Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Redeeming Halloween for a Higher Purpose

Recently, Inglewood Elementary School in Lansdale, a suburb of Philadelphia, PA decided to cancel a parade and other annual Halloween celebrations.   In a letter to parents, the school administration explained that celebrating Halloween promotes religious beliefs and therefore violates school policy. 

I am saddened at the prohibition of prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and other aspects of religious expression in the public classrooms of America.   However, the recognition of Halloween activities as being “religious” in nature is at least consistent with prohibition of Christmas and Easter celebrations in schools.  

New Yorkers celebrate Halloween in Greenwich Village.  
(Photo:  Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images)
Halloween is indeed a holiday [“holy day” or “day set aside for religious observance”] with significant religious elements.  Like any other holiday, Halloween can be celebrated in a variety of ways, and it is not the purpose of this article to condemn the holiday in all of its manifestations. However, there are thematic elements in Halloween that are troublesome.  In his article, Christianity and the Dark Side—What About Halloween? Albert Mohler cites Harold L. Myra of Christianity Today who explains the pagan religious origin of Halloween:

More than a thousand years ago Christians confronted pagan rites appeasing the lord of death and evil spirits.  Halloween’s unsavory beginnings preceded Christ’s birth when the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves.

Halloween not only focuses our attention on the “dark side” of the spirit world, but it also presents a materialistic philosophy dressed in the alluring appeal to all ages through candy, alcohol, exotic costumes, wild parties, and the like.  According to Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY October 24, 2012, Halloween is second only to Christmas in consumer spending for decorations, and the increased spending is due in large part to the take-over of the holiday by adults.  Horovitz explains:

A decade ago, fewer than three in 10 costumes purchased for Halloween at were for adults. Now [2012], it's more than six in 10. It should be no surprise that consumers will spend an average of $123 this Halloween, more than twice the average $53 that they spent on it a year ago, reports American Express Saving & Spending Tracker.

Dr. Mohler assesses how Christians respond to the excesses of Halloween as follows:

The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday. Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?

Della Rose picks out her pumpkin at Trabbic Farm
How should we then live in the October season of witches, goblins, corn mazes, and candy?  After all, many of us have good memories as kids and as parents of making our own “trick-or-treat” costumes, our own candy, our hot cider, and our own brand of fun during the chilly October nights.  I for one believe Halloween can be celebrated in ways that are wholesome (Hum! When have I last heard that word?); and, that create the blend of good fun, activities, and treats we all enjoy.  Allow me to share our story.

For several years, it has been our family tradition to take our grandchildren, Caleb, Kiara, and Della to the Trabbic Pumpkin Farm.  The experience is enjoyable, educational, and inspiring.  It is enjoyable, because there are lots of things for children (and adults) to do--petting animals, climbing on straw, corn maze, and refreshing cider and donuts, etc.  It is educational to learn fun facts about pumpkins, honeybees, chickens, and other farm topics.  And it is inspiring to hear Mr. Trabbic share how the labor of him, Mrs. Trabbic, and their sons is only part of what makes a good harvest possible.  It is God Who must provide the rain and weather conditions necessary for their crops including pumpkins.  They politely point out that God is not only Creator and Sustainer of Earth.  He is also the Author and Protector of human life including the unborn, and humans are stewards of both the land and life in all its forms. 
Creating a memory of fun at the Trabbic Farm

In spite of “comments” by readers of an excellent food blog, the Luna Pier Cook, regarding the Trabbic Farm warning of a possible “offensive religious message,” our annual visits to the Trabbic Farm are anything but offensive.  Indeed, such warnings seem much more appropriate for those who plan to attend Halloween events, which often promote a very dark and even demonic religious agenda.

Thank you, Trabbic family for inviting us to direct our thoughts toward "Whatsoever is true, honorable, right, and pure...lovely, of good repute...excellent and...worthy of praise...(Philippians 4: 8)"  Thank you for pointing our attention heavenward to our gracious Creator and Sustainer from Whose hand comes “every good and perfect gift” (James 1: 17) including the sun, rain, and weather conditions necessary for the food we eat.  Thank you, Trabbic family, for your hard work on the land God has entrusted to you, and for your positive testimony to visiting adults and children even in years when your crops do not turn out so well.  May your tribe increase.


