October 30, 2012

Four reasons my family trick-or-treats

by Jesse Johnson

butterflyTomorrow night my children will hit our cul-de-sac, knocking on neighbor’s doors, and looking for candy. One will be dressed as a lady bug, and the other will probably be crying because she is not matching her sister.

I recognize that the issue of Halloween and the celebration thereof is a gray area. Because it was not a holiday celebrated in the first century, the Bible does not expressly say one way or the other if children in Christian families should be free to frolic dressed as Pterygota.

Yet the Bible does give us some principles that do apply. The first is that you should not violate your conscience. So if participation in these kind of festivities causes you to associate door knockers with worldly delights sprinkled with the demonic, then I’d stop reading right about now. 

The Bible also tells us a few other principles that apply. Namely that dates are not sacred, and that a particular day cannot reasonably be associated with either demonic practices or godly practices (Col 2:16; Rom 14:5). We are bound to days only insomuch as our conscience binds us, and we should strive to bring our consciences into conformity with Scripture.

But I also understand that the whole issue of days and holidays in the NT are in the context of when to worship, and not when to beg for candy. So let me explain below why I choose to participate in my family’s quest for Reese’s:

1) While Halloween obviously started as a Catholic holiday, it has (at least in the US) lost that connection. Much like Christmas, there was certainly a time in history when Protestants would be loath to do anything that would associate themselves with these days. Yet now nobody I know associates going door-to-door with a Catholic celebration. If I lived in Spain or México, I probably would not do anything that could be conceived of as participating in this day. But the practice in the States—at least to me—seems sufficiently separated from a religion of works.

2) I also do not see anything cultic or occultic about October 31. When my neighbors knock on my door (or I on theirs), none of us are reading into the exchange some sort of demonic undertones. If something is demonic on October 31, it is demonic every other day of the year as well. And if something is cute on one day—such as my daughters with wings—that too in my mind is kosher in October.

3) Relationships with my neighbors are strengthened through this day. All of my neighbor’s kids participate, and all the parents hang out in the cold together. We talk, and our friendships are strengthened. I cannot help but conclude that evangelistic purposes are furthered by participation, more than they would be if I simply holed up and abstained–even if I explained why I was abstaining.

4) I want my children to love and remember October 31 as Reformation Day. I want them to know why we celebrate this day. It is because Luther rescued the gospel from the clutches of darkness, liberating the Scriptures from their Roman captivity. This day is arguably the most significant non-biblical holiday of the year. It is a chance to celebrate boldness, freedom in Christ, and talk about the glories of the gospel. I want my family to love this day, and banning them from candy and costume would not help that plan.

What about you? Does your family horde Snickers, or shut off the lights? Why?


Rule for the comment thread: don’t comment if for you this is anything other than conscience issue. I want to hear from people who do participate, and from those who don’t. I don’t want to hear from people who think that those who don’t share their view are either worshiping demons or backwards fundamentalists.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Sorry for the thread being closed. I blame Sandy.

    • Tom

      I was raised Catholic and we celebrated Halloween. When I was saved, I researched the history and understood that the Catholics started the celebration of All Saints Day, November 1st to off set the Druid celebration of All Hallows (Souls) Eve the night before in an attempt to sanctify something very grotesque. As a child it worked perfectly because we went trick-or treating on Halloween and then had the next day off school because it was a Catholic holy day. When I was saved, however, and was raising my children I always had a difficult time with this holiday. This is the one day of the year the world comes to our door and how do we handle it? We have done everything from simple gospel presentations to trying to make it a “get-to-know-the-neighbors time.” But we did not partake in the celebration of Halloween. The one thing I wanted my children to understand is there is a difference between us and the world and how could I condone something so obviously opposed to Godliness and expect them to understand there is a difference? Yes, it is a personal choice, but that was the one I made. My biggest question in this blog is how celebrating Halloween dressed up as innocent creatures teaches children the value and importance of the Reformation? It seems to me, it may create more of a conflict- just a thought. Thanks for this thought provoking post. I have struggled more with Halloween than any other holiday/event.

      • I think a lot of people share your confusion Tom. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  • Mrs. Eel

    I do not disagree with anything that was said in this article. The reasons behind participation make perfect sense to me and I do not judge or condemn anyone who participates in that heart. I have to admit that, due to my upbringing (hide in the basement with the lights off, Halloween is evil, etc.) I struggle to this day with knowing how I personally should respond to Halloween. For now, our church hosts a massive outreach that night, and I joyfully serve and participate there (along with my husband and children). So it’s a “safe” way for me to spend Halloween night without having to worry about “my conscience.” However, were I unable to choose that safe option, I’d feel stumped. The reason I still struggle so much with it is NOT the candy, the costumes, the door-to-door, or even the history of the day, but rather the exaltation of things that every other day of the year are abhorred or feared (ghosts, skeletons, disgusting bloody corpses and body parts, etc.). It’s the fascination with terror. In our neighborhood, the extent to which some people go to decorate their yards with the sole purpose of horrifying passers-by astounds me. And it gets more extreme and more expensive every year. I suppose part of my issue is a matter of principle, similar to the one I struggle with at Christmas: the consumerism. How the “stuff” is taking over the fun and substance of the day. But the biggest part is the emphasis on the gruesome and gory, and even some of the extreme “sexualization” with costumes and decor, etc. It’s sick. I mean, not EVERYONE does this, but it’s there. If we went trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, my kids would be exposed to things they’d see if I let them watch R-rated movies, only it would be worse, because it would seem real to them! So, obviously I still don’t have it all figured out, but I’d be interested in hearing how you (and others who share your perspective) think about that whole fear-feeding, gory side of Halloween.

