Trick-or-treat with a clean conscience

The darkness attached to Halloween is absent in popular contemporary celebration of the holiday, so Christians should feel free to participate.

Andrew Oxenham, Writer

On the night traditionally referred as All Hallow’s Eve, legend has it that the spirits of the deceased wander the earth. In order to keep away evil ones, families would carve out a pumpkin and place a candle inside of it in order to frighten away these ghoulish spirits.

The tradition looks quite different now. Jack-o-lanterns still play a small part, but the most common sight is hundreds of children, teens and young adults dressed up in costumes walking from door to door, knocking on said door and shouting “trick or treat!” The owner of the house then (apparently deciding to go with the “treat” portion) gives candy to the eager kids. Sounds harmless, right?

Determined naysayers and cautious Christians often point out the Celtic origins of Halloween, noting that many of the practices seen today are throwbacks to Druidic rituals of the Celtic era. In addition, the religion of Wicca uses Halloween as a day for practicing demonic rituals and celebrating death.

The argument runs something like this: “A practice that is inherently worldly and celebrates things a Christian is against should not be celebrated by Christians and therefore one ought not participate in Halloween activities.” This claim has some merit to it. Tacit consent may be as problematic as explicit consent. With a little more context, however, one can see things in quite a different light.

Contextually, Christians often take pagan traditions and seek to redefine them to mean something completely different. Take Christmas trees for example: Early on, Christmas trees were used for pagan practices but now they represent a Christian holiday; a celebration of the birth of Christ. The second argument, that of tacit consent, takes a little more context but is also a bit too negative.

First, it appears (at least from an initial study) that the rituals of Wicca have two essential features that Christians participating in Halloween do not possess. The first is intentionality. Spirits do not normally possess the average man. One has to willingly open oneself up to possession. Christians participating in a customary dress up ritual do nothing of this sort. The second essential feature is a theme of darkness. The religion of Wicca is characterized by dealing in things of the occult: pentagrams, demons, etc. When dressing up for Halloween one is not actively participating in dark themes (nor should one) and thus seems to be safe from any kind of tacit consent.

Although the argument “well, everyone else is doing it” is a terrible base of proof for any argument, in this case participating in a harmless American tradition, as a Christian, is perfectly acceptable and appropriate. Thus, justifying abstinence from Halloween on religious grounds is wrong; it is merely religious posturing.

Now if your plans for this October 31st include relaxing on a couch, drinking apple cider and watching a movie, then have at it! Choosing not to participate in a holiday celebration is perfectly acceptable. But if this Halloween the inclination strikes you to grab your favorite pair of spandex pants, throw on a cape and grab as much candy as you can, do so! Remembering this context of Halloween will allow you to eat your favorite candy with a clean conscience — even if your mouth is covered in chocolate.

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