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October 30, 2008

All Hallows Eve: When We Flip the Devil Over on His Back

Devil_costume OK, so I'm wading into dicey waters here as the end of my favorite month approaches. Autumn in West Virginia in general, and October in particular, is the highwater mark of culture back in West Virginia. As in many parts of America, we have exceptional fall festivals, the harvest, school dances, pick-up football games in the late afternoons before dark . . . and yes, we do Halloween up right, too.   

In addition to the trick or treating, the elaborate costumes reflecting the imagination of parents and their children alike, we've even kept bobbing for apples alive, along with reading tales by Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe. But the costumes are what stand out in my mind's eye. My dad was a very busy man with long hours at work, but he always found time for two things with me growing up: fishing, and making the most of every holiday. 

Halloween was no exception. He helped me create some neato costumes year after year for our community's annual Halloween costume contest. Thanks to his help, I either won or was in the running in my age category. After all, who had ever seen a huge Hershey's Kiss before, with just my ten-year-old feet visible underneath its eight-feet circumference at the bottom  Lots of aluminum foil! Others played devils, witches, and ghouls -- you know how little kids like to feel empowered for once, growling playfully at their friends or the adults.

I know the honest religious objections to all this deviltry and revelry. Are we not celebrating the fallen angel in all this, making this his day somehow? Hasn't the comedy of Halloween robbed us of All Saints Day and its more serious tone?

Respectfully, as those who have enjoyed the predominantly innocent activities of Halloween know, the objectors are missing our point. For when we can take the devil's day and mock him, laughing at his imagined power over us as children of the risen Lord, we are taking away his power, not adding to it.

Every time I see a little kid (or even a dog) dressed up hilariously like a devil at Halloween, I am reminded of Thomas More's immortal words: "The devil, that proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked." Mock on, trick or treaters, mock on!

(Image courtesy of Amazon)

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I still recall Walter Martin, the original "Bible Answer Man", noting that Christians took a pagan holiday of blood sacrifice and turned it into little children dressing up like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck so they could get candy from neighbors.

I believe Martin also said this was a prime example of how Christians can transform society, and if we do so with unified purpose, not even the gates of Hell can stop us. (Isn't there a scene in the 1931 "Frankenstein" where the villagers storm the gates of the castle? Yeah, like that.)

So I'm with you, Stephen - I think Halloween is actually a great day, if only we'll keep it that way.

Chris Clukey

I agree with you both. Halloween has become so big that we must engage the culture at this time.

I especially like the idea of using the holiday to mock death and Satan. Where is your sting?

Samuel X

'Isn't there a scene in the 1931 "Frankenstein" where the villagers storm the gates of the castle? Yeah, like that.'

There's ALWAYS a scene where the villagers storm the gates of the castle. Vampires too, but usually mad scientists.

If I'd known that's what they meant when they said "and the world will beat a path to your door" I'd have given up on the mousetraps.

...Ahem. As no one has mentioned it yet, I must bow out by bidding you all a happy Reformation Day.


Jude 8In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. 9But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" 10Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.

Diane Singer

I agree. My family likes the "fun" aspects of Halloween, too. Whatever its original devilish overtones, it has become simply an excuse to dress up in funny clothes and get (or hand out) candy to the neighborhood kids.

This year, though, my husband and I have been too busy to put up our usual decorations, so our inflatable pumpkins, ghosts, and haunted house are still in their boxes this year (sigh). Still, I have my pumpkin and orange-colored lights strung everywhere, and a stash of goodies for the neighborhood kids. We'll be ready when the pint-sized ghosts, goblins, firefighters, and ballerinas descend tomorrow night.

Chris Clukey


If you think I or the other posters here have decided to engage this culture instead of hiding from it becaause we are unreasoning animals, you haven't been paying attention.

Seems to me Romans 14 applies here much better than a verse calling us animals.


Um, I wasn't calling anyone an unreasoning animal, nor am I the half-brother of Jesus named Judah who wrote that letter in the New Testament.

I thought it appropriate to respond to the otherwise good-seeming article with a teaching in the New Testament that people don't seem terribly familiar with. FWIW.

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