Dave said...

Hi John! It's me, LunaPierCook ... My name is Dave Liske, we live in Luna Pier, MI, and that's my food blog over at which you mention here as the "Trabbic family web site". The Trabbic family web site is actually at:

My food blog is nothing more than that, a place I talk about food and have since 2006 when I began it over on the Monroe News web site. We visited Trabbics in October 2007, I wrote about it on my blog ... and ever since, because Trabbics didn't have a web site until last year, that entry on my blog pops up on Google as the first search return. That's really why you ended up commenting there.

Now, the reason your comments inadvertantly hit a nerve with me (which I do apologize for BTW) is simply this: I am a Halloween baby. Because of that birthday I get very protective of the "holiday" which, to me, is more of a mild observance with a largely misunderstood history anyway. I've had fun with it all my life, 52 years this time around, designing and running temporary haunted houses for people to enjoy, putting together events with all the lights on for more tame get-togethers, or going the other way by scaring kids right off my front porch ... It can certainly be a whole lot of fun.

Continuing our conversation, over on my food blog you wrote the following: "My concern is toward the attitude of some that an observance with a religious (particularly Christian) message should somehow be labeled with a warning. If that attitude is allowed toward some observances of holidays, than we must allow that warnings are legitimate toward other observances that have religious or spiritual overtones regardless of how positive or negative they may be. Does that make sense?"

As a lifelong Lutheran (with mild deviations to other Protestant groups along the way) I fully understand the connection between Halloween and the Reformation. I mean hey, I even have a copy of the Book of Concord. Not many people understand this anymore the way they did even 25 to 30 years ago. In fact, it seems to me that a lot of churches no longer even acknowledge that connection.

The fact is, if you don't know that connection, Halloween is nothing more than scaring people OR dressing in some kind of costume and distributing candy, maybe cooking off some pumpkin, and having a caramel apple. Halloween becomes nothing more than a "fall festival".

The question then becomes this: Is that really so wrong? Is it wrong to not acknowledge that October 31st is an observance of the Reformation by Martin Luther? I honestly don't believe it is wrong. What happened was that Luther basically told the Roman Catholics they were wrong on how they worship(ped), packed his bags, and didn't let the door hit him on his way out. While I don't doubt that it was the right thing for him to do, I do have issues with taking one day out of the year to, well, rub it in their faces. Us Protestants probably wouldn't like it in the other direction.

As far as warnings for the Christian messages on Trabbics' property, I don't believe it to be necessary. Granted, if that really offends someone their welcome to leave. But I'm really wondering ... The people who want the warnings ... Do they also shop at Bronner's in Frankenmuth where the devout Mr. Bronner absolutely insured the Christian message is out there? If so, do they then complain to the Bronner's family for what they're posting on their own propety? I've never heard of such a thing happening. Such an act would be ludicrous.

Also ... and here's where I put it all together ... Bronner's 265,000 square foot "CHRISTmas Wonderland" (as they call it) also contains a Halloween area. Are there waarnings against demonism, witchcraft, sorcery and the like anywhere nearby? Nope, not one. Why? Because it's not actually necessary.

Does that make sense?

John Silvius said...

Thanks Dave, for your correction. I like your blog for its appeal and information on the farm, and will keep it and include the Trabbic website for current information to visitors.

I will respond in more detail soon.


John Silvius said...

Good morning, Dave. I'm back after a good night's sleep and have taken time to review your comment. Thank you for taking time to expand upon both your faith and your somewhat unique connection to Halloween. You have articulated very well, perhaps better than I did, the balance individuals and families should strive for with ANY holiday or observance. You have taught me that Halloween should not be singled out as a holiday that would cause us to slip into the "dark side." We can have fun at Halloween in how we "observe" it just as at Christmas or Easter. The key is in being "observant" from a worldview (in our case, Christian) that recognizes the spiritual reality of the battle between God and His righteousness on the one hand, and Satan/unrighteousness/pride/rebellion on the other. Given that ones faith and worldview may differ from another, it is for us to be sensitive to differing beliefs and be Christ-like in our conversation with those who may disagree, or in the case of children, may be young in their faith. I hope and trust that our exchange has demonstrated this belief. Thanks again, and feel free to respond further. John