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October 31, 2007

Diversify: More Reasons Not to Like Halloween

Skull_and_bones For years many Christians have objected to Halloween for its pagan undertones, its fascination with evil and the grotesque. But it seems in recent years we've got even more mundane reasons to object to the day which has mistakenly come to be called a "holiday." Here are two more reasons I stumbled on yesterday.

1) There's only one holiday aside from Christmas when Americans spend more money decorating. That's right, Halloween. And it's the sixth most profitable holiday in this country from a marketing perspecitive (after Christmas, Valentine's, Mother's Day, Easter, and Father's Day). Let's face it. If you look at the history of Halloween in this country, its roots are more firmly rooted in consumerism than in paganism, with Dennison Manufacturing Company publishing its first Hallowe'en catalog as early as 1909. Today I can buy skull and bones dinnerware--as if anyone needed separate dinnerware for entertaining around Halloween--or Martha Stewart's special Halloween edition with her cover photo as both a "glampire" and a "goddess." Come on, people. Don't we have better things to do?

2) And then there's the other disturbing trend of costumes for young girls becoming more and more sleazy. CNN had a special segment on this just yesterday. Here are just a few of the costume choices teen girls have to choose from: major flirt, corset fairy teen, playboy cupid, pirate cutie, gothic naughtie nurse, and more. (By the way, I hate how everyone in this video segment is shifting blame. How can a designer and a Halloween Express spokesperson sit there and justify there company's decision by blaming it on media or the parents? I'm sorry but the buck stops with the manufacturers and designers. That just majorly irks me.) Rod Dreher also had an article about this here, but word of caution: there's a bit of language some readers might find offensive.

To me, the bottom line here is when a day has its roots in evil and glorifies evil, we should not be surprised to find evil flourishing all around it, whether it's something that seems as harmless as the wasteful tendency to mindlessly spend money, or the degrading of little girls. Give evil an inch, it will always take a mile.

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Dennis Babish

The Clapham Institute addressed Halloween in its weekly commentary this week and they would disagree with you.
You need to read their entire commentary as it gives some history of Halloween but their final paragraph states:

"Halloween matters because everyone is made in the image of God and destined for eternity – something far beyond our wildest imagination. Lewis was right – we long to be in lands where little men have fuzzy feet, dragons breathe fire, ghosts lurk behind doors, floors go creak, witches conjure spells and horses have wings. Halloween isn't about devil worship – it's about enriching our faith by widening our imagination. When Christians fail to join the celebration, we might instead be widening the cultural fault lines and contributing to the "Balkanization of America.""

You can read the entire commentary here:

Catherine Claire

Hi Dennis,

I appreciate this article you've passed on. I can't say my mind is solidly made up on Halloween. The point of my post is 1) look at the absurd amount of money we spend on it, and 2) look at the trash that is being pushed on young girls.

In reading the article you mentioned, I think the author leaves out some key points. As I understand it the church moved the celebration of All Saints to counter all the focus on pagan rites. Instead of fanning the pagan beliefs that the dead came and inflicted disease on people and crops that night, they reminded people of the saints that have gone before us and then on all souls day of the fact that yes, we are all mortal, and will die.

Also, back to the article, to me, there's a difference in reading a story like Lewis' Chronicles or Tolkein's stories and emulating the evil characters therein by dressing up like them. Evil is very real in this world. Is there any reason why we should celebrate that? Why we should flirt with it by wearing its garb? I can put an evil character in a story and make someone identify with and cheer for the good character. Good writing does that. It makes me want to emulate the noble, the true, the brave, not the evil, venomous and deceitful. Of course, there are some supernatural characters in these stories who don't neatly fall into categories of good or bad, and that of course leaves some room.

