Here’s my thesis: Halloween has become more Christian than Christmas
Christians have long had issues with Halloween. We’re not sure what to make of it, we’re not sure if it’s ok to celebrate it, if we’re celebrating demons, monsters, and evil things. Michael Jackson, at the beginning of the landmark video for Thriller, felt compelled to provide a disclaimer that this video, in which he turns into a werewolf and a zombie, did not endorse the occult. For the same reasons that many Christians have felt the need to speak out against Harry Potter and Spongebob Squarepants, many churches are anti-Halloween. This is why churches have “Harvest Festivals.” Oh, they’re complete with candy and apple-bobbing, mind you, but they are NOT Halloween.
I myself have very mixed feelings about Halloween. I love chocolate, but I hate candy. Things like Jolly Ranchers, Gummi Worms, and Tootsie Rolls make my stomach turn. As far as I’m concerned, the ultimate Halloween prize is fun-sized Kit Kats. You want to know how to get to heaven? Eat a couple fun-sized Kit Kats, and in heaven you’ll be. Probably another reason for my apathy about Halloween is that I’m afraid I’ll get stuck in some strange neighborhood, far from my own, and have to go to the bathroom. You want to know what hell is like? I’m probably about 10 years old, far from home, and am told at house after house that, no, I cannot use their bathroom. That frantic run home was hell on earth.
But consider the theological implications of Halloween. Halloween is the ultimate equal opportunity holiday. EVERYONE gets candy. On the surface, it’s the picture of the Gospel! There is no checking of qualifications at the door. You come, you receive. Christmas, on the other hand… well you know the song: “He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town.” Yikes! You’d better hope that you’re on the good list, or you’re not getting any presents! David Sedaris, an amazing humorist, writes in one of his essays that in Holland, if a child is bad, Saint Nicholas and his helpers beat the offending child with a switch. If a child is REALLY bad, they throw him into a sack and take him back to Spain (which, of course, is where St. Nicholas is from). Our punishment isn’t as harsh as the Dutch one, but it’s still based on judgment. If you’re good, presents. If you’re bad, lump of coal.
James 2:13 says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” I’m inclined to translate the verse this way: “Halloween triumphs over Christmas.” Now, of course, if we can hide from Santa and his list, perhaps we’ll hear again the message of that first noel: “Unto you is born this day a savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). To give it a Halloween spin, Christmas announces that Christ is the candy: “To us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).
Merry Christmas… Or should I say Trick or Treat?