Why All Good Christians Should Celebrate Halloween

October 31st. For most Americans this date means one thing: **Halloween.** Costumes, candy and trick-or-treaters spending to the tune of $2.5 billion making this holiday second only to Christmas in marketing revenue. But good Christians don’t celebrate Halloween. Or do they? Some Protestants may prefer to call it Reformation Day, for after all, that is the date that Martin Luther nailed his Theses to the door at Castle Church in Wittenberg back in 1517. That does pre-date the first usage of the phrase “All Hallows Eve” (commonly known now as Halloween) which didn’t emerge until some 40 years later in 1556.[1]

Ironically, most good Christians that I know won’t be celebrating either Reformation Day or Halloween. Instead, they will be showing support for their local church by attending a “safe and sanitary” alternative called a Fall Festival. This alternative allows good Christians to invite their neighbors and friends to come to the church and get candy, play games and have some good, clean Christian fun. No pagan witches and goblins allowed. But they can dress up as David or Moses or some other biblical character. All the fun without the pagan revelry, right?

I would like to propose another alternative – that good Christians should indeed celebrate Halloween. I think that they should stay home from their church’s alternative Fall Festival and celebrate with their pagan neighbors. Most of them wouldn’t have come to your Fall Festival anyway. And those who did would’ve stopped by briefly on their way to “real” trick-or-treating. I’m sure that some of you reading this blog might be more than a little unhappy with my proposal at this point, but stick with me for a moment.: The reason I propose that good Christians celebrate Halloween and stay home from the “Christian alternatives” is that Halloween is the only night of the year in our culture where lost people actually go door-to-door to saved people’s homes . . . and you’re down at the church hanging out with all your other good Christian friends having clean fellowship with the non-pagans.

Living with missional intentionality means that you approach life as a missionary in your context. I lived with my family in South Asia and we had to be creative and intentional in engaging our Muslim neighbors. We now live in the USA and we still need to be creative and intentional. That’s why for the past 2 years we have chosen to stay at home and celebrate the fact that Halloween gives us a unique opportunity to engage our neighbors. In fact, last year we had over 300 children and 200 adults come to our doorstep on that one night. And we were ready for them!

We had a tent set up in the driveway and gave away free coffee and water to the adults who were walking with their children. Our small group members manned the tent and engaged them in conversation and gave each one of them a gospel booklet (“The Story” gospel booklets are available with a Halloween distribution rate here: http://story4.us/offer). The children ran up to our door while the parents were waiting and got their candy, along with gospel booklets (even if they were dressed as witches or goblins!). In all we gave away more than 500 pieces of literature that night, each with our name, e-mail address, and a website where they could get more info.

I sure wish more good Christians would celebrate Halloween this year by staying home and meeting their pagan neighbors – an option which I believe surely beats the “good Christian” alternative.


[1] Simpson, John; Weiner, Edmund (1989). Oxford English Dictionary (second ed.). London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861186-2. OCLC 17648714.games for mac

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  63Comments

  1. Phil Wages   •  

    Good word Dr. Robinson! What if just 1/3 of Baptists did this in their communities? The gospel would be presented and demonstrated to tons of people in our communities.

  2. Nathan   •  

    I must say, my first impression was… another Christian going liberal! But indeed you transitioned this note with biblical elegance. I’m sending this email to some church members back home. Thanks!

  3. rynoyak   •  

    Amen!
    Where would Jesus be? Where would Paul be if all the Ephesians had a day they went door-to-door?
    “Intentionality” is what it’s all about based on “perspective”: from the proper understanding, an eternally minded, glory-of-God-concern, we should be leveraging our lives to that end.
    And who doesn’t love candy!?

  4. Shane   •  

    As students we are not allowed to do this in campus housing.

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  6. Jeff Parsons   •  

    I’ve been doing this for about 8 years now at my house. We set up a table with coffee and hot chocolate and I light my outdoor fireplace in my driveway so people can get warm as they walk with their kids. It’s made for some great conversations and my house has become, “the home of that preacher guy that gives out hot chocolate every year”. I wouldn’t trade it for a 1000 fall festivals.

  7. Warren   •  

    @Shane – Maybe it’s different in your context, but trick-or-treaters usually haunt suburban neighborhoods, not university dorms. If you’ve got friends at church who are hosting a halloween outreach, go hang with them.

