. However, in another Awake! article 30 years later, they presented another view.
“When considering whether to include a piñata at a social gathering, Christians should be sensitive to the consciences of others. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) A main concern is, not what the practice meant hundreds of years ago, but how it is viewed today in your area. Understandably, opinions may vary from one place to another. Hence, it is wise to avoid turning such matters into big issues.” —Awake! 2003 Sep 22 pp.23-24
It appears the writers of those Awake! articles are in just as much conflict as the diversified body of Christ on the issue of Halloween.
Do we avoid it because of it’s roots and how some people use it for evil, or do we engage with our community when it’s practiced with no ill intent? In any case, I agree with their statement that “it is wise to avoid turning such matters into big issues.” And yet, we all know people who have been shunned by their former friends and family in the Watchtower over such ridiculous matters as this!
“…We can get super legalistic and super judgmental towards people about Halloween.
We all have different perspectives about the holiday.
Does it offend God?
Does He care?
Every October Christians wind up arguing endlessly about Halloween, to the point of causing divisions.
I think we need to decide for ourselves and respect the fact that not everyone is going to see things from our perspective.”
“personally..YES I believe it does offend God..and he does care..we are warned to abstain from wicked things, and isn’t there scripture about spiritism, psychics, mediums or similar? This holiday is demonic to me. It does not glorify God. But I wont judge someone who does. I do enough things wrong enough that pleases Satan.. im trying to change. Even when i was against religion..I never felt different. Like i said personally. I think Satan loves Halloween. Its like a day that honors darkness and evil..not our dead loved ones. Just my opinion my entire life. When I was with God and when far away from him.”
“I have the greatest respect for those who feel uncomfortable with Halloween.
I would never encourage them to abandon those feelings.
For myself, I personally don’t like the darker, deeper side of the holiday.
Ghosts and demons and the occult.
I believe that demons are real, as are witches.
I don’t believe in ghosts, I think the appearance of ghosts are actually Satanic beings.
That part of Halloween, the gore and violence and demons I stay far away from.
I do enjoy the lighter side, the fun side, the candy collection and cute, inventive costumes.”
“one of the pastors at my church was saved at one of our Fall “Safe Halloween” Festivals.
Walked in a drug dealer looking for food for his family, heard the gospel, got convicted, got mad, came back the next day, spent a few days in denial, came to faith and eventually joined the staff.
He took over our ministry to those addicted to alcohol and drugs.
Eventually ordained a pastor.
He’s one of the gentlest, kindest men I know.
A sweet, tender heart.
I never knew him prior to his conversion and I can’t believe he was an angry, violent drug dealer.
The power of the Holy Spirit.”
“I have not celebrated Halloween for years, and prefer to recognize Reformation Day. My husband has a close relative who suffered years of occult abuse, so is very aware of what goes on Halloween night.”
“For me, the fact is that we live in this world together, having a safe place with the neighbours to let kids be kids, isn’t terrible.
We love meeting more of our neighbours by sitting at the end of our driveway with our propane fire pit handing out candy to the little kids!
We wind up chatting with more of our community that way. It’s become more of a social thing.
For some, recognizing it at all isn’t right.”
“I really don’t know how to feel. When my kids were little they went as clowns. Princesses. Mermaids. Cartoon characters. Pirates etc. I wouldn’t allow them to dress as witches. Ghosts. Or anything like that.”
“I hated Halloween before Watchtower came it my life and the feeling has not changed. I was happy knowing I was no longer obligated to involve my children in the occult holiday. One of the reasons that woke me up to the lies and deceit of Watchtower is its roots in the occult. I personally want nothing to do with either!!!”
“Some of my most cherished childhood memories centered on Halloween.
We didn’t focus on demons and witches and gorey occultic stuff.
It was all about the fun!!
Creating a costume.
I remember going trick or treating with my 5 siblings.
We’d come home, go into 6 separate areas of the living room, dump out our loot on the floor and then serious candy trading and negotiations took place.
My sister and I used to pass out candy with crosses craved into pumpkins, playing worship music and we would slip little tracts about Jesus into the bags.
We never had one parent complain, actually many smiled when they saw we were offering their kids information about Jesus and would thank us.”
So what do you think? Now that fall is in the air and you can’t avoid the decorations and candy sales reminding us that some will be celebrating Halloween, All Soul’s Day, Reformation Day, Trunk-or-Treat, Fall or Harvest Fest, what are your plans for October 31?
Having already fulfilled my childhood and young adult delights on that day, I think I’ve landed at “Happy Pumpkin Spice Season.” Coffee, after all, is acceptable at every church fellowship I’ve ever visited.
For further consideration, read https://www.gotquestions.org/Christians-celebrate-Halloween.html
Mike Winger presents more thoughts on Halloween in this video.
Keep yourself in God’s love,