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king sized snickers for everyone

October 7, 2010

It is impossible to walk through Target these days and not be overwhelmed with Halloween. Since the beginning of September, aisles of orange and black decorations, bags of candy, and costumes have been calling out to my children, building excitement and expectation for their dream holiday. For my kids, Halloween is that holiday. For them it is a simple holiday that involves their two favorite things, candy and dress up. For Christians, Halloween seems to be a bit more complicated.

No matter how you slice it, Halloween has a dark and seedy past. It’s history can be traced to a roman festival that involves worshiping the goddess of fruits and seeds, or a pagan festival of the dead, or a Celtic festival celebrating the end of summer. This part isn’t that bad, just the part of the festival that celebrates the spirit world coming close to the living world. And, it is also a holiday that has many touch points with the occult.

This is not good. How in the world can Christians get behind a holiday that, at best . . . Ok, there isn’t anything we can get behind in the history of Halloween.

As bad as it seems, I think there might be another way we can look at Halloween. And I don’t mean to pretend we are against it publicly, and quietly celebrate it with our friends and family (like a good wine). I think there is a way we can actually celebrate and even promote Halloween in a way that honors God and might even bring the Kingdom of God closer to your neighborhood.

Before you call my pastor and get me fired, humor me for one minute. How many of us Christians have Christmas trees as part of our family tradition and home decoration? If you google, “Christmas Tree Pagan” you will find there are over 3,000,000 sites. A quick view of these sites and you will find many stories and traditions where evergreens were used in worship and celebration as a symbol of life in the midst of death. In ancient Rome and Egypt there are traditions of tree worship, burning sacred logs. The most worrisome history is that of Odin, a German god who would require sacrifices to a sacred Oak tree

. Even though the history of the Christmas tree is shady at best, it has been recast in a Christian light. and by the 18th and 19th century, the Christmas tree became a full blown part of the celebration of Christmas.

Christians transitioned the Tree of Odin to a tree with some vague inferences to Christianity and now all is well with Christmas Tree. The goal was to take a cultural norm with pagan symbols and use it to tell the Christian Story. In a similar way, that is what we need to do with Halloween. But simply transitioning Halloween to a Harvest Festival to make it more tolerable might be a missed opportunity.

If our cultural context had many touch points to spirit and ancestor worship, goddess worship, or occult practices then celebrating Halloween might be a tough sell. However, in my context, suburban America, Halloween has nothing to do with anything except candy and make believe. The only people who are even remotely aware of these darker issues are Christians. Because pagan worship has nothing to do with the world I live in, and Halloween is actually a totally secular holiday with zero spiritual overtones, maybe we could actually embrace it and use it as a place for Christians to impact their communities.

Halloween gets to be our holiday, a holiday of hospitality. With hospitality being one of the Christian virtues that is being thrown away, Halloween gets to be the holiday where we embrace our neighbors. We get to break down some of the barriers that have built up among those people who live on our street and be a blessing to them. In a time when you are less likely to be known by people in your neighborhood and they are less likely to be known by you, Halloween gets to be the perfect holiday to rebuild that bridge. Halloween is our holiday. It is the holiday for Christians to ooze the love and grace of God to their entire neighborhood. If you haven’t celebrated Halloween in a while, here are a couple of ideas to make this our holiday:

  1. On a normal day, no one from your street comes to your house. Halloween is the one day where the entire neighborhood comes to your door. The one day where all your neighbors mill around your street is the one day that your lights are off and door is locked. That doesn’t seem quite right. Step 1: be home, turn your lights on, and answer the door.
  1. If everyone is coming to your house, why not be the house that gets the reputation for best house to trick-or-treat at. Instead of the house that gives away raisins or toothbrushes, or even tracts, your house can be known as the house that gives away full-sized Snickers Bars. 30 years later, I can still remember the stingy houses and the very generous houses.
  1. As a youth worker, this holiday can even be a blessing for your students. Get your kids off the streets and put them to work by helping you make your house amazing. Have a party for them at your house. While they are there, have them decorate, pass out candy, do card tricks, whatever. By just being there, your house transitions into a place of life.

Halloween is the one holiday where your neighborhood actually comes to your house. Instead of running away from this holiday, maybe we should embrace it, redeem it, and make it our own. What story are you telling to your neighbors when they knock on your door? What are the values you are sharing with them? Jesus came to give us life, and life abundantly, and Halloween is the perfect time to share this abundant life. How great would it be if your house is the house that celebrates life; if your house was the house the neighbors couldn’t wait to get to. Let us recapture the value of hospitality and let’s show off this abundant life we have in Christ! KING SIZED SNICKERS FOR EVERYONE!

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2 comments

  1. geez ben, just write a book already, you’re brilliant

    oh, and the numbers on you’re list about halloween ideas are a little messed up, might want to fix that 😛


  2. Holy Cow – that’s what i want to be for halloween, a holy cow! Nice work Benjamin. I like that you are working on redeeming all the lost things from a lost generation and making them divine acts of hospitality and worship to the God who designed us for worship, not for fear. Oh, btw: tracks aren’t handed out on hallowween, tracts are. But, it’s a moot point. love you man… I’m coming to your house for halloween this year.



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