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The personal journal of technology journalist and conference speaker Randall S. Newton.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Halloween: A Christian Holiday to Mock Satan

When I was a small child in the late 1950's and 1960's, Trick or Treat on Halloween was an innocent custom with little resistance from the Christian community. Starting in the 1980's, however, many conservative Christians began to teach against Halloween. They claimed that to participate in the customs of Halloween was to participate in a pagan festival, or to give glory to evil and the occult. A few incidents of candy tampering didn't help, and many parents stopped allowing their children to go out for Trick or Treat on Halloween night.

On one level, I never bought into that line of thinking. After all, I reasoned, I participated in Trick or Treat every year as a child, and I certainly didn't grow up a pawn of Satan. But, when I became a father in 1984 when I married Teresa (who had two children from her previous marriage) we decided to "offer" our children alternatives to Halloween. It seemed the right thing to do.

This continued for several years, until one year when we had five of our eventual nine children, we were overnight guests of my (recently departed) Aunt June in Spokane. It was Halloween. Darkness fell, and children from all over the neighborhood innocently started knocking on doors. Teresa and I looked at each other with one of those "what should we do?" looks. I said, "You know, I don't know why we are so against Trick or Treat." I never had a witness in my heart that we had avoided evil or given glory to God by abandoning Halloween and Trick or Treat. She agreed. So we quickly improvised Halloween costumes for the kids (two were in strollers), and Teresa walked them around the neighborhood. Since then, we have allowed our children to enjoy Trick or Treat.

I bring this up, not only because it is almost that time of year again, but because of an excellent short article on the origins of Halloween. "Halloween: A Discernment Exercise" is written by a Christian teacher I hold in high esteem, James B. Jordan. His book, "Through New Eyes," is a must read for the Christian seeking to move beyond modern Christian pop culture and pop theology. In the article, Jordan cites the historical record to say that Halloween, as the opening of All Saints Day, was a time to celebrate Christ's victory over the forces of darkness. Halloween evolved as a way to mock Satan. A quote:

What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us, we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us.

(The tradition of mocking Satan and defeating him through joy and laughter plays a large role in Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is a Halloween novel.)

The gargoyles that were placed on the churches of old had the same meaning. They symbolized the Church ridiculing the enemy—they stick out their tongues and make faces at those who would assault the Church. Gargoyles are not demonic; they are believers ridiculing the defeated demonic army.

Thus, the defeat of evil and of demonic powers is associated with Halloween. For this reason, Martin Luther posted his 95 challenges to the wicked practices of the Church on the door of the Wittenberg chapel on Halloween. He picked his day with care, and ever since, Halloween has also been Reformation Day.

I recommend the whole article to parents who have struggled with this issue. I find, in general, that many Christians give far too much honor to the forces of darkness by cowering in fear. In Christ, the victory has been won. Brethren, let's celebrate!


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