I can discern at least four approaches Christians might take to the Halloween question.
1. Full Participation. Those who take this approach typically argue that dressing up and eating candy are "good, clean fun." If there is a dark history to this "holiday," it is no longer relevant today because people don't think of Halloween in those terms. Both Danny and I grew up with this mindset. My family dressed up and went trick-or-treating until I was 11 or 12. I was even a witch one year! When I was in junior high we started to become aware of the reality of Satan and his work in the world, and the idea of pretending to be witches or ghosts very quickly lost its appeal.
2. Alternative Events. In the Pacific Northwest, it's very common for churches to offer an alternative event where kids can come and have fun without the danger of trick-or-treating through dark neighborhoods or encountering scary costumes. When Danny and I moved to Charlotte we were surprised to find that no churches in our area offered alternative "harvest" events. This forced us to rethink our own stance towards Halloween. We could either hide in the back room or participate.
3. Missional Participation. We decided then that Halloween was an opportunity to build memories with our neighbors, deepen our roots in the neighborhood, and minimize the "weirdness" of Christianity. The first year, we gave out mini water bottles to trick-or-treaters with a printed labels that read,
"Thirsty from all that candy?
'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water
welling up to eternal life.'"
- Jesus (John 4:13-14)
4. No Participation. And that's why we're toying with the idea of having a simple family night on Halloween. Why participate at all in a "holiday" that celebrates what is dark and gruesome and scary? Our Jehovah's Witness friends seem to have happy, well-adjusted children, even without letting them trick-or-treat. Will our children really be worse off if we abstain?
I'd like to suggest a couple of questions that Christians could be asking as they wrestle with this issue.
What does Halloween mean in our context?
What will our level of participation communicate to our neighbors?
How does our level of participation affect children (ours or those we come in contact with)?
Would Jesus be comfortable joining our family on Oct 31?
Most importantly, how can we represent him well this season?
There is not one right answer to these questions. It will depend on your situation and the specific sphere of ministry to which you are called. As you discuss these issues, you might find the following Scriptures helpful: Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Romans 14; Philippians 4:8; 1 Peter 4:14-16.
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him."