    • That is a great comment Mrs. Eel. I think your tension is shared by many.
      As for the gore thing, both you and Steve (above) make a good point. My family does stay away from that side of the holiday for sure. I mean, my girls go as butterflies not as a caterpillar torn in half. I do think it is wise to stay far away from that side of the day.

  • John

    I agree with Mrs. Eel. Regardless of the origins, the day serves to exalt the darkness which we have been redeemed from. Our flesh loves to learn about things of the occult- witchcraft, ghosts, vampires, etc… there is an innate curiosity I believe we should keep our children from this. Think back to your time growing up, every Halloween you would most likely get very excited about the haunted house, the scary costume, or the just plain “fun” in being frightened. This is not a spirit of the Lord… this is our flesh and the devil.

  • Rebecca

    I really, really appreciate your post, since I was brought up in a home that had such an aversion to ANYTHING that might have to do with Halloween that I remember thinking the whole autumn season was evil. (I remember Christians arguing among themselves whether or not it was kosher even to put decorations like corn stalks on their front doors, for fear that they were still recognizing Halloween in the guise of “fall festival.”) I will take issue with one thing you said. I do believe that there is a bit of the occult within the holiday. Everywhere you look, Halloween (and for years it has been so) has been associated with death and witchcraft. However, it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. As a Christian, I think it is fine to explain to your children that we don’t celebrate death and that we don’t exalt witchcraft by dressing up like witches or doing anything that makes the occult look harmless. My sons will always be in Disney characters or something fun of that ilk. But again, thanks so much for your post!

  • We go to the downtown area of a nearby suburb and participate in their “Scare on the Square” event, where LOTS of kids (with a parent) go to get candy in a safe place. Yes, we give out candy, and we also give out kid-friendly gospel tracts (themed money bills from Custom Tract Source), and the parents get one as well. (We may hit the 2000-tract mark this year.)

    The little tootsie roll isn’t an issue, and the gospel tract is… the GOSPEL! We don’t condone evil-looking costumes, but we realize that lost people will act… lost.

    The light needs to shine in the darkness in our day, dear saints, even as the Reformation dawned ~500 years ago.

    • Dave–thanks for commenting here. That sounds like a really balanced approach. Well done, and thanks for sharing.

  • Shari

    I understand our reasoning. We have gone from being totally into Halloween to completely switching to celebrating Reformation Day. We have a great family celebration and we ignore the Halloween part. It does bother my children to see all the ghost and witch, etc. decorations in the stores and yards and everywhere else. We live in an area where the Day of the Dead is a HUGE celebration where people actually make shrines in their homes to their dead loved ones. And yes, we live in the USA!

    • I agree Shari. I even make my kids call it reformation day. We start the day by reading selections from the 95 thesis. We even give a quiz to people in our home bible study about Luther. It is a highlight of the year for us.

  • ashleyrosewedding

    Ok here is my opinion. First I don’t think christians will go to hell for celebrating Halloween. However I do believe that many brush aside the wickedness of this time. If our eyes were truly open to the demonic influence of this day and this time of year, we would shutter . We pray for the families in our neighborhood and our friends. But we don’t go trick or treating. This is our choice as we choose to celebrate the abundant harvest that fall brings. Here’s my finally thought—Would Jesus dress up or give out candy? I don’t think so. I think he would go against the norm in a very loving way . Would he seperate? Maybe? There were times when times when he left to pray. But he also went out among the people. God is a God of order and not confusion. My family has peace about our decision. Your family’s decison is between you and God. Whatever you choose please be safe.

    • Thanks Ashley. I think your response is really balanced and wise.

    • Has Jesus spoken to you to say he would not dress up or hand out candy??? Who are you presume what he would or would not do???

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  • Natalie Jones

    Wow, Jesse, out here I Yucca Valley (we miss your visits, btw) we have been dramatically challenged in our take on Halloween. Before moving here and without kids old enough to participate, all the normal debates that you outlined above seemed to make since and confuse. Definitely seemed a conscious issue but we hadn’t decided what we’d do once our kids were old enough.

    Then we moved into our neighborhood, bought a bag of candy and were shocked to watch it dissapear in 30 minutes. Stephen ran to the store to buy more before heading to church that Wednesday night. Those were gone in an hour. Over the last seven years we have learned to expect over 500 (yes, that’s right) kids knocking on our door.

    My wise husband’s take on this? At what other time in the year does the world come knocking on your door in hoards? We’ve seen VBS kids. We’ve seen neighbors. And many, man strangers. Strangers to us, but perhaps not so much to them as Stephen’s picture is in the paper every few months under the Minister’s Message. He has taught me to love these people, when at first I wanted to scold the teens for being rude.

    Last year we took it up a notch and had a couple friends help us pass out free water and hot chocolate in addition to the candy (this year we are adding tracts) and parents were so impressed. They’d never seen something like that before. We even had a family try our church to several weeks.

