For many Christians in Australia, the growing annual tradition of Halloween poses a dilemma.
The day’s origins are rooted in a confusing mixture of superstition, Celtic rituals intended to ward off evil spirits, and a Catholic holiday called All Saints’ Day, honouring departed believers and martyrs.
As a result, many Bible believers struggle to decide whether to let their kids dress in ghostly costumes and join in the neighbourhood fun, or keep them home and warn them against its evil connotations.
But a growing number of believers are embracing the day as a chance to spread good news.
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One Sydney mum, Belinda, said while she didn’t really want to celebrate Halloween, she did take the chance to try and “hijack” it for good.
“We don’t go trick or treating but if we plan to be home I get a little basket of treats ready for the door knockers, with a print-out of Philippians 4:8 [the Bible’s advice on thinking about good and lovely things] attached.”
Another parent, Allison, said she and her husband had turned the day into an early Christmas-themed celebration to remind people of Jesus.
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“We let the kids put up the Christmas tree on that night and it gives a great reason to bring up Jesus when people get to our door, to hear Christmas music blasting and kids skipping around with tinsel,” she said.
“We then give them a candy cane and tell the kids that this candy is special, as it reminds us that Jesus’ blood (the red) washed us, and made us clean (the white).”
One creative woman named Trudi said she had recently moved into her area recently and planned to do “a reverse trick or treat where we take the neighbours treats to get to know them”.
“We tell the kids that this candy is special, as it reminds us that Jesus’ blood washed us (red), and made us clean (white).”
Another mum, Bronwyn, said that in aiming to “be a light” in her community she put treats out for local children, and allowed her kids to get dressed up and join in the doorknocking with their friends.
“None of us celebrates the paganism of the tradition,” she said, “they are just dressing up.
“And whilst I don’t consider this an Aussie tradition and would prefer if it had never landed, it’s here to stay. It’s not about pagan worship any more than the Christmas period, which Christians took and made as a celebration of worship to Christ. We have the same opportunity here to take All Hallows and make it All Hallelujah!”
Other families planned to hand out Christian bookmarks with lollies attached (Teresa), gospel “flipper-flapper” booklets paired with chocolates (Allyson), and lollies attached to gospel messages and kids club brochures (Susan).
“Light Parties” For Children A New Trend In Australia
In Goulburn, a network of local churches under the banner of “Goulburn Kids! United” is holding an evening event called a “Light Party” from 6 to 8 pm on Saturday.
People from seven churches are helping run the event, and there will be prizes for the best-dressed superheroes and cartoon characters, with rides, games, craft, a giant slide and a jumping castle.
Organisers Brian and Ali Champness brought the idea from the UK where they recently spent five years living and working.
They said Light Parties are a big trend in the UK, as churches wanted to provide children with a positive alternative to trick-or-treating and scary costumes.
“Light Parties are a way to provide a response to Halloween, with something celebrating light.”
“We’ve been in England for five years and Light Parties are very big over there,” Ali said. “The Scripture Union organisation has created resources for them, and lots of people from the community would come to them and the kids loved them.
“So we thought we’d start it here.”
Brian said Halloween in the UK was almost as big as Christmas.
“Halloween is the third biggest retail event for the shops in the UK, they make a lot of money out of it. So Light Parties are a way to provide a response with something celebrating light.”
Churches And Schools Respond To Halloween
One Catholic school in Sydney has adopted the celebration of “Halo-ween” where they allow children to come to school on Friday dressed as an angel, or a Bible character.
And Saint George’s Anglican Church in Paddington is taking the chance to host a gathering on Saturday from 4 to 6 pm for “Halloween craft and contemplation”.
The church’s assistant minister Byron Smith explained that they’re aiming to connect with their community by acknowledging the event.
“We are going to try to engage with our local community, even amidst the horrors of commercial tat and sugar-crazed kids in costumes (whose meaning they barely comprehend),” he said.
He said he hopes to prompt people to “remember their mortality, and … to find in Christ a companion for when we journey through the valley of the shadow of death… who says to us from the far side of death, “fear not”.”
From Halloween To “Halo-een”
For 45-year-old mother Vanessa Hall, Halloween was a reminder of cultic rituals that she was exposed to in her childhood.
To create a positive alternative for her own family, in 2012 she instigated an alternative called Halo-een, complete with a website, a video, and love-themed merchandise.
She encourages Christians not to judge others for their choice to celebrate Halloween but to instead be a voice of difference.
“We have enough fear in our world, and need some love and peace instead,” she said. “Halo-een is about giving rather than taking. It’s about being light in the darkness. It’s about love instead of fear.”
Through the Halo-een website she encourages families to wear white and angel costumes instead of black, to place white balloons on their letterbox, and to give treats such as heart-shaped chocolates and Bible verses.
She also suggests that children visit neighbours’ houses to give instead of receive, with “Love + Peace” cards, and heart-shaped chocolates as possible gifts, using the slogan “love and peace” instead of “trick or treat”.