The email sent by the leadership of the after-school care center of our daughter informed my wife and I that they plan to ‘celebrate’ Halloween with various activities. The children would not just have one but multiple events to look forward to, incl. a little tour around the neighborhood for a bit of ‘trick or treat’. They also would be allowed to wear Halloween costumes during all of the afternoons that week.
Halloween has become a tremendous success in Europe over the past 20 years. While still barely noticeable when I moved to Switzerland in 2001, it’s everywhere today. And like with so many worldly things that have become ‘common’ over the past 30-40 years, Halloween also followed a pattern of desensitizing (making it appear positive/harmless), and displaying as normal. Beyond that, it’s of course a massive money-making machine for producers of outfits etc. In the US alone Halloween brings in between 8-10 billion USD every year.
For many of you reading this and coming from a country or culture where you grew up with Halloween, you might wonder why I’d take the time to write about it here. For others, Halloween, while obscure, might seem harmless and no big threat to anyone. After all, who really believes in ghosts, witchcraft etc. these days?
‘Halloween’ comes from the ‘All Saints Day’ celebration previously called ‘All Hallows Eve’. A remembrance of the martyrs, which eventually turned into ‘Halloween’. So where then do all the death-related themes come from? As Christianity was spreading across Europe the church would deliberately place holy days such as All Saints Day, close to formerly pagan festivals to provide ‘a counter-offering’, so to speak.
In the case of Halloween this would have been festivities late in the year, when the days got shorter, bringing darkness and prospect of winter. Symbolically, this time is linked to the idea of ‘death’ – symbolized by skeletons, dark/black colors, and other symbols. Specifically, between the 31st of October and the 2nd November the Celts for instance believed that the ‘curtain’ dividing the living and the dead would be lifted, allowing the dead to wander around the living as ghosts.
Some engaged in divination and communication with the spirits of the dead or demons to understand the future. Proper ‘treatment’ of the spirits through the offering of food was required or they would otherwise ‘trick’ you in all sorts of ways. One way to prevent this was to dress up like ghosts or scare the ghosts away through grotesque faces carved into pumpkins lit by candles.
For us a Christians the question should naturally be, what does the bible say to such things? Well, quite a bit: Firstly, in Deuteronomy 18:10-13 we read about the Lord finding these things detestable. In 1 Samuel 28 we witness King Saul consulting the spirit of Samuel through a medium, knowing fair well that he’s acting even against his own decree (and the law of God, of course).
Knowing the above to me is enough to understand that Halloween is not the harmless, spooky fun that the world around us presents to us and in particular to our children. I believe that as Christian parents, uncles/aunts, god-fathers and -mothers, etc. it’s our duty to protect our children from such influences as much as that’s in our power.
That doesn’t of course mean to simply prohibit things. But to engage and educate our children on topics like Halloween, telling them why and how we as Christians look at things differently and how we have a positive message to a confused and lost world trapped in darkness. – That is of course the personified light of the world – Jesus Christ – (Jn 8:12), who’s the counter to death by being the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6).
It’s topics like Halloween – but not only – that moved a group of parents at IBCZ to create a new activity group called ‘Kingdom Kids’. Through this group we as parents want to take on the responsibility to prepare and thereby protect our children as they are exposed to a daily bombardment of worldly, seemingly harmless messages. We will of course also focus on the Christian holidays to deepen the kid’s understanding about these, and how they still are not just true, but also part of the hope-providing good news we as Christians are called to share with the world.
We aim to meet roughly about every three weeks at the weekends for some activities instilled with relevant bible teaching. The age range is from six to 12 years so the group can be large enough, and the kids can also learn from each other as they grow up together over the years. The condition for participating kids is that their parents will be actively involved in designing and executing the activities. I truly believe that we as parents will learn a lot about the topics we pick, about ourselves, and of course our kids.
Can it be done? We believe it can! Not through our commitment as parents alone, but ultimately through faith in the promises of our Lord and God. – The same God, a Daniel and his friends, for instance, have trusted in while living in one of the most pagan societies of their time: the Babylonian empire. Their faith, too, was founded in an upbringing they had enjoyed from their parents, who had taught them about an all-powerful, trustworthy God who keeps his word, no matter our circumstances.
So come and join! The battle is on!
Grace and peace,
Kingdom Kids meet next on 31 October at IBCZ, after the service.
Please reach out to me at email@example.com with any questions.