Why We Don't Do Halloween (And What We Do Do Instead)

Andrew Phillips | October 30th 2019

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5 v 15-16)

Most of this post is going to be about why we, as family, don’t “do Halloween”—and what we do instead. Cue almost as much disagreement as a blog post about why someone doesn’t “do Santa” with their kids…

So let me say straight away: I don’t really want to persuade you to my way of thinking—I simply want to prompt us to be thinking. 

Christian responses to Halloween are going to vary, because (assuming you are not going to use the 31st October to teach your kids that the devil is fake, or a joke; or as a chance to intimidate neighbours) it’s a wisdom issue, not an obedience one. But since it is a wisdom issue, it is important to think hard about it, to question our assumptions over it, and to be willing to change our minds about it. Those words from Paul in Ephesians 5 are a useful reminder that: 

  1. We are called to be careful in how we live—what comes naturally to us may well not be right
  2. The days are evil—what our culture says to us or does around us may well not be right
  3. We are to make the most of every opportunity—in the context, to take every chance to show in a world of darkness that there is a Lord of light, and therefore a better way to live

Why we don't do Halloween

Just before those verses in Ephesians, we’re called to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (5 v 11). While Halloween started off as a church (though arguably not a Christian) festival, today it’s a mixture of commercialised candy-gathering, and a trivialisation of things that aren’t funny or to be treated lightly: the reality of evil and the activity of spiritual forces who want to take us to hell with them. 

Of course, it’s perfectly possible to wisely seek to redeem the event by dressing up in non-Halloween-related costumes and giving out some tracts. But for my family, I’d rather we had nothing to do with it—because I’m not sure that sort-of-joining-in with what everyone else is doing “exposes” the darkness of it. 

Here’s another way of thinking about it: imagine a world without Halloween. In such a world, would we as Christians come up with it? This is where it is unlike Christmas and Easter (which have also been co-opted as secular commercially-lucrative festivals). As Christians we’d want to mark the birth, death and resurrection of our Saviour anyway (probably—our Puritan spiritual ancestors were not too sure about Christmas). Were we to invent “Christmas” and “Easter”, I imagine some of the ways we’d celebrate them would be by feasting and giving and receiving gifts. 

But I don’t think we would also invent a day where we dressed our kids up in costumes that at worst celebrate and at best trivialise the reality and the power of evil.

So as a family, we don’t “do Halloween”. But we don’t just not do something—we try to do something better…

The Alternative Festival

Providentially, Halloween is also Reformation Day. The 31st October marks the anniversary of Martin Luther protesting at various teachings of the church of his day by nailing some theses (arguments) to his local church door in 1517. By doing so, he sparked the Protestant Reformation. The truth of the Bible was recovered. The glorious reality that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone was rediscovered. The glorious reality that every Christian has access to God as their Father through Christ was reproclaimed. The light shone and the darkness was exposed.

That is worth celebrating. If we’re going to celebrate another festival alongside Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter, Reformation Day seems a pretty good choice. 

So this year, on 31st October we’ll remind our primary-school-aged kids over breakfast what Luther did, and what it triggered. We’ll read Romans 1 v 16-17 (Luther’s breakthrough verses), and enjoy rehearsing the truths of the gospel. We’ll watch this fantastic little Playmobil video about Luther, narrated by Mike Reeves. In the evening, we’ll go out for a meal and then home for a treasure hunt (not sure why that has become a family tradition, but it has), and at bedtime prayers we’ll thank God for his providence in all that he did in the sixteenth century, and all that he’s doing in the twenty-first. (When the kids are old enough, I guess we’ll watch the film Luther, starring Ralph Fiennes—though I bet they’ll still want to watch the Playmobil video too). We’ll open the door and give generously to any children who knock on it. And the next morning we’ll encourage our kids to talk with their friends about what they did, which may have more impact than handing a flyer with some sweets to those friends the night before. 

That’s what we did last year (the kids have already checked we’ll be watching that video). It’s what we’ll do next year, too. It’s an alternative celebration. We don’t want simply to say “no” to Halloween without saying a bigger “yes” to something else—something that is centred on the gospel, that exalts Jesus, and that teaches our kids that there’s more joy to be had in celebrating Him than there is in joining in with Halloween. 

This is what we do. I’m not saying it’s the best way, and it’s certainly not the only right way. It’s not a better way than those who prayerfully, carefully decide to engage with Halloween, explaining to their kids what they view as harmless and what they want to say no to, and seeking to share the gospel with others as they do. But it is, I think, one way to be very careful how we live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments below. Last week we had alternative view from another Christian parent on the blog

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