Halloween was absolutely my favorite holiday as a child. Of course, I was there for the candy. However, I loved Halloween for more than just the candy. I loved being able to dress up and be someone or something else for a night. As a child I was also a huge fan of Ghostbusters so I liked that ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night took center stage. I also really enjoyed haunted houses. I do not like Halloween as much as I used to, but in general I am still a fan of the holiday. These days though, my appreciation for the holiday has changed.
In Christian circles Halloween is a bit contentious. Some believers view it as a harmless and fun tradition for kids. However, others see the holiday as much more insidious. This viewpoint was expressed with an impressive amount of hyperbole in a 2015 Charismanews.com article by Jaime Morgan. She wrote: “Setting aside a day to celebrate evil, darkness, witchcraft, fear, death and the demonic brings disdain to God. Period. A Christian celebrating Halloween would be like a Satan worshiper putting up a nativity scene at Christmas while singing, "Happy Birthday, Jesus!"
I think this zero-sum viewpoint is a little problematic. A child wearing a Spiderman costume to collect candy is a long way from celebrating evil, and let’s be honest to most people Halloween is little more than a time to give candy to kids in costumes. However, I think from a Christian standpoint, Halloween can be redeemed and that when approached with the right attitude can be used to glorify God.
First, Halloween tends to be a celebration of the supernatural. Being unexplainable and unexpected is often what makes spooky things spooky. The bible and by extension, the Christian faith, is all about the supernatural. In scripture there is a demon possessed man haunting a graveyard, there is a witch communicating with the dead, there is a literal angel of death, and the dead are brought back to life. In our rational and scientific age, one of the appeals of Halloween is that it reminds us that in the shadows of our understanding there are still things that cannot be explained. One of the appeals of the Christian faith is the same search for mystery. The difference is that Christians approach the supernatural with hope not fear, because we know that with God all things are possible. We know that it was God who parted the red sea, it was God who sent a pillar of fire down from the sky, and it is God who saves us through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Christian tradition also lifts up the supernatural. This can be seen in the stories of catholic saints who are credited miracles such as being in two places at once, levitating, and having corpses that are incorruptible. Even getting away from those more unusual and esoteric examples, one could walk into any church in the world and here stories of the supernatural. Every church has stories of healings that defy medical science, of circumstances that are too amazing to be a coincidence, and of unfathomable events that can only be described as miracles. Halloween is a time the supernatural is celebrated, and honestly in the Christian faith there is a lot of supernatural miracles that are worth celebrating.
Second, Halloween can serve as a good reminder to disciples. In Ephesians Paul reminds us, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Most of the year the majority of Christians rightly focus on God’s love, providence, and grace in our lives. However, Halloween can serve as a good reminder that there are dark things in this world. There truly are things that go bump in the night, and that evil is a very real and active force in this world. Across the theological spectrum, there is an agreement in Christian tradition that there is darkness in this world and unspeakable evil is committed. Halloween can be a somber reminder to the faithful that monsters are real.
Of course, remembering monsters are reals also reminds us in the book of Revelation Jesus defeats dragon. Remembering there is real darkness reminds us that the light shines in the darkness and that darkness has not overcome it. Remembering there are truly frightening things reminds us that time and time again God commands in the Bible “do not be afraid.”
The biggest reason I like Halloween today is because it does remind me that our God is a supernatural God capable of doing wonders that are beyond explanation and understanding. I am a fan of Halloween because it reminds me that even though there is real evil and vile terror in the world, there is also a God that is greater still. Halloween shines a jack-0-lantern light on aspects of our faith that are missed by other holidays and observances. I do believe that this can be a time celebrated by Christians. This is Halloween, to God be the glory.