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The contemporary Christian often finds Halloween an uncomfortable topic. It's a bit like walking past a graveyard and detecting among the tombstones a thoroughly raucous party in progress—a bizarre mixture of horrible screams and merriment—and wondering who might have called it. What is this mishmash of innocent fun, ugly pranks, and witches' taunts? And what indeed, might be "holy" about All Hallow's Eve?

Most of us know the holiday's name was Christianized centuries back. But we also realize the event must have a decidedly unsavory past, what with the ghouls, goblins, and ghosts decorating everything from K-Mart windows to school bulletin boards. The blending of seasonal, Christian, and pagan is remarkable.

For instance, the thoughtful believer might visit a spook house sponsored by a Christian group. Should he become entangled among the screaming and often genuinely terrified thrill seekers, he may wonder about the edifying value of butcher's gore depicting brutalized humans, or vampires and executioners reaching out for one's throat. At the other end of the spectrum, he hears of parents forbidding any festivities, including the use of costumes or creatures or imagination. Were he to quiz other Christians about Halloween, he'd find an awkward vagueness, or perhaps fulminations against wickedness, or simply appreciation for pumpkins, costumes, and mystery stories.

Are there thoroughly Christian ways in which to view Halloween?

More than a thousand years ago Christians confronted pagan rites appeasing the lord of death and evil spirits. Halloween's unsavory beginnings preceded Christ's birth when the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning ...

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October 2000

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