Trick or treat?
Growing up, I remember being told by my mum that we didn’t ‘do’ Halloween because it was celebrating evil. I went into school and repeated my mum’s words and you can guess what happened. All my classmates laughed and said, ‘Great, let’s celebrate evil!’ They didn’t see the problem.
In today’s culture Halloween has grown in importance and people still don’t see the problem. They know and think less about it. Very young children go around their streets in costumes, and most people think it is just a bit of fun.
As Christians we view Halloween as harmful, but most us of us try to shut ourselves away from it and pretend it’s not happening. Is it right for us just to ignore it? If it’s not, then how should we respond?
How to handle Halloween
As 31 October draws nearer, let’s not try and forget it’s Halloween but instead remember to pray to our God and turn our thoughts to His word. To help us do that, here are some key biblical truths.
- God is light
‘This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5).
‘When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”’ (John 8:12).
- Saved from darkness
God has brought us out of, and saved us from, the world’s darkness, into His marvellous light. ‘For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light’ (Eph. 5:8; cf Col. 1:13).
- Jesus is greater than Satan
‘You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4).
- Shine like stars
We have an amazing gospel that brings life and regeneration to a ‘wicked and depraved generation’ and as we ‘hold out the word of life’ we shine with the light of Christ (Phil 2:15-16).
How to handle ‘trick or treaters’
It may seem daunting, but there are a couple of simple things we can do.
Stock up on treats and tracts
If ‘trick or treaters’ come to your door on 31 October, use this opportunity to share the gospel with them. Why not put some sweets in a ‘goody bag’ with a tract explaining about Halloween and Christianity? Here are some resources you could use.
Trick or treat published by The Good Book Company is probably the best tract I have seen, and it clearly explains the truths for younger children.
The fright of your life and Halloween: what’s it all about? (published by The Good Book Company and CPO respectively) are good for children older than ten or young teens, but they are both quite wordy.
If these tracts are not in stock, ask your local EMW bookshop to order them in or you can buy them directly from the websites, where they can be read online: www.thegoodbook.co.uk and www.cpo-online.org.uk
Stay at home and open the door
In the November 2003 issue of Evangelicals Now, Tim Thornborough told readers what he does at Halloween. Tim does something that many of us would shy away from – he actually answers the door to ‘trick or treaters’! But he doesn’t just give them sweets, he asks them a question: ‘Who do you think is the most powerful spiritual being in the world?’ Of course kids are going to come up with answers, and he says ‘no’ to most of them. So then he asks the question differently, ‘Ok, who do you think the devil is really scared of?’ By now some kids work out what he’s on about, so this is what he tells them:
God sent a little baby once, who grew up into a man. He was the most power spiritual being who ever walked the earth – and his name was Jesus of Nazareth. Every time he met a demon, it screamed and fled. Every time the devil tried to tempt him, he left frustrated. At the very moment that he’d thought he’d got Jesus – as he died on the cross – the trap snapped shut, and the devil himself was defeated. So have a good time tonight – but don’t forget you’re supporting the losing side!
He then sends them on their way with a sweet and a gospel tract. That might seem like a scary thing to do, but it is better than sitting at home with the lights off. It’s a great opportunity to spread the gospel. We shouldn’t hide from this darkness in the world. Rather we should celebrate the good that Jesus has done for us. We don’t need to celebrate death when we have the way to life.
But what do we tell our children?
If you are a parent or a pastor and you’re not sure what to say about Halloween to the children in your family or church, just tell them the truth. Simply explain what Halloween is and why Christians don’t celebrate it, but also show them the alternative life that there is in Jesus. We all need to remember that we are on the winning side.
You may have children or young people who want to go out ‘trick or treating’. If so, there are other things that you can do. How about holding a ‘Light Party’ for primary school children? This is a great alternative to the ‘festivities’; an event for church kids to go to, and to which they can invite their friends. Make the talk the focus of the evening – proclaiming the good news that Jesus Christ came into this dark world as light, to save us. Run activities and games that are different and better than normal Halloween activities. A craft made by the children is another great way to get the gospel into non-Christian homes. Light Parties are not only a distraction from the night’s other festivities but a means for children to invite their friends to a party where they have fun and hear about Jesus – what can be better!
For older young people, if the date falls at a weekend, or during half term, how about organising a sleep-over? This is basically a Light Party for older children. Or why not take the youth group round to the homes of some church members to do some ‘light-bringing’ where they do nice things for them?
If you are not able to dissuade the children in your youth group from going ‘trick or treating’ then all is not lost. One thing you can do is go to their homes on Halloween and give them a treat. You could chat to their family about why the church doesn’t celebrate Halloween, and explain that Jesus is the Light of the world. Leave them with a tract and a small sweet treat. If you suspect they are not going to be in when you call, write a short letter to accompany the tract and treat and pop it through the letter box.
Although we may dread the coming of 31 October, we should be active in helping children in our families, churches and communities understand, not just the reasons why we don’t celebrate Halloween, but also the wonderful good news of the gospel – now that is something worth rejoicing in! Let’s pray that God would use this night as a great gospel opportunity.
Matt Ingle is a former youth worker, currently studying at WEST.