Can Christians celebrate Halloween?
When Jesus was casting out demons, he was accused by the Pharisees of being in league with the Devil. (See the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 12.) The purpose of Halloween is to cast out fears and evils by turning them to play. Those who accuse the holiday of being in league with the Devil are playing the Pharisee role.
Unitarian Reform instead chooses to align itself with Christ.
Halloween as it is celebrated today, filled with horror movies and risqué costumes, might seem far from Christian virtues. But, remembering the ancient seasonal purpose of the holiday, marking the death of summer, helps us understand the spiritual function of the death play associated with Halloween.
As All Hallows season kicks off the Unitarian Reform calendar, Halloween (All Hallows Eve) caps off the first dozenal of the season, the Twelve Days of Ghosts running from 20 through 31 October. Again, some Pharisaic types might argue that Halloween spooks have no place in Christian worship, but it is important to remember that the death play of Halloween isn’t about worshiping spooks or even whether ghosts and zombies and vampires are real. It’s about exposing ourselves to frightful things, particularly the fear of death.
Halloween lets us do this first in play, facing off against fanciful representations of death. After that, of course, we meditate on death in earnest with commemoration of All Hallows, All Souls, and All Corners during the Twelve Days of Piety. This culminates in the highest holy day of Reform Unitarianism, Garden Thursday, when we commemorate the moment Jesus faced the reality of his impending execution: “Take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Staring down our fears, particularly the mortal fear of death, is about as Christian as it gets. The playfulness of Halloween eases us into this difficult spiritual task.
And, for those who fear that the holiday has Satanic undertones, so be it! Staring down the Accuser is also a time-honored Christian tradition. The way most of us celebrate Halloween is to make light of its spooky characters, mocking them, facing the terrifying rather than being cowed by it, as Jesus faced Satan (and even mocked him) in the wilderness.
Not only do good Christians have nothing to fear from Halloween and its festival of horrors; there are plenty of Christian lessons to learn here.