I grew up among the Igbo of Eastern Nigeria where there is a celebration similar to Halloween. During this event, masquerades of all looks – pretty, good and ugly, parade the streets of the villages, visiting homes, dancing and entertaining people. These masquerades are believed to be “Spirits” of the ancestors.
According to the resurrected Lord in Luke 24: 23 - “…a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” but these “Spirits” from my ancestors receive gifts of corn on the cob and money. If no one is looking, they eat too! I remember one of my childhood mates named Harriet chasing one of the good looking “spirits” around because she was convinced that the masquerade was Christopher, her senior brother. Normally, these masquerades will chase you and flog you if you try to get closer them but this particular spirit was too kind to Harriet, an evidence that she was probably right. The point here is that this practice is popular among Kids and adults as well. It was fun watching them dance and being chased around.
Growing up in a conservative Christian family, my parents forbade us from participating in this celebration. We were told that we were not to participate in “pagan” traditions and that as a Christian; that we must separate ourselves from unbelievers for that is the will of God. They quoted 2 Corinthians 6: 15 for us: “..What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?”
Other Scriptures include Isaiah 52:11 “Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the Lord”
Because of what my parents taught us, we did not participate in the Masquerades because we believed it was sin to do so. It got to the point that even the masquerades marked us out and never entertained us as they would do others.
Since I migrated to the US and got married to a culture that likes the fun of Halloween, I struggle yearly with finding the biblical grounds to celebrate Halloween in good conscience. Having kids that want to have fun and would not want to be excluded have not helped my struggle. Over the years, I have been associated with churches that would have “Hosana Night” or Alleluah Night” on the night of Halloween. As a pastor, my church has hosted “trunk or Treat” events yearly and I found myself participating as well. Though I dressed sometimes like Moses and other times like Abraham, it did not diminish the internal questions that I have as to whether a Christian should participate in this event.
After many years of reflection on this matter, I have come to Paul’s conclusion that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” (1 Cor 1: 4); that Halloween Night can be redeemed just like the days of the week, Monday – Sunday, have been redeemed to become days that Kids and adults can have fun to the glory of God without having a battle of conscience. I recommend that Christian leaders come up with a God honoring name for the Halloween Night and let the kids have some fun. If we cannot all accept “All Saints night” because it sounds “too catholic” or “reformation night” because it sounds too protestant, we can find a neutral name and basic format to which every church will be encouraged to subscribe. I believe that this way Halloween Night will be redeemed to be a night in which Christians can do all things to the Glory of God.
Then, we can in good conscience be guided by the words of Colossians 2: 16 - 23
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath …”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rev Joshua Amaezechi, an ordained Minister in the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA), is the President of the LEMA Institute. He works as the Lead Chaplain at the Kalamazoo County Jail, Michigan through the Forgotten Man Ministries