I feel the way this author does about Halloween. I always have disliked this holiday, even before I was a Christian. Now, I dislike it more.
By George Berkin
October 28, 2009, 6:52PM
Attacking Halloween seems as heartless as attacking Mom, apple pie or the flag.
To mix a metaphor, how Scrooge can you get? Why would anyone pick on a holiday that has given happiness – not to mention buckets of candy and a fun night out – to so many children and their parents alike?
But Halloween, with its emphasis on death and the devil, glorifies evil. By its “cute” approach to the wickedly supernatural, it also sanitizes evil. More deadly still, Halloween aims its “message” at children.
For those reasons and more, even skeptics – those who think the devil is a bunch of hooey – should be wary of celebrating Halloween.
Of course, parents wary of Halloween will find themselves fighting a tidal wave of Halloween “propaganda” at this time of year in New Jersey and across the nation.
Employees at many workplaces, for example, routinely dress up in “holiday” garb. By many counts, Halloween is the second-biggest holiday seller of the year, surpassed only by Christmas.
The business community also pushes people to “celebrate” Halloween, much as it pushes people to diminish the spiritual meaning of Christmas and replace it with mere gift giving.
Many secular individuals, of course, will reply that I’m taking this Halloween stuff too seriously. Really, they reply, witches and warlocks, costumes and seasonal scares -- all are merely good fun.
But as C. S. Lewis famously wrote, there are two – opposite -- mistakes to make when thinking about the Devil. The first is to never think about him at all, to assume that he cannot and does not exist. The second is to think too much about him, to glorify him by giving him too much place.
In our modern celebrations of Halloween, we seem to be making both mistakes at the same time.
For biblical believers, the issue is very obvious. We are not to glorify the works of darkness in any way. And Halloween, for anyone who takes evil seriously, clearly glorifies death, the devil and the occult.
As a result, many churches across New Jersey have “alternative” celebrations, in which children can enjoy a get-together with friends, without honoring Halloween.
Without those alternative celebrations, some children many feel left out as their friends go trick-or-treating. Others may unfairly conclude that a biblical belief is “legalistic,” not much more than a set of silly rules.
Adults who are biblical believers can take the occasion of Halloween to explain that there are in fact wonderful spiritual realities, even though we don’t want to glorify evil ones. That God and the devil are real (though not equals, obviously).
But what about non-believer, the purely secular person, the man or woman who thinks that ghosts and goblins are all a big fairy tale? Who reckons that Halloween is just a vivid playtime – loads of fun, but in the end much ado about nothing?
I would argue that – even for that person, or especially for that person – that celebrating Halloween is especially unhelpful.
First, Halloween glorifies evil – obviously. Masks depicting Beyonce are sometimes popular, but ghosts and goblins are perennial favorites.
Halloween also sanitizes evil. It takes what is obviously evil – devils, bloodied bodies – and makes them “cute,” “harmless” and “innocent.” Even if one does not believe that the devil exists, the trick-or-treater still celebrates a symbol, a picture, of evil.
That’s a bad habit to get into. Because evil is so present, from workaday urban crime to child abuse to the horrors of war, it is very easy to get desensitized to just how wicked evil really is. In our culture, even words describing evil quickly lose their sting. “Wicked” is merely the name of a popular Broadway musical.
To make matters worse, Halloween, perhaps even more so than other holidays, is aimed at children.
It goes without saying that children are very impressionable creatures. And it’s true, naturally, that children outgrow the need to go trick or treating. But here, in their most formative years, many children participate in a holiday that treats evil as just a fun pastime. That can set a poor pattern for the rest of their lives.
Finally, there is the matter of just how the holiday originated. Accounts differ, but many trace it back to Celtic rituals some 2,000 years ago. One account, for example, says:
“Because the boundary between the living world and that of the dead was blurred, the Celts believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth on that day. In an effort to keep evil spirits from possessing their bodies, the Celts dressed up in costume, either as animals or evil entities to trick the spirits.”
From those origins, the holiday evolved under the Romans, and during medieval times. But always, the emphasis was on the dead, and devils. This tie between Halloween and the pagan fascination with death and devils is well understood.
For example, The Star-Ledger on Wednesday paired a Halloween holiday food story (“Mixing Cheers and Fears”) with a feature story on how the Day of the Dead is celebrated in South America. It came complete with a recipe.
In one sense, Halloween has done for the occult, the fascination with death and devils, what Playboy magazine did for pornography. It took an evil practice that has existed for a long time, but on the edges of society, and brought it into the mainstream.
As Playboy magazine made pornography “respectable,” so too has Halloween made the occult a “respectable” part of the pantheon of American holidays, as “American” as Thanksgiving and Christmas.