    This year the whole church has helped donate candy, water, chocolate, and time. I realize that our experience will not be the same everywhere. It’s even unique here, in Yucca Valley, CA. But what an opportunity to share the love of Jesus to the world! Simply because we moved into the right neighborhood! Yes, one of us will walk with the kids around our neighborhood. And yes, we have to guard our kiddos against the scary creatures, and one year had nightmares for a while. But even there we have the opportunity to teach our children to think on what is true as well as that we value loving our neighbors for the sake of Jesus.

    Well, that’s our two cents. And our unique circumstance. I guess the best advice is to love Jesus, love others, and pray how your family can do that most effectively Wednesday night.

    (And so sorry to hear yours will be strapped down due to the storm, Jesse. We’ll pray for you and your family.)

    • Michelle Wright

      Yes, that has been our experience exactly in SE Pennsylvania – wonderful opportunity to love our neighbors! We serve hot cider and soft pretzels…and even have a cool fire-pit that everyone loves. Our children dress in “wholesome” costumes and I hope our hospitality and attitude exemplify Christ!

    • Wow. thanks for sharing that. I miss Yucca Valley, and often pray for you guys. I’m so thankful you are there, and excited the Lord has opened up this door for you.

  • Frank

    I hesitated posting this. I hope this does not break your rules. I have
    had some thoughts about this night for the last several weeks. I am
    still working through them too. So here they are :D, please please
    correct me if I’m wrong.

    I hear what you say, it makes sense. I
    appreciate what you say and agree with a lot of it. However, here are
    the thoughts I’ve been struggling through: Even though any other day
    could be “considered” demonic just because people do not worship God on
    those days either, this one day does seem like a heavier emphasis on
    worshiping the darkness specifically and anything dark. I do not mean
    use “worshiping” lightly here nor in a way that is fundy-like either.
    There is a certain tone about the evening that sets it as taking glory
    in many “dark” things. For example, across the street we have neighbors
    who really make a big deal out of the night and have an entire setup of a
    pirate ship. The title is “black dogg”… you’ve seen it I’m sure
    (you’ve been over several times). I mean, they really play it up and
    glorify it. While it is not explicitly demonic, nor do I think they know
    they are worshiping demons, there is a sense of indirect worship of
    that which is dark. They love it and glory in it. They love the fear of
    death and gross enjoyment in the morbid defecation of human bodies.

    now, that is how the world sees the night. I get that and most of us
    get that. There’s no denying that. Now if there is a way to take that
    night and use it as a night to worship the light, then great! Which is
    something we seek to do with every day (I would hope :). However, I
    would never want to take part in the night (or any other night) with my
    kids in a way that would teach them that darkness is a good thing
    (IMPORTANT NOTE: I know you are not advocating this, nor would you want
    to). It is not. God is light, I would want my kids and anyone I teach to
    see the grandeur of light of God.

    Well, without saying too much (oops, too late :), I’ll leave it at that.

    • That’s a totally appropriate comment. Thanks for leaving it. I appreciate what you are saying.

  • Tony Costa

    I must say, this particular holiday seems to be the guilty pleasure for too many. I have been greatly blessed by many of the articles posted on Cripplegate, “but”
    this one definitely concerns me. It goes swiftly against the blog’s proclamation of being “Non Conformists” It seems clear that most Christian supporters of this day are parents of younger children who do not want to deprive them of
    this tremendously alluring celebration. The pagan origins of this day precede
    the Catholic spin-off of it. Sadly, I think we most have forgotten who are
    enemy is, and that he is the prince of this world today. We can’t deny that
    this particular day has Satan’s finger prints all over it, and if we believe
    that 1 John 2:15, Romans 12:2 as truth then we need not justify or give in to
    the magnetism of such a dangerous holiday. Mrs. Eel was spot on with her
    concern to what our children are being introduced or subjected to is far worse
    than a rated R movie, and the sad part is they will associate all the evil and
    sensuality as part of the fun!! We do not have to look far as to see what this
    day is turning into, and how our youth grow up hungering for more as are many
    adults who are trying to make Halloween a national holiday. Here in Arizona there a
    massive crowds of all ages dressing up as zombies and marching down streets weeks
    before and up to Halloween. If we pray to the Lord to protect us from
    temptation, we should analyze the sincerity of that request, and allow the “Holy” spirit to reign mightily in our lives. Lastly PTL for Sandy and the setbacks she is forcing on Halloween. We are praying for safety and protection (spiritual and Physical) of all the regions affected by Sandy.

  • I have it easy because we live in a hillside community where there are no street lights, no side-walks, and lots of hills. No one goes trick-or-treating in our community. But of course there is an “adult” Halloween party and a family-friendly Halloween party in our community center, neither of which we participate in.

    Last year, due to the sequence of events, the community center in which we hold our church service was fully decorated for Halloween. Cobwebs, skeletons, bats, witch heads, scary wall-paper, a decapitated head in a glass ball, etc. We tried to put some things out of sight, but we had to try to worship the Lord in a room literally filled with symbols of darkness.

    My exhortation to the congregation was that what we saw with our eyes, is no different or worse than the darkness that is always around us. We were just seeing it visibly.

    To me that encapsulates why I have such a hard time participating in Halloween activities. I know some (probably not even most) Christians stick to cute costumes, but the truth is no matter how innocent, we are feeding the beast which primarily puts out every imaginable symbol of evil (in terms of costumes and decorations).

