Here’s how a common argument unfolds against Christians participating in Halloween:
Okay, so maybe “unfolds” is the wrong word for it. It’s actually pretty simple. The assumption, of course, is that “pagan” equals “bad.”
[The History: Probably started as a Celtic holiday were the gods needed to be propitiated so the people would be protected through the Winter. The spirits of the dead were also believed to return to the Earth and sometimes candles were lit for them or whatever. It’s not at all clear.]
Here’s my thing: paganism is everywhere. Yes, Christmas and Easter and Halloween and New Years and Saturday and January and Sunday and March and Tuesday and May and Friday (“Day of Frigg”/Venus)…
The Quakers are probably the most honest ones among us, as they refer to the days and months by numbers, rather than their pagan names. For instance, today would be “fifth day.” Simple.
So if you’re going to make the pagan argument, go all of the way. We are far too selective in what paganism we oppose. You’ll find pagan meaning in various shapes and pagan influence in various works of art. Does calling the day Saturday or celebrating Christmas or dressing up like a pirate and going through the neighborhood (the only door-to-door work we don’t complain about, amiright?) somehow make you pagan? Does paganism rub off on you? Do we really think that these things somehow constitute worship of some long-forgotten deity in the hills of Ireland? If that’s all it takes, then are people who sing Christmas songs from the radio like “Silent Night” or “Joy to the World” automatically worshiping the true God? No, even though Christian Christmas songs are more obviously an act of worship than calling a day “Saturday” is an acknowledgement of the Roman god Saturn. We assume paganism is a one-way street.
In short, the pagan argument against Halloween (or Christmas or Easter) is a form of superstition. Nobody thinks of some Celtic Druids when they celebrate Halloween. Nobody thinks of Mars because it’s March. The modern practice of these things has so far drifted from their origins (which are unclear) and meaning that it’s crazy to try and compare them. Many of the same Christians who boycott Halloween are complaining that Christmas has been commercialized or secularized a few months later. Both were originally pagan celebrations that became Christianized. One operation was apparently more successful than the other.
Paul clinches this for me in his advice to the Corinthians over meat offered to idols (1 Cor. 8v4-6):
“With regard then to eating food sacrificed to idols, we know that “an idol in this world is nothing,” and that “there is no God but one.” If after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we live, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we live.”
Did you catch that? Maybe the pagans see some significance in the meat dedicated to their Gods, but Christians don’t believe those gods exist…so what’s the problem? What sense does it make to be superstitious about other peoples’ superstition? To stand against Halloween because you are superstitious about some mystical pagan influence sounds awfully close to what you’re fighting against.
There are some elements of some of Halloween I wouldn’t celebrate. But, by and large, we can be so concerned about the murky origins of these evolving holidays, but miss the greater anti-Christian elements of present ones. Black Friday and Consumerism; Thanksgiving and gluttony; The Fourth of July and Warrior Worship; etc.
This isn’t all to say you NEED to celebrate it. If you want, dress up like a Bible character and every time someone gives you something give them something in return. Or hand out tracts at your door. Or hand out the best candy in the neighborhood. When these kids grow up, how should you be remembered - as the Christians who never turned their lights on or the Christians who always gave the best stuff, always smiled, and so on?