Here is a great post on the history of Halloween over at Mablog. Many Christian holidays have pagan names like Easter. You know, that Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn, Eostre, who was worshipped in the month of April by my ancestors. We kept the name but changed the feast to worship the creator instead of the creation. Worked out really well. No one today, except a tiny band neopagans playing dress-up, thinks they are worshipping Eostre on Easter. No one thinks the bunnies and eggs have any spiritual significance other than giving kids a good time doing stuff as they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. So Easter is a Christian holiday with a pagan name, although the name has been effectively co-opted and presents no problem. Speaking of her is like mentioning Epaphroditus in the Bible–the guy whose name indicates he used to worship the goddess Aphrodite via prostitute at the temple in Corinth. His name is a sign of gospel conquest, and surely Eostre is free to worship Jesus as well.
Other holidays like Halloween actually have Christian names but have come to be thought of as pagan festivals. As the article cited mentions, All Saints’ Day is November 1st, the day when the church remembers all those who gave their lives in service of the gospel. In Britain this day is called All Hallows’. All Hallows’ Eve, from which we get Halloween, has become for some the equivalent of Mardis Gras before Lent, a day of dissipation in preparation for self control, however much sense that makes. For Halloween, the idea is to let the devils run wild before the saints arrive. The corruptions of Mardis Gras and Halloween are similar in this respect. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but when I was a kid I don’t remember Halloween costume shops displaying kinky underwear in the front window.
But however that is the case now, we shouldn’t let the abuse of the thing take away its good use anymore than frat boys drowned in Pabst Blue Ribbon should discourage tossing a good pint. Clearly it’s a good idea to avoid the macabre and perverse on Halloween. My wife pointed out to me a fake corpse hanging by a rope from the side of a house in our neighborhood. Why do people otherwise not nastily morbid do this stuff for “fun” once a year? Yay death! Obviously we want no part of that, but we do want to celebrate what we believe, namely, that God has poured out his Spirit on billions of Christians, past and present, who are given the righteousness of Christ and therefore made saints. The defiled woman has become the purified bride of Christ, and leave it to the kids to really get into it.
October 31st is also Reformation Day, the day Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenburg. The Reformation was as much a reformation of church culture as it was of church doctrine, so it’s fitting that we make this day a celebration that spills out to our neighbors and friends. Marriage (and its bed), food, drink and fellowship fell out of the Reformation. I would argue for fun costumes, loud and interesting, and better candy at your house than your neighbor’s. I love greeting people at the door, taking the kids around, and celebrating. It’s like saying Merry Christmas to people. some who don’t know what they’re celebrating or intentionally aren’t. I still want them to have a merry one whether they do or not. Same here. Happy All Hallow’s Eve, Merry Reformation Day, and Happy Halloween!