    The candy aspect is irrelevant to me. I have no problem with that. It’s simply the willingness to associate ourselves with the most overt expressions of evil all for the sake of sugar.

    That said, I do know some (like others in the comment thread) who use Halloween for evangelistic purposes. I don’t have a problem with that. I happen to think there are creative ways in which we can promote Reformation Day while others are celebrating Halloween (through conversation, costume, tracks, activities, etc.). But to deceive ourselves into thinking that Halloween is an amoral holiday, and all we need to do is provide a safe and fun time for kids, is naive.

    • Well said Gabe. I appreciate your concern about “feeding the beast.” That is appropriate and one I probably didn’t think through enough above.

  • Casey

    Out Family Tradition: We go out the day before (tonight) with our family and go door to door and hand out candy,Gospel tracts and information on our church. We give the children candy who are in the house and we have our children dress up. We use the day before to share the Gospel and get are children involved. It catches people off guard but we have had chances to share the Gospel.

    • Casey

      They see cute children dressed up and they are more likely to listen to you.

    • That sounds like an excellent idea. Way to get the best of both worlds! That is really cool. Do your kids like it?

      • Casey

        They like it a lot we went out last night and it went well.

  • Caleb Land


    I totally agree with what you have said and I even go further. Halloween is a Christian Holiday, a day to mock Satan and declare victory over him. The pagan and occultic roots are overblown, we have nothing to fear from that nonsense anyway. As James Jordan points out, we didn’t put Halloween on top of a pagan holiday as a compromise, but to proclaim victory over the Pagan celebration. Finally, I also agree that Reformation Day is a great and worthy celebration. Frankly, I surprised at the reactions you are getting on here.

    People, CHRISTUS VICTOR! Jesse’s Reason #1 is valid, but the better way is to walk in freedom and to use it to glorify God. Jesse, I believe (for what it is worth) you are doing just that. Bravo.

    James Jordan Link: http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/open-book/no-28-concerning-halloween/

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  • What other day of the year can you show up, masked, at someone’s door and make demands of them–and they not shoot you in return?

  • Steve Meister


    This is funny, I was going to post four reasons why my family won’t be participating:

    1. Demonic deception of Halloween. I don’t mean that one may initially think. Rather, Satan deceives society in two ways: (1) That demonic activity involves ghouls, goblins, pitchforks, and red pajamas, distracting us that he is an angel of light (2 Cor 11:4-5) who has been appealing to human lusts and lying about God’s goodness from the beginning (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8). Gnarly masks are not Satanic, statements like “Be true to yourself” is, therein lies the deception. And (2) conditioning society to laugh about spiritual evil. Murderously keeping people in spiritual slavery out of fear of death is not funny (cf. Heb 2:14-15).

    2.Wicked associations to Halloween. There’s a reason people avoid SF and Hollywood on Oct 31st, because homosexual groups claim it as “their holiday,” publicly parading the most depraved and wicked behavior. If it was any other group with less political clout, such ridiculous behavior in public would be illegal. Add to this the increasing eroticism with Halloween. Apparently, on Oct 31st every woman gets the privilege to dress like a prostitute. You ask any police officer, and Oct 31st will be a busy night. So, I apply the Gospel in Eph 5:4-12 in my household and avoid it altogether. If we’re not even supposed to speak of it (cf. v. 12), then why be out in it?

    3.Subtle message of disguise. I grant this is not as clear as I feel the foregoing two points, but I want to teach my children that we are – in context of Eph 5, again – to walk as children of light (v. 8). The Scriptural antithesis between darkness, disguise and hiding, as well as light, freedom, and integrity is evident. I don’t want my children to associate disguise, darkness, and craftiness with “fun,” but point them to true joy in freedom and honesty before God in Christ. Before I’m charged with stretching it, I do think that children pick-up more on assumed practices and traditions than we may think.

    4. Gospel relationships with neighbors. Ironically, I would suggest that our abstention gives great opportunity for the Gospel, perhaps more. After the typical, “What’s he going to be for Halloween?” I explain that we do not participate and that shocked look always leads to a wonderful way to share the hope of Christ. I do not in any way demean the evangelistic opportunities Christians by participating in such activities, but I would plead that Scripture points to our distinction from the world as our primary witness, not our compatibility (e.g., Phil 2:15)! Our testimony to the world is not see how much like you we are, but rather – we are very much not like you; we belong to Christ and not this world.

    Beside all this, I want to give thanks for Reformation Day! (By the way, I do not follow your connection with joy in our freedom in Christ and the freedom to ask for candy? A stretch).

    Anyway, I hope that’s salutary, man. Blessings to you all! I hope you are doing well with Sandy and all.

    • Steve Meister

      For what it’s worth, I decided to expand and develop these thoughts at my blog. That’s a fuller explanation as to why “As for me and my house, we shut off the lights!” See here: http://www.affectedbytruth.com/halloween-ba-hum-bug/

      • Sweet Steve. That’s helpful. Your first point especially is obviously the strongest one I think. Thanks for interacting here. And the worst of Sandy has past. Thanks for asking.

        • Steve Meister

          That’s great, I’m glad to hear that. We’ll continue to pray and, Lord willing, good Gospel opportunities come from this as well.

