What should churches do about Hallowe'en?

Secular celebrations of this Christian festival – All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day – are getting ever more lurid, dark and tasteless. Who would believe retailers could market a Hallowe'en Anne Frank costume? Or one of killer Oscar Pistorius, complete with gun? But it's the world we live in.

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Set against that sort of thing, attempts to attract visitors to historic houses by advertising their ghostly connections seem quite innocent – and of course there's the usual crop of horror film re-runs on TV.

Some Christians worry about the occult associations of Hallowe'en, without always thinking it through very carefully. If the devil is active in the world, there's no particular reason to think he is busier on any one particular night – fears about Satanic activity at Hallowe'en have very little to do with the Bible and a lot to do with Hollywood, in fact.

But we are quite right to be concerned at the relentless focus on evil that has taken root in the modern Hallowe'en. For Christians, evil is real – but God is stronger. There's nothing wrong with having our spines chilled by powerful story-telling that portrays the reality of the dark side of life – as long as it's set in the context of Christ's victory over the darkness.

So many churches will want to celebrate Hallowe'en next week – but in a way that doesn't deny the traditional darkness, but redeems it. Here are three ways churches can get involved:

1. Involve the community

A church in Dundee is planning a free community event with refreshments and games – and 400 pumpkins. Pioneer minister at St Luke's Church Stewart Budden wants to get local people carving them as a means of outreach.

2. Hold a Light Party

Several organisations have resources to give children a more wholesome experience at Hallowe'en, helpfully listed by the Evangelical Alliance. One of them is Scripture Union, which says: 'Remember, though, that to celebrate it richly and deeply children need a chance to confront the darkness as well as celebrate the light.' Christian educator Gretchen Wolff Pritchard comments, 'Christians, of all people, should be able to admit that, yes, there most certainly are monsters under the bed ... The world is a scary place.'

3. Create a witness

A church in Cheltenham is planning a display outside its building in which pumpkins will be carved with smiles and Christian symbols rather than terrifying grimaces.

4. Make it useful

World Vision has created a 'Pumpkin Heroes' resource that helps children have a really good time, while at the same time giving them an insight into the lives of other children less fortunate than themselves.

And above all: remember that Jesus is Lord, and that 'the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it' (John 1:5).

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