  8. John   •  

    Actually, my church will celebrate Reformation Day. I’ll follow my tradition of taping (not nailing) copies of the 95 Theses on the church doors so people can read them on the way into the church. I’ll also use Reformation Day lectionary readings for the morning Scripture reading and sermon text that day.

    “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

    Rather insightful of that ol’ pagan Cicero, I think. I think our congregations need to hear more of our history as believers in Christ and how the gospel affected believers throughout the ages of the Church. We possess a timeless message from an eternal Savior that has delivered believers from sin and death for centuries.

    I suspect we’d witness a growing level of maturity in our congregants if they understood our history and learned that the Holy Spirit didn’t cease moving between the last “amen” of the Revelation and the arrival of the Puritans in New England in 1620. I also think we’d see far more cooperation across denominational lines as we realized that God worked in the world prior to 1845. Who knows? As we comprehend the move of God throughout the centuries, we may in our time move closer to fulfilling Jesus’ prayer in John 17: “That they may be one.”

  9. TBrown   •  

    There’s nothing more hideous and scary than a bunch of arrogant christians trying to hand out gospel literature to Halloween trick-or-treaters. Really, if you’re that kind of a christian, please just go hang out at the church ‘fair’. The coffe and conversation, however, are a really nice, neighborly gesture. Too bad you couldn’t just leave it at that.

  10. Andrew   •  

    I think this is a great idea especially if you live in neighborhoods that are conducive to trick-or-treating. I will say that the ‘Fall festival’ activities are hugely successful in reaching unchurched young kids and their families where we are. In fact most parents (Christian or not) are more stoked about taking their kids to one or two safe locations then wandering around dark cold streets. You can’t say that done right these aren’t equally missional.

  11. alvin reid   •  

    Having driven by your home on Halloween and seen the children so excited at your home, I can say in fact this is a great ministry you have created. It is in fact possible to be a non-arrogant Christian and show your love to neighbors. Carry on friend!

    I would submit the harrows of hell are far more “hideous and scary” than a well-intentioned effort at touching neighbors with the love of Christ.

  12. Will Rieske   •  

    This is a great idea. But did it have results?

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  14. Lin   •  

    TBrown –

    You assume that the Christians are arrogant, and that the gospel literature was in some way forced upon the trick-or-treaters.

    Let me ask you: if you believed that the Gospel was the only truth, and you were commanded by your God to proclaim it, could you simply leave it at coffee and superficial conversation?

  15. JimmyD   •  

    G-d bless the pagans!

  16. Tom   •  

    This is a great idea, but don’t discount the fall festivals either. Our church has a fall festival that draws hundreds of unchurched parents and kids. Everyone must register in order to get in, and in the weeks that follow, outreach teams visit the homes of every family who registered. They are also put on the prospect lists of Sunday School classes for prayer and further follow-up. So, if done right, festivals can be very missional. But, again, I think your idea is a great one.

  17. ba   •  

    Don’t neglect the possibility of making your own twist to this idea. My wife and I stay home on halloween and hand out candy (the good kind – don’t be cheap) attached to a small contruction paper design with a 20-30 word message about what the term “halloween” really means (“all hallows eve” as mentioned above, which is the eve of “all saints day”)and what the saints taught about Christ. I don’t expect conversions at our doorstep, but it gets truth in their hands. What they do with that is between them and the Lord. The coffee and donuts are a very nice touch we might add in this year.

  18. Candice   •  

    I think if Paul were alive today, he’d be out beating the streets evangelizing every day, and calling Christians to avoid Halloween and be separate from the pagan culture.
    Have your neighbors over for burgers sometime to build relationships instead of compromising on this issue. My two cents! :)

  19. AStev   •  

    As a kid in New Jersey, we gave out tracts with our candy at Halloween for years. We never got a response, which was somewhat disillusioning to me as a child, although as I reflect back who knows what sort of seeds were planted?

    Still, I wonder if there may be a more effective means of evangelism in that context. Perhaps a combo of the above techniques? Rather than handing out tracts, handing out flyers advertising a church Fall Festival that takes place the next weekend AFTER Halloween (rather than competing with Halloween). The reverse side of the flyer could still be a tract or something.