    • KJ

      Steve, sorry but do you really mean, “the most depraved and wicked behavior”? Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but are you saying this type of sin is worse than others? I just needed to clarify.

      • Steve Meister

        Hi KJ,

        No, I suppose I mean that comparatively, not superlatively, if you will. So, it’s a comparatively worse display of depravity than you see normally on the streets of SF, for example, but not necessarily superlatively worse than others.

        Obviously, Paul lays “men who practice homosexuality” alongside “thieves” and “the greedy” (1 Cor 6:9-10), and all of the above keeps you out of Christ’s Kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-10). Though homosexuality is a unique and acute denial of God’s creation mandate for humanity (cf. Rom 1:24-27). Thanks for asking, I hope that’s helpful.

  • MMJ

    My daughter has Awana Cubbies tomorrow night but if she didn’t I’d be out with her knocking on our neighbours doors collecting candy. She would have a great time. After all, to her this ‘Halloween’ is just candies and pumpkins. Nothing more. Yet, I will be certain to explain to her the significance of Reformation Day too….. After all, why crucify candies and pumpkins and have a 6ft Christmas tree in your lounge room each December with a big Ol star on top? 🙂

  • jmarinara

    I am from the side of not participating in Halloween and forbidding my family to do so as well. It is not a popular decision with much of my extended family and has led to many difficult conversations. But… convictions are convictions.

    I don’t feel it is sinful for another Christian to participate. However, I think the reasons you site here, Mr. Johnson, are spurious.

    1) While the holiday may be far from what it once was, I think you look past what it is. Dr. Mohler has had good things to say recently about the sexual and macabre nature the holiday has taken on in recent years and how this supposed kid’s holiday uses that false premise to push a macabre and sexual image on little ones. Yes, Mr. Johnson, I suppose that I could dress my child as you did your adorable daughter ( 🙂 ), but soon enough the culture will catch up to you. It always does.

    2) You said: “I also do not see anything cultic or occultic about October 31.”

    Really dude? The entire holiday is drenched in it. Saying that it’s not cultic or occultic is like saying Thanksgiving is not a feast. No disrespect, but come on.

    3) While I can’t deny your experience that relationships with your neighbors have been strengthened, I have to ask… Would those relationships be destroyed if you didn’t participate? I doubt they would. I’m certain you don’t believe that this is the ONLY way to relate to your neighbors. Admit it, it’s a luxury, not a necessity.

    4) You said: “I want my children to love and remember October 31 as Reformation Day. I want them to know why we celebrate this day.”

    Ok, great. What does that have to do with Halloween?

    Look, again, I don’t think anyone is evil and worshiping demons if they participate. If it doesn’t bother your conscience, then you shouldn’t allow my conscience to bother you. The reason my conscience is bothered, however, is that I just don’t buy the reasons to participate (most of which you posted here). It just doesn’t make sense and considering the nature of what we’re doing in this overwhelmingly worldly and secular holiday, I’d rather protect my family and play it safe.

    Even if I don’t really have anything to worry about, and the danger only exists in my own mind.

    That’s it. No “lines in the sand”, just personal convictions.

    Grace and Peace to you. I enjoy the blog very much.

    • That’s a very good comment. I respect that, and appreciate you taking the time to explain it. I agree that the macabe side of of Holloween is to be avoided. I should have made that more clear up top. I think you make a clear case for why you avoid, and I’m thankful you’ve thought so critically about it.

  • jmarinara

    By the way, I leave my light on and welcome Trick or Treaters. It’s a PHENOMENAL opportunity to give out Gospel Tracts, and the candy to go with them doesn’t cost us much. I’d encourage everyone, regardless of their personal convictions about the day, to welcome the opportunity to preach the Gospel via tracts.

  • Louis

    “I also do not see anything cultic or occultic about October 31”. ??? Really Jesse? What exactly do the words “trick or treat” mean?

    • Candy for my kids?

      I do think that maybe trick or treating is celebrated differently in different places. The first time we had a kid we lived in an apt. in LA. ZERO people from our apt. went trick or treating. It was kind of sureal. I grew up in Albuquerque, where everyone seemed to do it. Later my wife and I moved to a more suburbian area of LA, and the street was filled with young kids (under 6) with their parents. That’s what finally lured us out. We wanted to spend time with them. Now we live in DC, and it is a big event in our neighborhood. The neighbors all come out and bar-b-que (if there is no hurricane), and the kids all go as a group to everyone’s house. There is certainly nothing cultic about it here.

  • I enjoy this blog.Usually. These are not good supporting arguments for participation in my opinion. However, I strongly agree with the preceding comment posted by Mr. Meister.

    • Thanks Dana. And I’m glad you agree with Steve’s thread. Steve and I are good friends, and he has a habit of correcting my thinking on a lot of things. I’m thankful for him.

  • Diana Johnston

    I would have agreed with this a few years ago. Here’s my current take on Halloween:

    (1) I don’t really care about origins (jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treating, etc.), because they have little to nothing to do with what we are doing NOW. So I have no problem with kids in cute costumes going door-to-door for candy.
    (2) I also love the fall themes of Halloween – leaves, corn stalks, harvest, pumpkins, etc.

