Is Halloween Haunted By Religious Stigma?

Reported by Jen Wright

Photo by Hannah Miller

Halloween has always been a controversial holiday in the Christian community, and my family is no exception. It was always one of those “us” and “them” things; my friends were allowed to dress up and go trick-or-treating, but I was not.

My parents told me it was because Halloween “celebrated evil,” and so we would stay clear of it. No trick-or-treating, no dressing up and no “Halloween movies.” My siblings and I had to campaign for years just to be able to carve pumpkins—no “scary” faces allowed, of course.

Even though my family steered clear of Halloween, we still had an October 31 tradition, and I think it was an attempt to not make us feel “left out.”

We still get together and watch the Disney 1960 classic movie, “Swiss Family Robinson,” and have pizza and root beer floats. We have always bought candy to hand to kids who came to our door, but we were never allowed to go out trick-or-treating ourselves.

I don’t regret not spending every Halloween running screaming down the street in a witch costume, begging door-to-door for candy, but I do regret spending so many years looking down on my friends for their choice to celebrate it.

I think a lot of the stigma against Halloween in the conservative community is born out of misunderstandings about the origin of the traditions, and the meaning behind it. If you do any research into Halloween, you’ll find that Halloween wasn’t created to “celebrate” evil, but to chase it away.

Ancient Celtic and Germanic traditions surrounding “Samhain” were meant to acknowledge the presence of spirits among us, welcoming the good and chasing off the evil. People dressed up to protect themselves from evil spirits trying to possess them, and Jack ‘O Lanterns were carved to scare them off.

The conservative community has a lot of idiosyncrasies when it comes to secular culture and traditions. Another example would be the vehement abhorrence against the Harry Potter book series.

My parents banned the series from the house “because it showed magic in a good light.” Simultaneously, magic-filled series like “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lord of the Rings” were not only allowed, but I was encouraged to read them. Probably because they were written by religious authors.

I argued that magic was shown in both a good and bad light in those books, with the perspective depending on the use of the magic. If someone used it for bad, it was bad, and it was as simple as that.

Have my parents actually read the Harry Potter books? No. And still they acted on an assumption that it was bad, just like they banned the 2017 Disney re-make of “Beauty and the Beast,” because someone told them that in the movie, Gaston kisses another man. Which wasn’t true.

I’m always hearing people around me complaining about “fake news”, but what they don’t see is that so-called “fake news” can come from anywhere; all it needs is someone to believe it and not research it.

A two-minute Google search can be the difference between ignorance and truth, and as a generation with unprecedented access to information about anything, we need to take responsibility for what we believe and take time to make sure we have accurate information.

As you get ready for this Halloween season, whether or not you celebrate the holiday, take time to think about other traditions and holidays we practice. Do you really know how they started?

Jessica DaughertyComment