  20. ba   •  

    Candice,

    no compromise here. We’re not attempting to placate the spirits with candy. We’re not dressing as demons/ghosts so they’ll pass over us. We’re not celebrating or recognizing the pagan holiday (sahween or Samhain).

    Rather, instead of letting satan have one day of the year to himself while we sit on the sidelines, we actively storm the gates of hell. BTW, that’s how the days we chose celebrate Christmas and the resurrection came to be as well (they were both previously pagan holidays).

  21. Aaron   •  

    The flip side of this coin is that we don’t just get church members at our fall festival. There are hundreds of kids and adults from the neighborhood that come by and stay for a long time on church property. This provides opportunities for prolonged contact in some cases and opportunities to share the gospel as well.
    If all we had at our church’s fall festival were our church members and members from other churches, I would be inclined to agree with you. However, due to the overwhelming community involvement, I’m inclined to attend our fall festival again this year and be intentional and missional at our fall festival. I’ve often assumed that fall festival was merely a “good Christian” alternative as well, but our experience has proven it to be a great means of outreach.

    AC

  22. Elizabeth   •  

    My only difficulty with this is my season of life…five kids from birth to seven. There are some pretty scary costumes out there these days, and I don’t want to deal with nightmares… :/ For those of you who do this, do you wait until your children are older, have somebody else watch them, take the risk???

  23. JD   •  

    Of course this had results!! Seeds were planted in every life. Everyone who read the booklets or had the Word of God shared with them, had seeds planted in their hearts!! Even if no one gave their lives to Christ right there that night, seed was planted. This may just be the planting of the seed;God may use others to water, fertilize it and someone else to harvest the fruit of that seed. The Word of God went forth & it will not return void, it is ALIVE & full of power.

  24. Krystal   •  

    Just a quick question, how many people emailed or wrote or called as a result of the booklets you gave away? I would really be happy to know. thank you.

  25. Brian C   •  

    the last thing i would ever do is hand out a tract or booklet. Leave literature handing to the JW’s… no one wants that. Instead, leave it at coffee and candy and just relationhip-building with the neighbors! Gospel conversations come best in relationship, right?

  26. Julie   •  

    My husband asks the trick-or-treaters who came to our door simple Bible questions such as ‘name one of the ten commandments’ or ‘who built the ark’. This has been very effective over the years with our repeat ghosts and goblins. The parents of one neighbor boy (not Christians) told us that her son had been reading the Bible leading up to Halloween night. If one of the kids answers correctly we give him/her more candy!

  27. Shelly   •  

    As church planters in Seattle, Wa I 100% support your theory of staying home and reaching your neighbors. Here in this area of the country, Halloween is a big deal and people are definitely easier to reach when they are coming to your door. My husband says it best…the mission field is as close as the door next to yours….Evangelism here in the Northwest is very relational and more effective through personal one on one conversations. The literature wouldn’t go over so well here for numerous reasons, but a great idea.

  28. Chad   •  

    My family chooses not to celebrate Halloween. We live in Utah (yes i am a Christian, not Mormon) and they take Halloween to a whole new level. This culture is enamored with death and this holiday is bigger here than Easter. In fact, Easter is incredibly downplayed here and they don’t even have Easter services.

    Anyway, we choose not too mostly to help teach our young children about celebrating life and glorifying God not the impact of sin. So we take our kids to a hotel swim in the pool and we go to the store and pick out GOOD candy (not the junky stuff people don’t like much anyway that so many people give out to trick-or-treaters). This is a way for us to celebrate life – our kids love the pool and good candy.

    Which brings me to my real point. Christians, if you choose to celebrate and give out candy. THEN GIVE OUT THE BIGGEST AND BEST CANDY YOU CAN FIND because this is a way to show that our God is the best and the best gifts come from Him. Just a thought.

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  30. brian   •  

    well said, I agree.
    we can’t withdraw

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  32. Cole   •  

    We realized last year that our Fall Festival was expensive and wasn’t really being evangelistic. Instead we did “Trick or Treating with a Twist.” We had a cookout at the church and then split into groups to go around our neighborhood. The twist was that we had a gift for each house we visited which include Scripture and an invitation to our church. It was a great outreach and we’ll be doing it again this year.