    However, it simply is not possible to do a modern Halloween (that is, participating in public events or trick-or-treating) without being absolutely immersed in the 100% evil that now pervades the holiday. Halloween nowadays is saturated with bloody and violent death, the occult, witchcraft, demons, Satan, hell, zombies, monsters, and everything that is grotesque, horrifying, and evil. And that is simply not okay. We should not be celebrating or reveling in or treating lightly things that God finds abhorrent, or passing them off as cute or harmless. Here’s an example: Would we be okay with our children dressing up as serial killers? Serial rapists? Partial-birth abortionists? No? Then why not? Because they are evil and abhorrent to God, and thus should be to us. Why, then, do we find it cute for kids to dress up as zombies, witches, etc? Or to participate in events where these things are displayed for fun?

    We’re choosing the middle ground of doing a church harvest festival. In all honesty, I wish we’d never started doing Halloween at all, but with kids who are now accustomed to it, we are trying the middle way. We’re still discussing it, and we may nix it completely in the future. I will miss trick-or-treating – like you, I find it a fun night, and it is the one time when neighbors really come out and act hospitably toward one another. But we just can’t keep treating the blatant evil that is displayed (even in fun) as something that should be approved of and played with.

    Though I should mention that I have a lot of respect for Christians who attempt to redeem this holiday. There are many valid responses to the secular culture of modern Halloween.

    Best wishes!

    • Thanks for that comment Dianna. I appreciate how you’ve thought through it and I respect your progression. Who knows…maybe I’ll go through the same changes as my kids get older.

  • Jawan

    Jesse, Thank you for placing a higher value on people (your neighbors) and reaching out through face to face conversation. Teaching our children that relationships are the most important thing that God has given to us will allow our offspring to understand that every day God gives is good because He made it, not man.

  • nb nb

    This was posted as a FB link….so i am a visitor. Saw the verse noted at the top of the page… Romans 12:1-2 sacrifice…holy…acceptable… not conformed…. have you ever thought to pray specifically for guidance on this particular issue? But that aside, your post… #1… You may want to research why the catholic church chose Nov 1….it was to overshadow yet another cult holiday. But instead of eliminating the cult worship, it hung on and is depicted in the actions of what now is considered the cultural holiday of halloween. This also backfired for Easter and Christmas. The history of ‘culture’ is rooted in religion. CULTure..#2 Try and convince someone in a coven that Oct 31 has no demonic connections. Witness to a witch. There is a reason Scripture talks of principalities and spirits of the air…. a satanist i speak with regularly (lives in my house–family member) tells me Satan does not want to be worshipped and the actions they do are only to show allegience not to bow down to a god like ‘Christians’ do because they are all gods. Sounds a lot like the original conflict between God and Satan. #3 so I will have to assume that you also hang out in the local bars and have a few beers with your neighbors to encourage your friendships too. Do you also go to the strip clubs with Bob from down the street? Are there any lines you won’t cross to have a good relationship with your neighbors? Israel tried this… you can read all about it in Judges. It is called compromise and idolatry. God called leaving ANY other religions around would be a snare. #4 makes absolutely no sense at all. Have you read the theses which were tacked up? Have you read and studied with your kids about the life and death of Luther? I would hazzard a guess that a week after Oct 31 if asked to write out what they did that day or what that day means to them that candy,dressing up, and trick-or-treating will be mentioned….and not much else.

    Your entire thing was a soft shoe justification why you can Judges 21:25.

    …that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
    It is not my job to prove it to you. Seems Paul is saying for each of us to examine our lives and prove what is acceptable TO GOD. Good luck with that one.

    • There are lines I won’t cross, and I don’t really think it is fair to compare what I said above to “going to local bars” or to Israel doing what is right in thier own eyes. You worship God in your heart, not in your costumes. I do grant that All Saints day is wickedly pagan. I don’t need to go to its origins, the Catholic connotation is enough for me to say it is pagan. But Reformation day triumphs over that for sure. Ditto on Christmas. When it was associated with the Catholic Mass, it was wise to abstain (ie. the Puritans). When it was freed from that and became a Christian celebration, it becomes wise to celebrate (ie. Spurgeon). I think that principle applies here as well.

  • I don’t think that our family participating in Halloween “trick or treating” means that we’re celebrating evil anymore than someone participating in a Christmas dinner means that they are celebrating the birth of Christ.
    Besides, we save money by using our kids leftover candy to make free loot bags for my son’s birthday in December.

  • Bonnie

    I live in the land of Down Under and I was wanting the opinions of those who have lived with this ‘tradition’ as to weather you would encourage a previously ‘unexposed’ culture to embrace Halloween? We have never celebrated Halloween. It has not been part of our culture in Australia. But it is slowly creeping in. Local schools are dressing their children up as witches and zombies for the day. They don’t know why – but the shops are selling pumpkins, lollies and costumes and it looks like fun! (And if the shops say so…!) Parents are saying “everyone is doing it”, “it’s a bit of fun for the kids” etc. I tried to look for “shared wisdom” from Christians in cultures where it is celebrated to find out why the whole idea of this celebration was not sitting well with me. But it seems that it is so deeply ingrained in American culture that it (might be)difficult to get an unbiased opinion. ‘Sugar loading children’ and ‘meeting the neighbours’ does not makes for a great reason. We should make opportunities to make connection. We can give out treats (or not) at any time. So I guess my question is – Is Halloween something that you would recommend ‘untarnished’ cultures to avoid / resist / embrace? If you had the option to construct a culture, would you include Halloween? If so, why? If not why?

