The current cultural trends for Halloween certainly leave a lot to be desired – slasher films, gory, scary, creepy, and downright gross décor, and the general acceptance of displays which glorify the genuinely horrifying (like murder and torture) all combine to make many people (Christian and non-Christian alike) uncomfortable.
There is absolutely no denying that there are strong associations between the festivities of Allhallowtide and the dead. Afterall, these feast days are dedicated to remembering those who have died. However, death and the dead need not be a source of fear, disgust, or concern for the Christian. For most of history, death, dead bodies, and graveyards were not considered creepy. Death and the dead were encountered as a regular part of life – elderly family members often died in the family home; the bodies of the dead were prepared, kept vigil over, and then buried by their family; places of burial were visited as locations for celebration as well as grief, and relics (often bones) were kept as a way of remembering and honoring the deceased.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, there is a great spiritual battle being constantly waged for the souls of this world. For the modern Christian, Halloween brings to the forefront of our consciousness the ever-present reality of the spiritual realm – angels, demons, ghosts, wizards and witches – as well mythological spirituality as manifested in our stories of “monsters.” If we allow it, Halloween is a wonderful season in which to talk to our children about these things.
First, on the fake monsters front, we have an opportunity to point out that many of the things the world refers to as monsters are merely the allegorical representations of human desires:
- When man decides to be God, he makes Frankenstein’s Monster.
- When man rejects God, he becomes a destructive beast enslaved to his passions, like the werewolf.
- When man attempts to manipulate death, he makes a mummy (living body, no soul) or a ghost (dead body, living soul). Or, if he’s lucky, he just makes a corpse or a skeleton who have no power.
- When man desires to be sustained on blood other than Christ’s, he becomes a vampire.
- When man hungers for flesh other than Christ’s, he becomes a zombie.
The word “monster” originates from the Latin verb moneo meaning “to warn, instruct, or foretell.” Indeed, monsters are ultimately warnings about what we could become apart from the Lord.
Putting aside the fictional monsters, Halloween is a wonderful opportunity to discuss genuine powers of this world. If you want to have a conversation with your children about ghosts, angels, demons, witches, and wizards, I recommend starting with Ephesians 6:12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but again the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” As Christians, it would be to our great detriment to forget or ignore the cosmic battle. Although we may not see these beings with our eyes, we can certainly see their handiwork in the world around us. There are a number of passages about the supernatural in Scripture which may be useful in this discussion with you children:
- The Witch of Endor and Samuel’s ghost – 1 Samuel 28:1-20
- The Demoniac man – Mark 5:1-20
- Simon the Sorcerer – Acts 8:9-25
- Satan – 1 Peter 5:8
- False Christs and false prophets – Matthew 24:24
- Angels – Isaiah 6:1-3, Luke 1:26-30, 2:8-10, Hebrew 1:13-14
Ultimately, it is important to conclude this discussion with Ephesians 6:13-20 – the power of being covered by the armor of God as we live in a world moved by spiritual powers.
While these spiritual forces are genuine powers in the world, they are not a cause for us to fear. Scripture tells us repeatedly not to fear for the Lord is with us. In Medieval times, Satan began to be illustrated as little red man with a pitchfork, horns, and a tail as a way of mocking him, laughing at him, communicating that he does not have power over us for we belong to the most-high God. The same is true of our portrayal of witches as ugly old women in pointed hats and ghosts as comical fancies over concerning apparitions. As we learn from Professor Lupin (speaking of wizards!) during Bogart banishing lessons, if we want to eliminate our fears, we find a way to laugh at them.
Danielle Hitchen is the author of Sacred Seasons, This highly informative and practical guide to observing the Christian liturgical calendar helps families enrich their faith as they celebrate the time-honored traditions of the church throughout the year. Experience sacred seasons together.