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Let’s start with a historical perspective. Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic harvest festival Samhain (pronounced "sow-Ain"). It’s both the end and beginning of the witch’s year, marking the onset of death and destruction associated with winter. At this time the power of the spirit world is supposedly unleashed, allowing spirits to roam freely about the earth. (Unless they hit the L.A. freeway at rush hour, at which point they’ll be stuck in gridlock like the rest of us.)

As for the term "Halloween," it was common for early Christian missionaries to rename—thus redefining—the pagan festivals and holidays of the groups they were trying to convert. So instead of "Day of the Dead," Nov. 1 became "All Saints Day." And Nov. 2 was designated "All Souls Day." The celebration began at sundown Oct. 31 and became known as "Eve of All Saints Day," the "Eve of All Hallows" (the term "hallow" refers to saint) or "Hallow Even." Together, these words combine to form the name Hallowe’en.

Despite ominous beginnings, Halloween evolved into and remained largely a children’s observance until the mid-20th century. It’s now the second-leading retail holiday in the U.S., trailing only Christmas. And it’s not just about costumes and candy anymore. More than 50 percent of Americans decorate for Halloween. Some even string colored lights and turn their front yards into spooky graveyards. However, while Halloween has become darker in recent decades, it’s difficult to make a direct connection between ancient Druid beliefs/customs and our modern-day celebrations.

For the average secular person in our society, Halloween is simply an excuse to dress up and party. For the Christian, however, I believe Halloween offers a unique opportunity to provide answers for a spiritually hungry generation. Granted, some Christians are not comfortable even acknowledging Halloween’s square on the calendar or participating in an alternative. I respect their opinion, but as an evangelist I think they’re missing a great opportunity to share Jesus with others. Romans 12:21 reminds us to "overcome evil with good." And I’ve noticed that light shines brightest in darkness.

When it comes to planning alternatives, you’re only limited by your imagination. Each year our ministry hosts a Real Answers Halloween Experience for teens and their parents. It starts with a weeklong outreach in public schools, as well as evening parenting seminars on raising healthy kids. It all wraps up with a Saturday night "main event," a mix of comedy, multimedia, live music, giveaways and more—with an emphasis on evangelism. Remember, participating in an alternative is not the same as celebrating Halloween and what that holiday has come to represent. The guiding principle is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

So, what do you do with the last day in October? How about the teenagers in your youth group? Why not take advantage of the interest in the supernatural at this time of year and tell others how they can connect with the ultimate source of power in the universe—the One who can enable them to celebrate all year long—Jesus! Let’s take Oct. 31 back in the spirit of Psalm 118:24: "This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it."

Steve Russo has written numerous books, including Halloween, What’s the Deal With Wicca? and Protecting Your Teen From Today’s Witchcraft.
Published October 2006