  • KarlUdy

    I’m intrigued that you see participation in Halloween as being an issue of conscience (which I agree with by the way), but regard Dia De Los Muertos as being something to be avoided for its Catholic associations. By the way, Halloween (or All Saint’s Eve) has been celebrated on October 31 since before the Reformation (before the Great Schism even!) so it was part of the church calendar before “Catholics” and “Protestants”.

    Also, I see the celebrations in Mexico and Spain as having a rich spiritual meaning that can readily be affirmed by all Christians ie We are all going to die one day, and remembering those who have already gone. So I’m rather perplexed at your opposition to such celebrations.

    • I was in Spain once on Oct. 31 in Jerez del la Frontera. There, the whole place shut down. People took statutes of Mary and parraded them through the streets, holding up rosaries and chanting Catholic chants, and they all progressed to the plaza. The whole city was there. That was the kind of thing I’m talking about. I’ve also been in Mexico on this day as well…a few times. In Juarez it was nothing other than a chance to party, and there was nothing spiritual at all it seemed. In DF though, it was sort of a day to honor the dead. Festivals culminating in picnics at the park. It happened durring the day too, not really at night.
      I’m not saying those are NOT also issues of conscience. They are. I was just communicating that they bothered MY conscience.
      The truth is, if I was in those countries again on those days, I would probably just follow the lead of whatever beleivers I as with.
      Thanks for your comments Karl.

  • Rebecca

    Maybe I’m late to the party with this issue, but regarding the pagan influence: If you have a problem with Halloween because of its pagan roots, then you should also have a problem with mistletoe, Christmas trees, and Easter eggs, and the Easter bunny. It’s easy to point the finger at Halloween because of the external obvious, but if you research it, there’s a lot of pagan tradition in the other “Christian” holidays that are so viciously fought for (to keep Santa and the bunny out!) I know of several Christians who are consistent in their logic about not celebrating Halloween because of its paganism, and they admit the same for Christmas and Easter and they don’t celebrate any of them (sadly, anyhow). Now, you would say to me: “But that’s different – Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and Easter is about the death and resurrection of Christ! Halloween isn’t about ANYTHING nice!” And I would say to you two things:
    1. When Christians say that they don’t celebrate the dark side of Halloween, and only let their kids dress up like Mickey Mouse and such, your immediate retort is that they are just masking over the horrible origins of the holiday. But isn’t that what happened with Christmas and Easter? Did not Christians (even though it was a long time ago) counteract the pagan rituals and celebration of the soltices and insert Christian observances and feasts? How is that any different than making yet another pagan holiday into something pleasant and fun? Paganism is either evil or it’s not, no matter how you dress it up.
    2. Christmas and Easter are not biblically mandated feasts or observances, just like Halloween is not. These observances are what the church made up many, many years after Christ. We are not biblically bound by or restricted from any of them. I don’t deny that many people’s consciences are bothered with Halloween (and maybe even Christmas and Easter), but before being anti-Halloween becomes a temptation of a self-righteous landmark, consider the truth about the other holidays, and then think about what an easily deceived culture we are when it comes to “Christian values” and what the bible actually says. We are easily given over to hearsay and sensationalism that only serves to instill fear and nothing short of superstition, and neither of them are from the Lord.

    • I guess I do draw the line somewhere, as I totally reject Santa and the Easter bunny. Check out Clint’s post called “why lie to your kids about Santa.” I think its linked above.
      I appreciate your comment Rebecca. you make some very good points.

      • Rebecca

        We’re very clear to our boys about the Easter bunny and Santa – we tell them that they’re just pretend. It’s a fun game to play, but that’s about as far as we get with that.

  • Hearing this from a pastor is very disheartening. Shouldn’t you be using the 31st to SHEPHERD YOUR FLOCK AND DEDICATE TONIGHT TO CELEBRATE THE REFORMATION? I totally do not understand why evangelical Christianity takes such a blase attitude towards celebrating and remembering such a monumental event such as the reformation, and using this as a teaching tool and opportunity to guide and shepherd their churches. Pastor’s should be encouraging their flocks to skip Halloween and gather at the church for a time of praise, worship and celebration of the sweet freedom of Christ and the gospel, and that God removed the oppressive burden of Rome through men like Luther and Calvin. Think about it: you wouldn’t be out begging for candy if it wasn’t for the reformation – you’d likely be forced to attend a mass and, if you taught anything differently, you’d be burned alive. Why doesn’t tonight move pastors to guide and shepherd their flocks? It’s such a wonderful opportunity!

    Reconsider wasting tonight, Pastor Johnson. You could do so much better guiding you flock.

    (Also, as an aside – notice how kids always seem to get sick around the holiday season? It’s from their immune systems taxed from eating too much processed white sugar from Halloween and the following weeks….)

    • Well, its not an either/or. After my kids go to bed, we have friends over, we talk about Luther, we read some of the thesis, and we all tell stories about how we discovered the five solas. So, its not like dressing up makes that LESS fun.

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  • I know this is written from a US perspective and therefore reflects the general American attitude towards Halloween…I wonder if, as a Christian living in London, I could add a perspective from a different culture.

