So I have a question for you all…assuming I do have readers :), what is the meaning of the American holiday Halloween? Yesterday children all over the country dressed up in various costumes and went around asking for candy, trick-or-treating. I volunteered at my church’s Harvest Festival, an event where children came and participated in a bunch of different games and activities, winning candy as they played.
Halloween is associated with the occult, haunted houses, horror movies, and witchcraft. My question is this…does that mean that witchcraft is actually an element of American culture, often buried beneath the surface and ignored, but surfacing for the month of October? In many places in Africa, witchcraft is a dominant cultural framework, and is generally considered responsible for any illness, death, or other calamity. When your child gets sick, the question is, who cursed her? Tanzania, Mombasa, and other places are renowned for their witch doctors and the power of their spells. Of course this is a rather complex topic…and I’m oversimplifying a great deal, but this topic is one that will be completely foreign to my American audience. Some of my friends in Kenya tried to persuade me that Halloween is evidence that Americans actually do believe in witchcraft, just deny it most of the time. But honestly…I don’t agree. In my life, my experience growing up in America, witchcraft is generally viewed as a joke, a historical anomaly that the winds of modern life have banished. Its not real…and you would never assume that someone actually cursed you, of course there is a purely medical reason. I get malaria…it was a mosquito, and that’s it. Now my views have changed somewhat since I’ve lived in Kenya…and I believe that the demonic is real, and that at times witch doctors or others could channel or direct demonic forces…I’ve heard too many stories to believe that all of it is fake. But I’m not getting into that all that here…instead read what I wrote about spiritual warfare or the context of Kenya.
So why question is…what does Halloween mean? Is it a holiday that Christians can ‘redeem’ by presenting alternative activities, as my church did, leaving out the name Halloween and any occult or demonic imagery? Is a holiday that should be ignored, celebrating instead (as Protestants) the Reformation tradition, the day the Luther posted the 95 theses? Does Halloween represent a holiday mainly for kids where you dress up (and a bonanza for TV series, dressing up all their characters each year), have parties and get candy? Or does it reveal the suppressed beliefs of Americans in witchcraft? I’d love to hear what you think…just leave a comment!!