  33. Jacob   •  

    I am surprised every year at how big of an issue this is. I love it when churches act as if it is a sin to “celebrate” Halloween and yet have “fall festival” or “HOlyween” in their parking lots on October 31st. Call it whatever you want,dress up as any Bible character that you want, give out all the gospel tracts that you want, or those testa-mint candies… you are still celebrating Halloween.

    I like this post though, but i have to also say why does there always have to be a gospel tract involved? Where do you get Love your neighbor but make sure you give them a tract? I am sure all of you roll your eyes when you see mormans or ( insert another religion other than yours here) walking up to your door. Why do you think Christians are any different. Why is loving your neighbor not enough? Why cant we actually be different from others by loving without agendas and without trying to convert people so we can brag to our congregations about it the next sunday?

  34. George Robinson   •  

    Thanks for all of the comments. It’s pretty evident that I’ve struck a chord with this post, albeit for some of you it seems to be off-key. Let me address a few of the common questions raised:

    1. I’m not advocating a celebration of the actual holiday of Halloween here. The “celebration” is that in a culture where most people don’t know their neighbors, this particular cultural phenomenon provides a unique opportunity to do so. In a nation of gated communities, invisible fences, and understood “No Trespassing” etiquette, local churches have an opportunity to equip their members to live missionally.

    2. I’m not saying “Fall Festivals” don’t have a place. Maybe we should consider doing them on a different date and take advantage of both the attractional (Fall Festival at the church) and missional (living out the gospel in our neighborhoods) aspects of outreach. It just seems like such a shame that on a night when people are actually coming to your home, the lights are off and nobody is home. That communicates something to those living around us; namely that we are not really a part of the community. I have pastored a rural church and hosted Fall Festivals myself and it does work in mostly rural areas. But most of those who attend attractional events are from a churched background of some sort.

    3. My use of the term “pagan” to describe unbelievers and the unchurched is not intended to be derogatory. It is a simple (and slightly antiquated) way of distinguishing between the Christ-follower and their neighbor (who may in fact be a member at the local church, but never attends).

    4. Results from our outreach? I can’t say that neighbors have come beating my door down to hear more. However, I can say that via established feedback loops (see the free accounts at which maps everyone that visits your site) I’ve seen over 1000 people in the last year go online and read further anonymously. In addition to what we do on Halloween, we have been able to have several of our neighbors over for dinner and have definitely established ourselves as a legitimate part of the community.

    5. For those of you who think that sharing the gospel or giving out tracts in this context is “arrogant”, I will simply say that I’m glad someone lovingly confronted me. How else does one become a Christ-follower unless their unbiblical worldview is challenged and toppled with a call to repentance and faith?

    Bottom line to all who call themselves “Christian”, live with missional intentionality every day of the year. And when unique opportunities arise like Halloween don’t just do what you’ve always done. Pray and consider how to live out the gospel in word and deed.

    Thanks again for reading!

  35. Michael Millar   •  

    This is a great outreach alternative. The issue of to do nothing or to do “something” during Halloween will be one that will never be resolved. However, we are commanded to be sanctified(set apart from the world). Anyone can see that your outreach is “Set Apart” from the world. God bless!

  36. sue   •  

    i like your idea about staying home. I just don’t want to take my kids treak or treating at houses that are decorate as if the devil lives there and that is why I take my kids first to the church alternative and than stay home and pass out the best candy of the street.

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  38. Aaron Swain   •  

    Great Article, Dr. Robinson. This year Grace Baptist has decided to use its LifeGroups to do just what you are talking about throughout Wake Forest and North Raleigh. It’s definitely a paradigm shift for us.

    Although, having grown up in a house located in the middle of a corn field, Fall Festivals were where the rural kids went to get their candy. So in some contexts, I think Fall Festivals can be missional if done right. But in general I think you’re exactly right – Fall Fests are typically safe retreats and entertainment for the saints instead of missional outreaches.

