Halloween was once shunned by Aussies as a holiday for Americans, but now you can’t even walk into your local supermarket without coming face to face with spooky displays and advertisements for treats.
This year one in four Australians plan to celebrate Halloween, according to research by the Australian Retailers Association and Roy Morgan, with spending expected to reach an estimated $430 million. Just over half of those celebrating planned to buy “trick-or-treat” sweets, while 47 per cent expected to dress up. Four in 10 also planned to decorate their home.
Given the growing number of communities embracing these American traditions, should Christians consider taking part in order to build connections and be missional? Or should Christians continue to stand back from the pagan festival?
There may be more opportunities to witness the gospel hidden in Halloween than we realise, according to Molly Borg – mum of three young children and the founder of Woodrow Place, an online store selling Bible sensory and activity kits for young children that foster faith through play.
Here are her thoughts about responding to Halloween – with her family, in her community, and as a tool for evangelism:
How does your family approach Halloween?
“I don’t love the idea of Halloween, but I’ve never felt comfortable turning off the lights and ignoring people that are literally knocking on our door. So we choose to use this night to introduce people to Jesus and make more connections in our community.
“In the words of John Piper, ‘I’m willing to run the risk of attachment to worldliness in order to be biblically faithful in witness. [It’s] the same with Christmas and Easter and birthdays and worshipping on Sunday. All of these traditions have pagan connections’. I don’t think we have to believe in what’s going on at Halloween, but we can be the light in the darkness.
“What Halloween looks like in your home is a completely personal decision. I want to be loose and broad, and give freedom to believers to find their way to be most effective. I respect those who renounce it as too connected with evil, and I respect those who say, ‘No, let’s redeem it and penetrate it and use it’.
How do you help your children navigate Halloween?
“Before you try and evangelise your neighbours, minister to your own kids. Engage them in the word and equip them with why you are doing these things and show them how to do it together.
“When we walk through the shops, there are many scary Halloween and death props and set-ups. I use that as an example to teach my four-year-old that death is sad and not trivial. But we follow Jesus, who is triumphant over death. It’s another opportunity to speak into her life. Halloween makes light of death. It’s easy for kids to see that, so we need to actively be speaking the opposite into them verbally. Jesus is over this holiday, so this is your opportunity to teach your children about that.
“Costumes are tricky to navigate. We don’t want our girls to dress up as ghosts or the devil, because we don’t want to celebrate death. My girls are happy to dress up as angels. Other people are dressing up and representing death, but even our costumes are very different. To represent God is good, and you don’t have to miss out, but how can you use this community event to be salt and light?
“There are very few situations where you can be with your kids and train them up in evangelism. Our four-year-old helps me make the lolly bags and Bible verse toppers, and we talk about ‘What does it mean that the Lord is good?’ We also make care packages for people who are grieving – death is a real thing, and it’s not fun. I don’t enjoy teaching about death but Halloween is a good time to do that.
“We also pray with our girls and teach our girls to pray. We keep it simple. I’ve been getting my four-year-old to talk about who is in her life – she has just realised that not everybody she knows loves Jesus. I’ve been getting her to think about people who don’t love Jesus and then we pray for them and think of ways to tell them about Jesus.
“At Halloween, we say, ‘Who might come to our door? What do we do on a Sunday that they can come to? Let’s pray that when we invite them, they will come’.”
Molly Borg’s tips for making Halloween an evangelistic opportunity
- Hand out items that point people to God’s word and people. These could be treat bags with Bible verse toppers, a Christian tract and your church’s program details.
- Think about how you will represent the light. The temptation is to engage in the spooky costumes but we are people of the light, so represent that in how you dress up and dress your children.
- Some people host sausage sizzles or bring out their coffee machines. Find ways to simply love your community.
- Teach your children about All Hallows’ Eve and Reformation Day.
- Pray for those you meet with your kids. Pray for who is coming to your door and what you can invite them to in the future.