I have written on this topic before, here. That was 3 years ago. As I re-read that post, I find that I am rather abrupt and even downright snarky. I won't say I'm older and wiser now, but I do like to think that maybe, just maybe, a am a little kinder and gentler. So let's see if I can present this topic in a less snarky manner...
Is Halloween a pagan holiday and therefore should be avoided by Christians?
Yes and no.
There are many sources that discuss the origin of Halloween as a holiday. I'm not going to rehash it here but if you are interested, a good link is this one from The History Channel. Bottom line is yes, there is a "pagan" element to Halloween, but like anything in our modern society it has become a multifaceted event with many different ways of celebrating.
Most of you reading this post are probably concerned about your children. Even if you don't celebrate Halloween in any form, your kids are going to be exposed to it. Whether it's through public school or on the playground or maybe even in Sunday School. Other kids are going to be excited about it and might get your kids wound up about it.
First of all, let me assure you that simply being exposed to something "bad" (apart from a communicable disease) will not harm your child. What important is your reaction.
It's important to talk to your kids. It's always important to talk to your kids, but when it comes to something that is a matter of belief, it is vitally important. As a Christian you eventually want your children to share your beliefs. In my opinion, one of the best ways to make sure that DOESN'T happen is to not explain things to them. If your word on Halloween is "it's bad, that's why", then you've invited your child to figure it out on his own. This rule also applies to drugs, R-rated movies, and honestly everything. Simply saying "no" is seldom enough for any child. This applies to explaining why you do or do not celebrate a holiday in the same way as their friends do.
So what about Halloween? Is it to be celebrated or avoided?
In my opinion, Halloween as it is currently celebrated by children in the United States, bears only passing resemblances to any historic celebrations and no real relation to them. The costumes, the trick-or-treating, the parties with bobbing for apples, the spookiness, the 'haunted houses'...I don't think any of these present any real danger. The worst that will come out of it is a tummy-ache from eating all the candy. In fact I believe Halloween is one of the last things, in our society with our tech that is increasingly isolating us, that encourages a spirit of community participation.
However, that is just my opinion. As with anything as a parent, you need to decide what is best for your children and your family. But the worst thing you can do is ignore it. Even if you home school, never watch TV, and pretty much isolate your children, they will still know about it. And to a kid, dressing up in a fun costume and getting free candy sounds like just about the most fun they could have.
That being said, let me share a little bit about my own experiences with my children and Halloween.
I grew up in a small midwestern town. Halloween was never discussed as being anything "bad". In Cub Scouts, we went trick or treating for UNICEF, collecting money. When we formed a youth group at our tiny Methodist church, we had Halloween parties. Costumes, candy, hot chocolate at the end of the night... I have fun memories.
When I was older I still dressed up in costume and answered the door on Halloween. I was kind of a dork, but still it was fun to me. In our small town it was easy for kids to hit every single house in the whole town, and everyone knew everyone. On those nights I probably answered the door close to 100 times.
I don't remember what I did after high school and before I had kids. But when my first child was born, my wife and I went Halloween crazy. We dressed her up and went trick or treating even though she was too small to understand what was going on and we didn't really know the people in our neighborhood.
The next 14 years were like that.
In 1999, my daughter and I were baptized. Shortly after that we moved to Denver and joined a new church.
In our attempt to fit in with our new church family and also to live our new Christian life, my wife and I came to the conclusion that Halloween was best to be avoided. I can't remember now how exactly we came to that conclusion or what we told the children, but Halloween was completely avoided. Our church's youth group did a "Neewollah" party - no costumes or jack-o-lanterns or anything like that.
We stayed with that church for the next 4 years. Meanwhile, we had had more kids and they were at the age when Halloween sounded pretty awesome. We thought we were doing the right thing for our kids.
Then we moved again. New state, new town, new church. Our new church, even though it was the same 'denomination', had the opposite view of Halloween. They put up a big carnival, with candy and games and costumes and pretty much going all out.
How could this be? we wondered. Same church, just different place and a completely different view of Halloween. Why the difference?
It was then that I realized our mistake.
I was a computer guy. To me everything was logical. I kind of prided myself as being the kind of guy that never took anyone's word for anything and always researched and hunted and figured things out, always getting to the facts of anything. In my own decision to become a Christian I researched history and philosophy and other religions.
We hadn't done that with Halloween. We had just followed.
So we talked. And read. And decided that Halloween was pretty much harmless. While we would stay away from some of the more pagan-ish costumes and decorations, we would go crazy with everything else.
And that brings me to my final point. Educate yourself. You're off to a good start by ending up here. I know this may not be exactly what you're looking for but I hope my story is helpful to you. And above all, do what is best for your family. You know your kids better than anyone and only you can make the best choices for them.