How to Discuss Halloween Images with Kids
This article was published by Angie Mosteller on October 14, 2014 and is featured at Crosswalk.com.
Let’s face it, whether we celebrate Halloween or not, we cannot ignore the images that surround our children during the season. Our neighbor’s front yard may be decorated with witches, monsters, and ghoulish jack-o-lanterns, our grocery store may display hanging ghosts and skeletons, and our child’s classroom may be garnished with cats, bats, and spiders. So how can we pro-actively discuss these Halloween images with our kids?
It may help to begin with some background on the history of Halloween. Contrary to popular belief, Halloween was established as a Christian commemoration (see the article, “Is Halloween Pagan in Origin?”). In summary, Halloween, the eve before All Hallows’ or All Holies’ Day, was meant to be a celebration of holy Christian men and women who had died. It should come as no surprise that a holiday associated with death would develop a dark and superstitious character among non-believers. After all, death is mysterious and terrifying to those who don’t know the gospel. So, as you discuss a variety of Halloween images with your kids, remember that they often afford the perfect opportunity to contrast the Christian and the non-Christian views of fear and death; it is a chance to emphasize the hope that we have in Christ!
Though a child’s age will certainly determine the simplicity or complexity of a conversation, here are some general thoughts on how to discuss some of the more common Halloween images . . .
Witches most likely came to be connected with Halloween for two reasons: (1) Witches and their “craft” are associated with darkness, and Halloween marks a change in season to an increasingly dark time of year, and (2) Witches have a supposed ability to communicate with the dead, and Halloween was established specifically as a holiday to remember the dead.
Images of witches during the Halloween season provide an important occasion to discuss the dangers of witchcraft. Kids (particularly teenage girls) are often lured into witchcraft that purports to be “good” or to use “white magic.” However, witchcraft of any kind (even simple charms or divinations — seeking to know the future) makes us extremely vulnerable to demonic spirits.
God expressly forbids the practice of witchcraft:
“Let no one be found among you . . . who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12a).
I have long been intrigued by the monstrous looking gargoyles that decorate medieval churches. Though some historians claim that these creatures were made by superstitious Christians in an effort to drive away evil spirits, I wonder if they had a different meaning. Perhaps medieval Christians recognized that God could redeem all things – even the most grotesque. And, since the beauty and artistry of so many medieval churches was found on the inside walls, perhaps there was a deeper message that ugliness on the outside was not necessarily an indication of what could be found inside.
We naturally associate beauty with goodness and ugliness with evil, but is that how God sees the world? The Bible tells us that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Images of monsters may be a perfect opportunity to teach our kids not to judge others by their appearance. A deformed person, a “monster,” by the world’s standards, may have a beautiful heart, while a beautiful person may have a wicked and “monstrous” heart. We will all see things as they really are when Jesus returns to judge the world.
In my view, images of ghosts afford an ideal occasion to discuss the reality of the spiritual world which is so often neglected or ignored in a materialist (believing that only material, tangible things are “real”) culture like ours. Remember that we all have a ghost (or spirit), and when our bodies die, our spirit will live on. In a biblical worldview, human spirits do not remain on earth to haunt or to wander — our spirit will either enter the presence of the Lord in heaven (if we have put our hope in Christ) or be cast into the hell.
As for the numerous accounts of ghosts and hauntings throughout history, I believe that many of them are demonic. In Deuteronomy 18:11, God expressly forbids us to consult the dead. It opens the door to deceptive spirits. If “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), why not expect his demons in any form — not only a shadowy or terrifying figure, but as a departed loved one or even an innocent child who has passed away? What better way to gain our trust in order to deceive us about the afterlife or some other aspect of our biblical worldview.
4. SKELETONS AND TOMBSTONES
Generally, after deterioration, all that is left of our dead bodies is a skeleton and/or a tombstone. I have already mentioned that, for Christians, our spirits go to dwell with Christ in heaven. But this is only a temporary state. God’s permanent plan for us is to live for eternity with new, glorious bodies on a new earth (2 Peter 3:13) – one in which there is no longer sin, pain, or death. Skeletons and tombstones are a visual reminder of our bodies (or ashes) that sleep, or rest in peace (R.I.P.), until Christ returns to clothe us with new bodies:
“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
In the British Isles, the term jack-o-lantern originally referred to a night watchman or a man with a lantern. The first known use of the term to refer to a carved vegetable lantern was in 1837 America. The tradition of carving lanterns probably came from the British Isles where there was a long tradition of using turnips, beets, and other vegetables for this purpose. These immigrants to North America would have found the large, native pumpkin especially well-suited for carving. While people in the British Isles likely used their carved lanterns for outdoor activities in the fall, there does not appear to have been any particular association with Halloween. This connection seems to have developed in North America and was first recorded in an 1866 Canadian newspaper.
As with other aspects of Halloween, dark and superstitious elements have made their way into this custom, and often pumpkins today are carved with gruesome images. If you choose to participate in pumpkin carving, this is a great time to encourage your kids to carve something artistic but not creepy. There are also creative ways to use the pumpkin carving process as an analogy to what God does in the lives of believers. Here is a resource for Pumpkin Carving with Bible Verses.
6. CREATURES (Cats, bats, spiders, etc.)
The color black has a natural association with the Halloween season as the days become shorter and the darkness of night increases. As a result, every type of black creature (black cats, black bats, black spiders, and black ravens) can be found in Halloween decorating. Additionally, creatures associated with the night, like owls, have become symbols of the holiday.
Throughout history, various superstitions have been associated with these creatures, but for the Christian, there should be no occasion for superstition. These creatures were made by God, and we can celebrate the creativity of God in the variety of creatures that he has made: “How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalm 104:24).
The Bible makes clear that demons are real, and that our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). But be encouraged, their power is no match for God. In the second preface to his book, Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis addresses the question of whether he believes in a literal Devil or not:
“Now, if by ‘the Devil’ you mean a power opposite God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No. There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite, No being could attain a ‘perfect badness’ opposite to the perfect goodness of God; for when you have taken away every kind of good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself), there would be none of him left.
The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God and, as a corollary, to us. These we may call devils. They do not differ in nature from good angels, but their nature is depraved. Devil is the opposite of angel only as Bad Man is the opposite of Good Man. Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael [the archangel).”
Many people hold the erroneous view that Satan is somehow the opposite or counterpart of God. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Satan is a created being, arguably the most powerful of God’s creation, but he is accountable to God, and his judgment is near (Revelation 20:7-10).
As for the red suit, horns, and pitchfork – Christians have characterized demons in ridiculous costumes for many centuries as a way to demonstrate that they need not be feared. They are destined for certain defeat.
In conclusion, since we cannot avoid the many dark images of Halloween, I hope that these ideas will help to spur meaningful spiritual discussions with your kids!
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Some of the content on this page is drawn from a Rose Publishing pamphlet, Christian Origins of Halloween; it has a copyright © 2012. You may freely use this content if you cite the source and/or link back to this page.