Halloween is troublesome for me — I won’t lie.

On the one hand, I like the decorations and fun surrounding it. I like the look and smell of carved pumpkins, the fall colors, cooler weather, hay rides, candy corn and hot cocoa.

In other words, I really enjoy this time of the year, and Halloween is sort of the pinnacle of autumn — a glowing orange jewel on a seasonal string of pearls.

So what’s the problem? Simply that I do not want to so much as tip my hat to the devil. I don’t want to celebrate him, wink at him, or commemorate him in any form or fashion. He’s not my friend and I’m not his. We are eternal, mortal enemies. I want to help families and he wants to ruin them.

So what’s a preacher boy to do? I’ve been informed that Halloween is a celebration of things dead, evil and perhaps even satanic. That’s a shame. Not that Halloween is such a celebration, but that I was told it was. See, when I was a kid we didn’t know all of that. We just knew we got to dress up once per year, trick or treat, laugh at the silly and scary decorations and eat lots of candy. I remember having Halloween parties at our church, complete with spook houses and Jack-o’-lanterns. My brother and I would set up our Sunday school class with a bowl of grapes for “eyeballs,” spooky music, and jump out in costumes to make the girls squeal. It was grand fun and we looked forward to it all year. Being scared in a fun way is always a thrill.

But then I grew up and learned that Halloween is an ancient holiday begun by Druids and Celtics to celebrate the dead. Never mind that the name is from “All Hallows Day Eve.” For the Catholic Church, it was the evening of the day to remember first those who were martyred for the faith and eventually, for all the saints who have died. Like Christmas, Halloween is a conglomeration of traditions, celebrations and ideas.

So, can’t we just celebrate the “saints” part and ignore the evil aspects? It’s a little tricky because many of our traditions, like carving pumpkins and trick or treating, come from the ancient, ungodly celebrations, but I think we can do it. I think we can have fun on Halloween without giving the devil any due. I think we can have good, clean fun. I think we can add autumn memories, do things together as a family and enjoy the seasonal decorations.

My hope is that, as a society, we can infuse the holiday with so much goodness eventually the ungodly aspects are mostly lost or forgotten. We can hold church or community harvest parties and dress like heroes instead of demons. Instead of following the lower aspects of the culture, we can lead it in new and positive directions.

I don’t want my kids to think they cannot have any fun because they are in a Christian family. That might drive them away from the faith and it wouldn’t even be true. Wholesome, clean fun is the best kind. Not only that, but I believe faith should be a celebration, not a dirge.

I think the reason Halloween is America’s second favorite holiday is because we all need to have some fun — perhaps blow off some steam. Let’s do that. Then, when someone asks why, we can tell him we are celebrating all of the good things about this time of year. And besides, we dig hot chocolate.

— Craig Harris, pastor of Montalba Christian Church, writes a weekly column for the Herald-Press in Palestine, Texas. You can contact him at www.apparentlyso.net. ©1999-2006 cnhi, inc.

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