An Open Letter About Halloween

Daly Focus

Life is beautiful and imperfect, a source of wonder and a challenge so complex that it’s good to pause from time to time and check our perspective and priorities against eternal truth. ReFocus, promises to help you navigate today’s culture.

An Open Letter About Halloween

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Peanuts creator Charles Schulz made a habit of dispensing advice through the mouths of cartoon characters, especially the blanket-carrying Linus van Pelt.  GP2.jpg
Like any offering of counsel, some of it is to be heeded and some of it is not.
“There are three things you must never discuss with people,” the comic strip’s philosopher/theologian once said, “religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.”
Since we regularly wade into the first two topics anyway, we might as well go for broke and address the latter.
Sort of.
The traditions surrounding October 31st conjure up many good memories for me. Over the years, my wife and I have chosen to allow our sons to engage in the innocent and harmless side of Halloween. They enjoy dressing up in positive-themed costumes (Captain America, for example) and going trick-or-treating around the neighborhood.
I understand that Halloween is a hot topic with many Christians, and understandably so. With its admittedly pagan and creepy origins, involving druids, ghosts and goblins, many choose to either ignore it altogether or amend it in order to have it better complement their convictions.
I take no issue with either side and respect the strongly held perspectives in both camps. Halloween5.jpg
Instead, I want to address the broader culture concerning the holiday.
Here are my thoughts:
Christian or not, it is high time to turn away from the dark, gory and horror-filled side of the holiday. It’s always been time, but the confluence of culture and recent current events raises this matter to a new level.
There is absolutely nothing entertaining or redeeming about hatchet wielding villains parading in costume or front-lawn displays featuring blood spattered body parts.
Some might suggest I need to lighten up and relax, to not take intended fantasy so seriously. 
“It is all just a joke,” they say. “It isn’t real.”
Or is it?
Those people who press will have to forgive me. My family and I live, pray and play in Colorado. Just a few days ago police arrested a 17-year-old for murdering and dismembering a ten-year-old girl. Parts of her body were reportedly found in the murderer’s house.
How can hearts break in two at such horrific news – and yet grow indifferent to the site of a ghoulish Halloween display just blocks away? Halloween77.jpg
There is nothing “fun” about a sinister-looking character, strapped from head to toe with plastic automatic rifles, casing the streets – even with a bag full of candy in hand on Halloween night.
You’ll remember that it was earlier this summer that a young man, who allegedly called himself the “Joker,” burst into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and opened-fire, injuring over 50 people and killing 13.
It seems that life is increasingly imitating “art” these days – but it’s too-often the heinous kind, not the glorious or good.
Evil has been on the loose since the beginning of time, and dispensing with evil-themed Halloween traditions won’t change the reality of a broken world.
I get it.
But can’t we agree that it’s unwise and unhealthy to embrace wickedness in any fictitious form?
As a culture we can find common ground with parents of every creed concerning the need to lift up the good and turn away from macabre traditions. 
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Comments
  • Comment by  Marge  B.:

    Praise the  Lord! I've been telling my friends that for years, but they all  think I'm a  "fuddy-duddy" and still  continue to let their children and grandchildren participate in this pagan season, bc  "it's cute." I had  the opportunity to see a  converted  warlock, Ben Alexander, if I recall to  correctly,  speak in the 70's and  it frightened me so much that I stopped trick/treating for my  kids. Thanx so much for posting this blog about his pagan holiday. Have a blessed  day.

  • Comment by  laura michelle:

    well said, Jim!!!  in this postmodern culture, Christians have been conditioned to apologize or at least show some sheepishness for taking a stand for the light.  what ever happened to "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel..."?  and you are completely right; this is a hot topic.  whether your family opts to not partake in Halloween or chooses to hand out tracts with candy, the question still remains:  does Halloween, ANY  aspect of it, glorify the Lord in any respect?  Which part is the fun?  Is it the fear?  The evil?  Refreshing to hear someone say, "This is not a joke."  And if our prime fear is that we "deprive" our little ones (I have six, btw) of...what????  Candy?  Dressing up in a costume?  Then our problem lies  much deeper than celebrating some dumb day that focuses on talking corpses and creepy lawn ornaments.