  39. Sylvia Basham   •  

    We actually started doing this very thing several years ago when our unchurched neighbors invited us to go with them. We had invited them to several outings, but it was the first time they asked us to do something with them. It turned into a yearly date, with some of our small group peeps and even our pastor joining all of us. Glad to get my neighbors around those folks, even if we had to go door to door begging for candy to accomplish that :-)

  40. Sheree   •  

    Frankly I like the idea of the church goers taking gifts door to door during Halloween. Obviously, due to the nature of most costumes now-a-days, its a job for the more mature people (perhaps teens and older). The church could hold a festival for the kids having some adults stay behind and babysit in a safe fun environment while the outreach teams go door to door. I have noticed over the years (back when we did trick-or-treating) that there are homes that all the kids flock to year after year and those are the homes where they hand out full size candy bars or cans of pop or something really cool like that. I would suggest, if you decide to stay home and be a witness to others that you spend a year or two building up your reputation in the community by doing something similar. Oddly enough this builds up a type of relationship with the children and their parents. I remember one family in particular who really made an effort to speak to the parents and the children and made a serious effort to remember the kids. They could often tell you what costume you wore the year before and would comment on how much you’ve grown. This builts a mild relationship showing people that they cared. Then a few years after that they would ask if you knew where you would go when you died, etc… and would work up to the plan of salvation. They led several kids to the Lord this way and parents too. And never once were they pushy about it. I have to say it was suprisingly effective.

  41. Jimmy   •  

    I too have struggled with what to do with Halloween. I read this article at time when I’m really burdened about how my local body doesn’t engage the community. That, coupled with conviction about the fact that I’ve looked like a large portion of the rest of my local church and haven’t really engaged and made relationships with my neighbors, has moved me to me repentance and action. Thanks for the idea. I think there’s a hundred ways to take advantage of these unique opportunities God gives us in the middle of living like missionaries every day. This is one among many. One that my SS class is taking on. Praying it’s the beginning of a grassroots movement that makes ministry the responsibility of the individual and not the staff member. Soli Deo Gloria
    JC

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  43. JDS   •  

    I think as Christians we are called to be salt and light. What better night to spread a little light than on Halloween. I liked everything about your suggestion, with the exception of passiing out literature. I do not want to be known on my block as the crazy preacher man who gives out tracks, but what an awesome thought if I were known through the neighborhood as that preacher guy who loves kids and famlies so much he passes out the full sized candy bars! Let’s keep our light in the community and not withdraw it into our secluded little worlds.

  44. Seth Strong   •  

    The kids are going to learn to avoid your house, but that is clever thinking.

  45. Michelle   •  

    Our church’s main focus is outreach not in a preachy way but in a service way. We do many “Community Days” throughout the year in neighborhood parks, serve at the homeless shelter, mentor children in schools, and many other things. So I don’t feel bad at all not celebrating Halloween (even the word creeps me out to be honest) and hanging with my kiddos at our Church Fall Fest which is free and open to the public. I come from a Wiccian background, so I really cannot stand that particular day. For me, knowing the history of the day, it’s just not something I care to take part in at all. I will reach out to the sinners in my community with love and not judgement every day of the year…to celebrate a holiday with such pagan roots and rituals isn’t happening in my house.

  46. Patrick Mitchell   •  

    But if we’re all at home who will run the bouncy house at the Fall Festival???

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  48. Lyle   •  

    Why are we always scared to be labeled the crazy preacher guy who passes out tracts. Wasn’t Jesus the crazy preacher guy who got murdered on the cross?

  49. caitlin   •  

    I am really horrified that people are suggesting that loving your neighbor is not best done by sharing the gospel with them. Handing out the biggest candy bar and calling that “love” is proof that this culture has indeed warped our understanding of pure and genuine neighbor love. Hand out a tract, share scripture, be neighborly, but whatever you do, don’t be ashamed of the gospel! It is the only power to save the lost.

  50. S Mosley   •  

    Thank you for posting this! This post was the inspiration for our church (a very new church plant of 7 weeks!) doing this exact thing in 4 neighborhoods in our community! We just got back tonight, and we’ve already heard great reports of what God has done! One of our men was able to pray with a gentleman and his son. Another one of our families who hosted the ‘tent’ at their house was able to meet one of their neighbors. They had wanted to meet this particular neighbor for months! We were blown away by HOW appreciative and grateful everyone was that we were giving away coffee and hot chocolate. It was such a natural, non-threatening way to engage our community with the gospel. I told my husband (the pastor of our church plant) that I hope this is our new Halloween tradition!

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