    I’ve always avoided Halloween and unless something radically changes I always will. In my experience it isn’t a time for kids to get dressed up and enjoy sweets while the parents hang out in the cold together. It’s an excuse for drunken parties where half the fun is guessing who you’re groping, and for teenagers to intimidate the community by demanding treats and often carrying out the tricks anyway.

    I hope you enjoy an evening out with your family, and I hope the conversations with neighbours produce fruit for the Kingdom!

    • Thats a good point Sam. As I said, if I lived in Mexico or Spanin or somewhere that the RCC connotation of the day was still there, I’d avoid it like the plague.

  • Tracey Gray

    Thanks for this post! I totally agree with your reasoning. I understand as a Christian people’s concern about trick or treating, but I think this is one of the best evangelism days of the whole year. Instead of turning off your light and going somewhere else to avoid this day we should look at it in a different light and take advantage of reaching the lost. Their are a lot of non-evil costumes for children and I don’t think there is anything wrong with them going to get candy in their neighborhood and just enjoying dressing up and being part of the fun. God knows what’s in your heart. Evil isn’t just one day a year. Its all year round. I think trick or treating is harmless, but I don’t go for visiting
    haunted houses, Halloween parties or watching scary, evil movies. You can have fun and honor God at the same time.

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  • Lee

    This is the way I have explained our decision not to trick-or-treat to our kids: “We celebrate Christmas because as Christians and believe Christ’s birth is a great reason to
    celebrate. We celebrate Easter because we think Christ’s resurrection is a great reason to celebrate. We celebrate Valentine’s Day because we want to celebrate love. As Americans, we feel it is appropriate to celebrate our country’s freedom on Independence Day. We do not celebrate Halloween because we do not believe that fear, death, and the occult—the major themes of Halloween—are things to be celebrated.” I could certainly get enthusiastic about celebrating Reformation Day, but why would we need to trick-or-treat to do so? Your post made it sound as if the only alternative to trick-or-treating is “holing up,” which sounds to me like crouching in the basement with the lights off. I would also point out that deciding not to trick-or-treat does not necessitate banning candy and costumes.

    Our family has gotten together with other families who do
    not wish to celebrate Halloween for the past 16 or so Halloween nights. We always do something fun and unrelated to Halloween, and my kids have looked forward to it every year. That isn’t to say that it hasn’t been hard for them, especially when they were younger, to be different from the kids around them. It’s hard for us too. No parent enjoys seeing their kids feeling left out, even if they believe they are obeying what God would have them do. And to be honest, posts like this one make it just a little harder. My kids can see things like this and think “well that guy is a pastor, and he doesn’t see anything wrong with it,” and it tempts them to doubt our leadership. I start second guessing my own conscience, only to find once again that my conscience will NOT let me go on this issue. It doesn’t bother me that your conscience allows you to participate in Halloween. What leaves me scratching my head is why you felt compelled to write a post about it. I think it would be kind of like me writing a post about why I feel free to have a glass of wine at dinner with my husband. Those who agree with me already agree. But to those whose conscience tells them to avoid alcohol completely, my post might be a stumbling block.

    I don’t want to be overly critical, and I certainly don’t want to be discouraging. I love this site, and have read many posts here that have been extremely insightful and helpful. I just thought that sharing how this post affected me might be constructive food for thought.

    Last night as we drove home from an evening full of friends, games, basketball, snacks, (and yes, candy); my oldest son reflected on how strange it was that he was almost 18 years old and had never gone trick-or-treating–and how strange that seemed to his friends. He was always the one
    that had the most trouble understanding that decision, and my heart felt that familiar ache of knowing I have asked something difficult and painful of him. But his next words were, “You know, I don’t feel like I’ve missed a thing.” Thank
    you Lord, what a blessing!

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  • KE

    The Biblical Feast days are all wedding feast rehearsals so that we know “when” to expect “what”. So that you are wearing the correct “garment” at the correct “time”.

    What I have learned about King Josiah tearing his clothes when he found the book of the the law (instructions) in the temple of the Lord was that part of God’s instruction that had been ignored was the command to his people to observe God’s festivals. Josiah determined to restore this aspect of the true worship of God, beginning with the coming Passover (2 Chronicles 35:1). I’ll try to explain here why.

    I have just participated in my first “Seder” meal (meaning “order”) this past Passover and learned that inside the preparation and feast tradition itself is THE teaching to pass onto the following generations. That tradition was around 1,083 years old when Jesus sat down with the apostles at the last supper. Image their countenance when Jesus went through the meal explaining all this was pointing to him; when he broke the matza, a cracker with stripes and percings and said “this is my body that is given for you”. All the items on the table have meaning including the 3 cups. You know what the 3 cups symbolize?

    The preparation of cleaning the house being done by the Wife and children in advance and father ceremoniously using the feather to clean the hidden spoonful of leaven symbolized Jesus whip of fine cord driving out the money changers; Jesus helping to clean the leaven out of his father’s house.

    During the meal, if the father wads up his napkin, it means he is finished. If his napkin is folded, it means “he is coming back”. John 20:7 states “And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.”

    This is the tip of the iceberg, but I hope to show here that studying the feast days reveals much deeper meaning in scripture. The Feast of Trumpets announces the arrival of the “Bridegroom”. This is when Jesus returns. This is what is meant by “understanding the times”.

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