  • Comment by  KellyHum:

    I think that is is so sad that we have take something that used to be a fun night of dressing up and knocking on neighbor's doors and turned it into something you have to protect your kids from.It is appalling to know that it is so twisted now that, in our neighborhood, there are houses I have to tell my kids to close their eyes as we pass certain houses because of the intense halloween displays that rest in several lawns.Thankfully. most churches offer carnivals and other alternatives to this, but even those you have to be careful of because of the neighborhood kids that do not attend church show up in Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street costumes, complete with blood-dripping fingers.I totally agree with Mr. Daly saying, let's focus on the "bright" side. As such, we as Christians need to remember that we are the light in our dark world. We need to be the ones to hold up the banner and say "this is not of God", even in our traditions.This was a hard one for me, as I am very traditional in my thinking, very Norman Rockwell like. But I have had to put that part down and say "no, we do not participate in such things." (haunted houses, parties, etc.)  And it can be hard on the kids too, as they see the cool costumes and the chance at free candy. We usually go to our church's carnival and let them dress up, as Mr Daly's family does, as something appropiate; as for the rest, we close our eyes a lot, turn off the TV (usually fairly scary commericals on), and look forward to Thanksgiving!

  • Comment by  Tessica:

    I love this article! I grew up never celebrating halloween at all, in a very christian home, but my husband didn't; he grew up trick-or-treating and wearing icky costumes, and came from a non christian family. We have decided to let our kids wear fun and positive costumes- nothing scary or icky. We don't go around trick-or-treating, but do attend a local church's fall carnival that they hold every halloween night. I think its a way to still let the kids enjoy the fun of dressing up, but not celebrate the horrific-ness of halloween. In stores, commercials, and neighbors' yards I have to tell them not to look. It is so disturbing how much Americans enjoy such awful and satanic things. It is NOT a joke.  So sad.

  • Comment by  Lisa:

    Good article...I guess.  I think it's sad though that Mr. Daly and others still choose to participate on this day.  What is the point of dressing up in "positive themed costumes", or "trunk or treats" if it is STILL participating.  There is no "good, nice, positive" way to participate on this day.  You are still acknowledging it.  It is a hot topic and I guess to each his own, but I believe if we say we are Christians we should think about what brings honor and glory to GOD!  Not trying to make something appear good when we all know originally where it comes from.  No matter how much you try to dress up a wolf as a sheep or try to make it look like a dog, it is still a wolf underneath!

  • Comment by  Judy:

    My family has always enjoyed the silly side of this holiday.  They were not always happy with us when they were around 12 or 13 and still had to remain silly.  They also were done with it after 8th grade, our choice.  My youngest of 6 just had his last halloween last year.  My children range in age from 15-35.  If we were to start out now I wouldnt allow participation at all. It has gotten terribly demonic and as far as the girls go very very revealing outfits are somehow allowed on halloween.  No in todays world I would just not participate at all, but if you do just be silly not dark.+

  • Comment by  Andrew:

    If we are referring to children, I must agree.  Horror themes aren't meant for children anyway, or at least they shouldn't be.  They take what they see too seriously and do not have the same capacity as adults when it comes to differentiating fact from fiction.  So, yes, horror-themed decorations really are irresponsible, or anything horror-themed that is in a public setting that kids can see.

