Kelly told me one of her classmates wasn’t participating in Halloween at all, and that instead of going trick-or-treating, she’d be going over to Chuck E. Cheese that night. I told Kelly another one of her friends (one of her closest companions when we were homeschooling) also eschews all Halloween activities. I explained to Kelly that some people consider Halloween an un-Christian holiday, and as devout Christians, decide not to engage in any Halloween-related activities. There’s at least one children’s book on this theme.
I respect my friends’ wishes not to participate in anything that contradicts their values as they understand them, but I disagree with their premise. My husband, with his Roman Catholic upbringing, pointed out that Catholicism merrily absorbs all the fun things a new culture does, and makes people go to church afterwards. The wild Irish were sacrificing animals and building bonfires to honor the dead; now they go to church for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, with the revelry relegated to a sideshow. The Aztecs were having a similar festival for the dead in late July; now it’s Dia de Los Muertos and instead of having altars running with blood sacrifice, we now have altars with paper cutouts, jolly skeletons, marigolds and Christian crosses, in an alcove of the basilica.
When you worry about the pagan background of Halloween, you could have similar concerns about Christmas and Easter, both historically tied to northern European pagan traditions, but now synonymous with the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ, respectively. They’re such Christian holidays that even half-hearted Christians will show up for those church services, if they do no other. The yule logs, bunny rabbits, and eggs may still make an appearance, but they’re cultural artifacts or the stuff of fairy tales.
I may note that the Christians who pass on Halloween come from American Christian sects which may not have a Christian solemnity which coincides with Halloween. Obviously, Catholics don’t take issue with Halloween, nor do Lutherans (who celebrate Reformation Day on October 31); my Greek Orthodox neighbors spook up their house each year, and Mormons organize a trunk-or-treat behind their ward so they can hand out and see each others’ kids.
Also, Halloween, with its costumes and candy, ghouls and ghosts, is an American tradition — growing up in Germany, I only heard about it as something that was done by children in the US. The only time I got candy was when Saint Nicholas came over to my house to ask if I’d been good, and that was with the threat of having his crony Knecht Ruprecht haul me off to hell if I hadn’t been. (Although I think some Europeans now do do American-style Halloween, and Knecht Ruprecht may be a lost tradition.)
However, I do concede one point to the anti-Halloween forces. Being not as closely connected to a Christian tradition, it may be tied to a pagan holiday, Samhain, which some neo-pagans celebrate, mostly, I think, by lighting candles, having some snacks, and talking about jumping bonfires in rural Ireland. But it’s a long way away from kids doing cosplay, or from the gory blood sacrifices of pagan tradition. And I don’t think they’re a threat to Christianity.