Pumpkin Faces In The Night

I know I am about a month or so early for a topic such as this, but I thought that I would post something quick about Hallowe’en as it has been on my mind for the last few days. A good friend and I recently disagreed on this subject, and as I re-read an article by James Jordan that shaped my thinking on this, I thought I would share it.
I have to admit, I don’t know as much about Hallowe’en as an aspiring historian probably should. I think that it would be a very interesting historical study and maybe at some point (hopefully before having kids) I’ll dig into it a little. But from what I have read on the subject, and through conversation with Christians of both opinions, I am quite firm in the belief that Christians should not keep their kids from Hallowe’en activities.
Of course, I would be the last person to infringe upon a Christian’s liberty to not celebrate Hallowe’en, so this isn’t something that I would turn into an issue within my church. But I do feel quite strongly that Christian children have been wronged by well-meaning parents when they aren’t allowed any festivities on the Thirty-first of October. Thankfully many in the Reformed tradition who don’t agree that Hallowe’en should be celebrated by Christians at least celebrate Reformation Day.
James Jordan’s essay “Concerning Halloween” first appeared in Open Book: Views and Reviews 28 (Aug 1996) published by Biblical Horizons. Although it appears on their site, I’ve notice a couple of typos and have opted to link to the same article through the Ransom Fellowship site.
In the article Jordan removes any of the stereotypes that surround All Hallow’s Eve, including its Druid origins. Instead, Jordan reveals that Halloween is a distinctly Christian celebration of the kingdom of Heaven’s victory over evil in the cross of Jesus Christ. So, instead of it being a celebration of evil, as most suppose, it is actually a celebration of the Supreme Good.
It is a short article, so it doesn’t go into as much detail as I may like, but I do find it helpful and would recommend it to anyone who wonders if they should take their kids out at the end of next month. If I had kids, I know I would!
Tim Challies’ post from last year is very helpful as well, highlighting some of the community oriented aspects of Hallowe’en that provide an excellent opportunity for Christians to get to know their neighbours.


Filed under church history, ethics, halloween, tim challies

8 responses to “Pumpkin Faces In The Night

  1. tomgee

    Hi Ian.

    While the history of Hallowe’en is important and interesting, I submit to you that the way it is currently practiced (at least in my neighbourhood), with a focus on zombies, ghouls, frightening music and decaying, dead things, that for most Christian children such an environment is not really appropriate.

    Our family has tried both engagement and redirection. We tried to take advantage of the positive aspects of Hallowe’en (mostly a chance to meet your neighbours) by placing lots of bright lights in the front yard, playing cheery music, and handing out candy to the kids and coffee to the adults.

    The results were mixed, but I think it was worth the effort.

    Last year we got together with a number of other Christian families for a Reformation Celebration, where each family dressed as various individuals from that era and told stories about important Reformers (and martyrs).

    I wrote a full post on this topic last year, in case anyone is interested in more details.

  2. Carla

    “with a focus on zombies, ghouls, frightening music and decaying, dead things, that for most Christian children such an environment is not really appropriate.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Not only for Christian children (who are prone to conflicting messages and influences) but for Christian parents as well.

    If kids want to have fun (and which kids do not?) then let them have their fun – they’re only kids once. But realistically, involving our kids in the modern theme (death, gore, fear, pain, occult, etc.) of Halloween for one night of candy & goofing off, isn’t worth it for our family. It wouldn’t be worth it for 1 minute, let alone a whole evening.

    I’ve also written on this as well (many times) but the latest is here.

  3. Rogers Meredith

    OK Ian what’s next;dancing?

  4. Ian

    Rog: You know me, I can’t dance. So if I make a stand against dancing theologically, I can hide my bad moves and sound pious at the same time!

    Tom/Carla: It is definitely an issue of discernment for Christian parents. One of two extremes are often chosen: outright acceptance of all that Hallowe’en can entail without any thought, or an utter removal from all aspects of society, from Hallowe’en to movies and playing cards.
    I do know Tom well enough to see that that he is both family oriented and community oriented. His children likely won’t look back on their lives and say, “Mom and dad needlessly kept me from fun things in my childhood.” Reformation Day celebrations are great and I would definitely try to institute them in my own church.
    But I don’t know if it’s necessarily right to say that Hallowe’en, in and of itself, is bad and that Reformation Day celebrations should be utilised merely as a reaction to the perceived evils of Hallowe’en. Especially if you consider what Jordan argues in regards to the use of ghoulish masks by Christians. All Hallows Eve is a Christian event just as much as Reformation Day. A correct appropriation of both in the minds of children will do them worlds of good in terms of understanding their own history and giving them critical thinking skills. They can both be celebrated as Christian history.
    Of course, like anything, Hallowe’en can be taken to an ungodly extreme (such as with excessive gore, for the sake of gore, etc.). Then again, so can Christmas with it’s commercialisation and materialism.
    My primary concern is when Christians make decisions based upon a perception that isn’t necessarily true. Especially when a pagan world dupes Christians into thinking it’s true.
    Thanks for commenting guys, it really is an important issue in parenting. If I’m wrong on any of this, I hope that the Lord would give me the grace to see it and act accordingly.

  5. tomgee

    I mostly agree, Ian. That is why I limited my comments to my neighbourhood. It might be different in other locales.

    I would not say that Hallowe’en is all bad. I think it can be reformed (small R). That is why I wrote about our previous experience with a hallowe’en “celebration of light”, trying to keep the good and avoid the evil.

    And, speaking of Christmas, you should see what we’ve done to that holiday! :-)

    Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever blogged on our alternative to a flood of Christmas gifts. Of course we celebrate Christmas heartily, but we don’t do gifts (only stockings). We pick another day of the year to give those gifts to our kids, so as to make Christmas a little less busy (less shopping) and a little more focused on Christ.

    I need to write that up as an article one of these days … it’s too long for a comment. As soon as I finish my Greek homework (i.e. next summer?).

    Thanks for the thoughts and the discussion, Ian, Carla and company!

    (Question: Can real Christians dance? Answer: Some can, and some can’t.)

  6. tomgee

    Nothing like a quick double comment.

    I did post an article last January describing our alternative to Christmas, if anyone wants more detail.

    (Not only do I get very few visitors to my blog, but I don’t visit it very often either! :-) Probably a correlation there….)

  7. Ian

    Hey Tom,
    Thanks again for posting, I always enjoy hearing what you have to say. It’s too bad we don’t share any classes this semester.
    Here’s a question. It is more for my own ponderings and I’d like to hear what you think.
    If Hallowe’en did originate in pagan mythology, would it be bad to go out on Hallowe’en? My thinking is that it wouldn’t, because most people today don’t think about Druids or pagans celebrating some weird ritual. As a kid, all I thought about was how cool I’d look as a ninja, and how much candy I would get.
    Is that compromise with the world or pragmatism?

  8. tomgee

    I think the history is interesting, but not particularly relevant. The way the celebration is held and the ideas connected with its contemporary practice are far more important. I think Daniel Wallace would say that we must use synchronic priority, not diachronic. :-)

    The advantage of knowing the historical background is that it may help you reform the celebration. (Dr. Haykin could probably give you a hundred better reasons for knowing the history.)

    For example, Santa is banned at our house (you probably think I’m Daddy Grinch by now), but we will happily teach the children about “St.” Nicholas (minus the St.). The same applies to St. Patrick’s day (taking the gospel to the Irish).

    I’m sorry we don’t have any classes in common, either. I’m only taking Greek this semester since I was out of work over the summer and couldn’t afford the time for two classes.

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