    However, if we're referring to more private traditions amongst only adults, I truly believe that is an entirely different manner.  As adults, we should be mature enough to be discerning in any genre, and horror is no exception (in other words, we should definitely be selective).  Having said this, however, horror as a fictional genre can trace its history all the way back to ancient times.  Almost every culture, including ones that had no contact with each other, has dark horror stories ruminating on various themes of death.  Why is this?  We live in a broken world, and people seek to understand and cope with that brokenness.  Part of the way we try to cope or understand is through art.  Because of this, art should reflect life on some level, and it only follows that art is going to have enough breadth to cover the entire spectrum of the human experience, and part of that human experience is, let's be honest, horror.  In fact, even The Passion of the Christ is a horror story.  Yes, it is about a true victory, but the victorious resurrection is not favored or emphasized, and what is emphasized is bodily torture, and that is truly horrifying to all but the most desensitized individuals (it is a film that is largely about the horrors of bodily torture; anyone who doesn't think this is true need only look at the other films Gibson's directed to see that this is a theme in all of them).  Unfortunately, the majority of horror films are trashy, but they don't have to be.  For example, Pet Semetary is a story about the horrific consequences of not being able to let go and move on when we lose a loved one to death.  Carrie is about the monsters we create in society through our schools and the bad parents so many have at home.  May deals with the ultimate insanity that can result from a life of continual isolation and rejection.  The Fly (1986) is essentially a metaphor for AIDS.  The list goes on.  All this to say that horror, like any other genre can have deep and meaningful things to say, and how we deal with death is very important, and these movies can help us confront these difficult, painful topics in a relatively safe environment.

  • Comment by  Andrew:

    If we are referring to children, I must agree.  Horror themes aren't  meant for children anyway, or at least they shouldn't be.  They take  what they see too seriously and do not have the same capacity as adults  when it comes to differentiating fact from fiction.  So, yes,  horror-themed decorations really are irresponsible, or anything  horror-themed that is in a public setting that kids can see.

    However,  if we're referring to more private traditions amongst only adults, I  truly believe that is an entirely different manner.  As adults, we  should be mature enough to be discerning in any genre, and horror is no  exception (in other words, we should definitely be selective).  Having  said this, however, horror as a fictional genre can trace its history  all the way back to ancient times.  Almost every culture, including ones  that had no contact with each other, has dark horror stories ruminating  on various themes of death.  Why is this?  We live in a broken world,  and people seek to understand and cope with that brokenness.  Part of  the way we try to cope or understand is through art.  Because of this,  art should reflect life on some level, and it only follows that art is  going to have enough breadth to cover the entire spectrum of the human  experience, and part of that human experience is, let's be honest,  horror.  In fact, even The Passion of the Christ is a horror story.   Yes, it is about a true victory, but the victorious resurrection is not  favored or emphasized, and what is emphasized is bodily torture, and  that is truly horrifying to all but the most desensitized individuals  (it is a film that is largely about the horrors of bodily torture;  anyone who doesn't think this is true need only look at the other films  Gibson's directed to see that this is a theme in all of them).   Unfortunately, the majority of horror films are trashy, but they don't  have to be.  For example, Pet Semetary is a story about the horrific  consequences of not being able to let go and move on when we lose a  loved one to death.  Carrie is about the monsters we create in society  through our schools and the bad parents so many have at home.  May deals  with the ultimate insanity that can result from a life of continual  isolation and rejection.  The Fly (1986) is essentially a metaphor for  AIDS.  The list goes on.  All this to say that horror, like any other  genre can have deep and meaningful things to say, and how we deal with  death is very important, and these movies can help us confront these  difficult, painful topics in a relatively safe environment.

  • Comment by  Andrew:

    If we are referring to children, I must agree.  Horror themes aren't  meant for children anyway, or at least they shouldn't be.  They take  what they see too seriously and do not have the same capacity as adults  when it comes to differentiating fact from fiction.  So, yes,  horror-themed decorations really are irresponsible, or anything  horror-themed that is in a public setting that kids can see.