I believe it's true that as Ireland was being Christianized that the monks there sought to take the symbols of the people and put Christian meaning on them. Things like the clover being used to explain the Trinity. They looked for ways to make bridges rather than road-blocks. I think they did this with the pagan celebration of Samain too (what pre-dated Halloween). It didn't go exactly according to plan though as I understand. In many ways, it just prolonged pagan rituals. I believe we can make bridges with Halloween (ie. Mars Hill, I see you are a very religious people, in this case showing people that they recognize evil in the world, and using that as a conversation starter.) I think there's more room for that kind of thing, but I also think if we choose to participate it should look different than our neighbors. The challenge is always the same, in but not of the world. I think there's also a lot that we need to take to heart from 1 Cor 8 at this time of year. For many Christians, and especially children, what may be permissible is not necessarily beneficial. Freedom of conscience for some, may be a stumbling block for others.


Let's make it ALL HEROES DAY!

(Sorry but I think Harvest Day is too wimpy --at least for my 9 year old action hero wannabee.)

And I'm putting up the "Cursebreaker" sign in front of---my NATIVITY scene. Yes, my Nativity scene is going up today - Halloween. It sits near me in the kitchen so I can touch up my plywood painted figures.

I painted it a few years ago and baby Jesus's creche has a nail on it with a small smear of red---and His little fist worked loose from the tightly wound swaddling clothes (Preview of superhero work to come).

I have about 9 bags of candy...and I will tell the TEENS they can come back at 5 to 7PM if they want handfuls of candy that is left over...(Implied message "God is generous" - hope noone reads that as "God wants to help dentists make $$") If my daughter has some handouts from our teen church youth center, I will hand them out to the teens. I already have a reputation for being generous with the candy.

Remember the Vince Lombardi defense...I hope my "offense" is both fun and delicious.

Steve (SBK)

I agree with you Catherine.
Lewis and Tolkien would surely expound on the necessity to expand our imaginations. But to celebrate or emulate the evil characters in their stories? I think Tolkien would be appalled at how the Orcs were marketed for the Peter Jackson films.
The William James quote in that article is important: "... so long as we keep our foot upon his neck". We don't desire a world full of these things, per se. We desire (or should) a triumph of good over these evil things. They make the story richer since you can't have heroes without needing to overcome heroic obstacles, but the obstacles aren't the heroes.
... in my opinion.

Steve (SBK)

but Christmas started a few months ago in retail stores... :P


Fortunately, the little girls in those costumes won't have to go trick-or-treating by themselves: http://www.krdotv.com/Global/story.asp?S=7283415

And I have a problem even with "big" girls wearing those costumes. But I suppose we could have anticipated this trend by reading "Monsters from the Id". http://www.amazon.com/Monsters-Id-Rise-Horror-Fiction/dp/1890626066/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-7609162-0259058?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193848752&sr=8-1

Dennis Babish

Just for the record I didn't say I agreed with them.
I only wanted to point out a different viewpoint. Like the old point/counterpoint on 60 Minutes.
Hmmm maybe a new blog here.


On Halloween I put up MY superhero - Jesus.

Neighbors had the usual ghouls, tombstones, bloody creatures, witches.

I had my handpainted little Nativity Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. (Baby Jesus had one tiny hand which had worked free from the swaddling cloths - and the large nail holding his painted manger had a red smear - both hints of His super work to come).

My husband and son thot my display "weird". They let it stand since I had challenged them "Was it evil? Was it offensive?"

My line was and is - I'm taking back All Hallow's Eve!

I challenged the 9 year old son "Are you ashamed of Jesus?"

So my small Nativity scene (with spotlight and star light above it - and a painted sign which said "Curse-Breaker") stood and the mostly teen trick or treat kids maybe stared a bit but noone commented to me.

My family still thinks it was a bit weird because the Nativity (which everyone LOVED last year as it was hand painted) was at "the wrong time of year".

I hope, tho, that some of the teens who are beseiged with the occult thought about the whole "cursebreaker" thing.

The meaning and possible danger of Halloween comes down to a fine point - How does Halloween affect the trick or treat kid at your door?

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