Ghosts are dangling from neighborhood porches. Scarecrows and pumpkins litter lawns, assorted witches fly their brooms into sturdy tree trunks, and costume stores have sprung up all over town. Love it or hate it, it’s almost Halloween.
When it comes to celebrating Halloween, Christians are incredibly polarized. Some (such as the Church of England) consider Halloween to be a “religious festival just like Christmas Eve.” Others condemn the holiday as pagan and satanic.
Many churches eschew Halloween in favor of a “harvest festival” or other more faith-friendly reason to dress up in fun costumes and consume fists full of candy. While a harvest festival is fun, I have an alternate suggestion.
The word Halloween is a contraction of All Hallow’s Eve—the night before All Hallows, a.k.a. All Saint’s Day. And All Saint’s Day has been around for over a thousand years. Why make up a new harvest holiday (especially since we already have Thanksgiving a few weeks later) when we already have a holiday focused on God and the church?
Last week I had some fun with some famous and not-so-famous saints. Since I wrote that post, I’ve been thinking… maybe we’re missing out here. Most Protestant churches believe in the sainthood of all believers, and All Saint’s Day is part of the church calendar in Protestant denominations. Anglican and some Lutheran churches retained the holiday after the Reformation. Methodist and Wesleyan churches keep it as a day to honor all believers, especially those from the local congregation who have died. Special prayer, hymns, and other rites are often included in the service. And the celebrations extend beyond the church building. In many parts of the world, people visit cemeteries on November 1. It may be s a solemn, prayerful occasion or a celebration that includes a picnic, loud music, and even firecrackers!
Here in the U.S., November 1 is mostly devoted to sweeping up demolished pumpkins, taking down decorations, and maintaining your sugar high from the night before. Outside of our churches, no one even remembers that the day is special. Maybe that’s because there is no retail benefit. Except in Mexican communities (where Dia de los Muertos celebrations include candy and decorations), All Saint’s Day doesn’t involve buying decorations or gifts, so there’s no advertising and no profits to be made.
Well, I hate to see a perfectly good holiday going to waste. Instead of trying to Christianize Halloween, why not celebrate All Saint’s Day? We have days honoring political leaders—Washington, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr., for example. We honor mothers and fathers. Why not honor great Christian men and women, those who could say, like Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ”?
We could learn about faithful missionaries, humble servants, martyrs. In these days of church celebrities—especially fallen church celebrities—these stories might provide more godly examples of how to live as followers of Jesus. If we really want to dress up in costumes, how about dressing up as an admired Christian—perhaps Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, or C.S. Lewis—and learn from their lives?
We could celebrate our own status as saints, redeemed by sacrifice, being made (slowly, and not without struggle) into imitators of Christ. November 1 is our day! How’s that as an excuse for a party?!
To take it one step further, why not spend Halloween praying against the powers of darkness and spend All Saint’s Day celebrating the Light?
What do you think? Should we celebrate All Saint’s Day? And if so, then how? What traditions should we include or invent? How can we use this holiday to glorify God?