    However,  if we're referring to more private traditions amongst only adults, I  truly believe that is an entirely different manner.  As adults, we  should be mature enough to be discerning in any genre, and horror is no  exception (in other words, we should definitely be selective).  Having  said this, however, horror as a fictional genre can trace its history  all the way back to ancient times.  Almost every culture, including ones  that had no contact with each other, has dark horror stories ruminating  on various themes of death.  Why is this?  We live in a broken world,  and people seek to understand and cope with that brokenness.  Part of  the way we try to cope or understand is through art.  Because of this,  art should reflect life on some level, and it only follows that art is  going to have enough breadth to cover the entire spectrum of the human  experience, and part of that human experience is, let's be honest,  horror.  In fact, even The Passion of the Christ is a horror story.   Yes, it is about a true victory, but the victorious resurrection is not  favored or emphasized, and what is emphasized is bodily torture, and  that is truly horrifying to all but the most desensitized individuals  (it is a film that is largely about the horrors of bodily torture;  anyone who doesn't think this is true need only look at the other films  Gibson's directed to see that this is a theme in all of them).   Unfortunately, the majority of horror films are trashy, but they don't  have to be.  For example, Pet Semetary is a story about the horrific  consequences of not being able to let go and move on when we lose a  loved one to death.  Carrie is about the monsters we create in society  through our schools and the bad parents so many have at home.  May deals  with the ultimate insanity that can result from a life of continual  isolation and rejection.  The Fly (1986) is essentially a metaphor for  AIDS.  The list goes on.  All this to say that horror, like any other  genre can have deep and meaningful things to say, and how we deal with  death is very important, and these movies can help us confront these  difficult, painful topics in a relatively safe environment.

  • Comment by  Ginger:

    I also have fun memories of Halloween.  But, as a young Christian mother, I could not find anything about Halloween that glorified our Lord and many things about Halloween that were blatantly evil.  Even the gluttony of over indulging in sweets is not glorifying Him or His temple (our body).  I also think that cute-ifying evil shows how our society no long fears Him and looks at evil as something fun to explore.  I also have a problem with churches who "Halloween witness".  Jesus spent much time with people who needed redemption but not while participating in their activities.  He chose to witness to them during everyday life circumstances.  I believe that this is a time that Christians can celebrate the bounty of His goodness in Fall and take fall themed cookies to neighbors or help with raking leaves.  Even though my opinions are decidedly strong, I would never condemn a fellow believer for celebrating this tradition.  Unless someone asks my opinion, that topic is between that person and the Lord.

  • Comment by  BryHarv:

    I have handed out hand made scrolls for Halloween for several years that explain how Halloween is 'a distinctly Christian holiday'. Definitely not in support of the blood and gore part that abuses the origin of the Hallow (Holy) celebration, but I do support the innocent fun part of Halloween that supports it's custom of 'mocking death'. Interesting to know more of the background:

    desiderantangeli.blogspot.com/.../halloween-distinctly-christian-holiday.html

  • Comment by  Dana:

    I agree with you 100% Jim.  I would add the words of the Apostle Paul: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8  Paul seems to suggest that we AVOID the Opposite of his exhortation!

  • Comment by  Sarah:

    When we decorate our home at this time of season we celebrate autumn and the many blessings it brings (no trace of "halloween") and enjoy the many wonderful colors outside. On the 31st we enjoy it with neighbors. I enjoy going around our neighborhood talking to neighbors and watching my lil princess ask for candy, then her giving a big smile and a thank you and conversing with her on the way to the next house about our faith. It's a chance I use to spend time with my lil one, one on one. It's all about what you put into it. I put Faith in and get blessings out. It's about giving Glory to God in everything we do. With each pumpkin carved with a silly face, a cross is also carved to Give Glory to our creator. At Christmas we don't give glory to Santa or snowmen we give our Glory to God and his gifts to us. My kids know Santa is pretend and God is the true one that gives us everlasting gifts.

  • Comment by  cristina:

    Good for you for posting this!!

  • Comment by  Cathy:

    You are so right!  Thank you!  Think of all the women who have been abused who are traumatized by the sight of a grotesque man holding up the head of a woman which he had just cut off, as I was traumatized by a store display.  I also worked at a psychiatric hospital and a man who had been traumatized by seeing terrible things in his childhood in another country, would always get a lot worse around Halloween.  Halloween allows Satan a foothold.