In just a few days more than 160 million Americans will take part in some sort of Halloween celebration. For many, especially children, it is a chance to dress up, gobble some bite-sized candy and celebrate “imaginary spooks”.
The super-charged media holiday is almost impossible to “avoid” and we are all accustomed to the sea of pumpkins, “gory” costumes and hoards of children “trick-or-treating.”
And Halloween is big business. According to the 2011 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey conducted by BIGresearch, Americans are expected to spend about $6.86 billion on this year’s holiday.
Christian attitudes towards Halloween are diverse. Some embrace Halloween and view it as an innocent holiday which provides light relief and activities for children.
Gabriele Amorth, a Vatican-appointed exorcist in Rome, has said, “If English and American children like to dress up as witches and devils on one night of the year that is not a problem. If it is just a game, there is no harm in that.”
Others are more comfortable giving the secular holiday an “alternative Christian” spin and use the day to connect with the community and non-members by hosting fun events in local centers or within the safe haven of the church.
Many churches and Christian organizations do not have an official position on Halloween. It is up to individual members to decide whether or not they are comfortable participating or allowing their children to “trick-or-treat.”
But there are a good number of Christians who say Halloween has sinister undertones, it is a pagan celebration, which encourages children to trivialize and dabble in the occult and practices deemed incompatible with their beliefs.
Founded in 1886, the National Baptist Convention is America’s oldest and largest African-American religious convention, with an estimated membership of 7.5 million. Reverend Morris Tipton, director of media relations, at the Convention, says it is a mistake to treat Halloween lightly.
“Halloween is a pagan holiday that glorifies witches, wizards and goblins, all kinds of demonic forces that exist out there. You only have to look at the grotesque, ghoulish and devilish costumes to know that Halloween is not of God,” says Tipton in an interview with theGrio.
“The Bible says we fight against powers and principalities and everything we’re involved in has spiritual connotations. Everything is black or white; there is really no grey area. Either it is pleasing to God or it’s pleasing to the devil,” he added.
In the same stance some claim Harry Potter books, and other fantasy TV shows, explore various dark and occultist themes. Speaking to BBC News Online the Pagan Federation’s Steve Paine, has said, “They are taken as fantasy entertainment. But they do encourage people to think about different forms of spirituality.”
Tipton says many Christians allow their children to “trick-or-treat” because of ignorance or pressure to conform. “Even though many Christian children trick or treat, Christians should not participate in Halloween activities,” says Tipton.
Fundamentalists even say Christians should not put on “alternatives” to Halloween. Alternative implies substitute and assumes Christian children need something to take the place of Halloween since they will not be participating in the secular pagan celebrations.
So what are the origins of Halloween? The holiday Halloween has origins in Celtic and Roman paganism. Halloween, or Samhain, as pagans or wiccans call it, was originally a pagan holiday, honoring the dead.
The question is should we separate Halloween from Samhain and does it really matter?