On Holidays, Costumes, and Innocent Fun
A Note from Pastor Fred
It is becoming increasingly common to hear Christians place much importance on the fact that holidays such as Halloween and Christmas have some ugly chapters in their history. And it is true. There are associations with everything from paganism to occultism to Roman Catholicism. And it is true that Halloween is increasingly used for the advancement of the so-called black arts. And it is further true that Christmas has pagan and superstitious skeletons in its heritage as well. And it must be admitted that the world has done about all it can to remove anything "Christian" from both Christmas and Thanksgiving. Many Christians are urging their brethren to dissociate themselves from these holidays, because for many people they have become a good excuse for a party and nothing more – and often much less.
I understand that reasoning, and I am sure that much of it stems from an honest desire to remain un-contaminated from worldly ideals. But, I'm not at all sure that the non-observance of any of these "holidays" is at all required of the Christian. Let me explain.
First, let's take Halloween. I am not convinced that it is sinful to allow our children to dress up in silly costumes and go out to collect candy on October 31 each year. I am not comfortable with our society's increasing fascination with the dead and the devil, etc., on this day, but I don't think this makes "innocent" fun on the evening of October 31impossible. Nor do I think it matters what the history is – as interesting as it may be. We must not participate in what is itself sinful, but I cannot see where any Biblical injunction forbids costumes and candy on any day, including October 31. And so it seems to me that this must be within the scope of Christian liberty. I would caution against any fascination with what is in itself wrong or even dangerous. But I just cannot see how this disallows all costumes and candy. And I think we should be extremely careful not to add to the Scripture's catalogue of sins.
Thanksgiving? There is probably no more "Christian" holiday than Thanksgiving! But this holiday is also being increasingly paganized by our society – be sure to notice all the news items about the Indians and their celebration customs which you will see next month! But even so, few Christians yet will argue that it is wrong to have turkey dinner with the family. And that is as it should be. We should not be surprised when the world behaves like the world. And with the full realization that there are no "holy days" in this age, we may be sure that most any excuse to have quality family time is a good one.
So then, what about Christmas? It is true – it's history stems from compromises with pagan holidays. It is true that even the name reflects Roman Catholic theology – "Christ Mass." I don't like that. It is also true that we cannot be sure at all that Jesus was born on December 25 – in fact, I rather doubt it. And again, there are no holy days in this New Covenant age. And of course Santa Clause himself is a myth. But the question is this: is it therefore wrong to decorate, exchange gifts, party, celebrate, and get together for family dinners on December 25? Hardly. Personally, I'll take most any excuse for family fun. And I thoroughly enjoy giving gifts to friends and family. And, yes, I'll confess – I don't mind receiving gifts either! Further, I am glad to see families gather together in love and happiness at least once in the year. In fact, I cringe when I hear Christians denouncing the observance of Christmas; the world looks on with wonder – "Christian Scrooge!" – and common ground is needlessly lost. Moreover, I also cringe when I see parents and husbands withholding this opportunity for fun from their families. "No decorations!" "No tree!" "No Santa in this house!" and so on it goes. And I fear that hard feelings are needlessly created when so much good could be accomplished by taking advantage of the season.
Have I reversed the argument? Am I now arguing that the observance of Christmas is a Christian duty? Hardly. But if you detect here a warning against any legalistic spirit, then you are reading me correctly. Legalism is deadly. And I do wish many Christians would fear it more than they fear Santa. I have yet to see where the little Santa decorations in our house have hurt my children. But I have seen many times where legalism in homes has run children away.
Personally, I'm not into decorations. If it were up to me to get them up, they'd be gone forever. It's just not my thing. But I do enjoy seeing them! But my family enjoys it – and they have free reign. I will not add to God's catalogue of sins, and I will not make restrictions where God does not.
So, my counsel concerning holidays and costumes and customs and traditions – do as you like! Help yourself! Have fun! Avoid that which is sinful at all costs; but in all other things, make up your own mind. And please, allow your brother the same privilege.