"Christians don't celebrate Halloween," my daughter was told by a classmate the other day. I find it amazing that an 8 year old can speak for the millions who profess to be Christians, but he is, of course, just saying something his parents told him.
The issue of Halloween in the church is about as sticky as laffy taffy. You have one side which equates trick-or-treating with devil worship, and the other side who sees it as a harmless day of fun. Kids don costumes, they walk to the neighbors houses and collect handy. That's about it. Not a cauldron, frog, or chant in sight.
When I grew up, my mom, a church-going Christian woman, made our Halloween costumes with an old 1958 Singer sewing machine. She put a lot of time into it. The results were amazing. Betsy Ross in 1976 stands out in my memory. Often my brother and I would have costumes with the same theme. One year she even made us witch and devil costumes-- it is a miracle she wasn't excommunicated for that! Why I can even recall a Halloween parade at our Christian school where we wore our costumes in 1st grade and marched around a field and had a little party.
But somewhere along the way, things changed. Halloween became evil. Some churches shunned the idea of Halloween, choosing instead to have Fall festivals. The kids gathered at the church, played games and ate candy, and maybe even donned costumes of their favorite biblical character.
The only missing ingredients- the neighbors and the name.
"Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 19:19) I think the mingling and socializing with neighbors is one of the best parts of Halloween. Too many of us don't know our neighbors anymore. Maybe, just maybe, the experience of trick or treating could be used to be "salt and light" to our neighbors instead of hiding out in church basements.
And you know what Shakespeare said about names- "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet". -- It doesn't matter if you Christianize Halloween and try to give it a holier name- you are still celebrating Halloween.
You can celebrate St. Patrick's Day and not be Irish.
You can celebrate Thanksgiving and not be a pilgrim or a descendant of one.
You can celebrate Valentines Day and not believe in the Roman mythology which created Cupid.
You can celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday and not be African American.
You can celebrate Halloween and not be a devil worshipper, or believe in ghosts, or even care about the original meaning of the day.
For most holidays, aside from Christmas and Easter which have deeply Christian meanings, the intent seems more to have an excuse to break from the mind-numbing routines and do something a little out of the ordinary and have fun. To enjoy life, family, friends and usually, some food.
Maybe some people just need to do more celebrating and less judging. More reaching out and less hiding out. More love and less condemnation. There are battles to be fought in this world, and this one isn't really worth it.