Why Halloween is more Christian than Christmas

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus

Now, before I go hating on Christmas, I want to be absolutely up front about the fact that I love it. I love it as a Christian holiday. I love it as a secular holiday. I love it as a pagan holiday and everything in between (though my personal view of it lands in the first category).

As we move into Christmas, I’ll be sharing more and more about my love for the holiday. But I’ve been kinda rough on Halloween lately, so it’s time to give it its glory moment as we flip the calendar to November (!!).

After all, my job on this blog is to notice different ways of seeing things and sharing my observations with you, dear reader. That’s what I’ll be doing here…

At a glance, if I were to hold Christmas in one hand and Halloween in the other (barring that I could hold holidays in my hands) and ask you which one is more Christian, your answer would likely be…

Baby Jesus’ birthday, right?

Well, friends — today I’d like to propose to you, through a death-defying act of cultural anthropology, that Halloween is, in fact, more Christian than Christmas.

Yes, that’s right…

The holiday known for drunken debauchery, orgy-laden slasher movies, and flaming paper bags of dog poo on front porches is more aligned with Christianity than the day of ‘joy’ that is Christmas.

[For more on this and to view my source of inspiration, check out this article titled ‘Merry Halloween’ by Nick Lannon.]

Now, the brand of Christmas I’m referring to is the modern secular American one. The mainstream version of Christmas, that is, with the big guy in the red suit as the up-front cultural icon (no, I’m not hating on Santa Claus — I’m a big fan, but just hear me out).

Let’s be real here… As joyous as Christmas is cut out to be, it’s a kind of joy that carries strict conditions. There’s a big ole’ naughty and nice list where only the ‘good’ boys and girls get gifts.

How fitting this Christmastide premise is. This nails the essence of modern Christianity. The ‘good people’ get graced with gifts while the ‘bad ones’ get coal in their stockings.

But here’s what St. Paul says in the book of Romans…

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. As it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” 
 — Romans 1:17

I don’t know what your interpretation is of this, but it seems to me more like trick-or-treating than the insecure anticipation of Christmas morning.

After all, if grace comes with conditions, it’s not really grace, is it?

On Halloween, we get candy (erm, the grace of God) just for showing up. And I wouldn’t even say this has to do with proclaiming Jesus as Lord. I say it has to do with having faith in the numinous itself, in any of its abstract faces — no matter how you define or personify the divine.

Often, when we show up at the door, we look horrible. A makeshift cape and sweat-smeared makeup smothered across our faces smelling like sweat and Kit Kat on our breath. Yet, when we hold out our bag, we receive the holy sacraments of Halloween no matter how many pumpkins we may have smashed on the way.

For grace? I’ll take Halloween over Christmas every time.
 — Nick Lannon

This is the one-way gift of God. We have nothing to give but our showing up at the door. And if we allow ourselves to sink into the awareness of these gifts, we feel pretty ridiculous for having smashed those pumpkins. And maybe we’ll find the grace of God in ourselves to go home and hand out candy ourselves.

[Note: That’s what’s so interesting about kids of a certain age. I don’t know if it’s the same with everyone, but my daughter (she’s 5) is way happier when she hands out candy than when she’s going out and getting it.]

I mean, yes, it’s a rush looting the neighborhood of candy. But it’s a getting-based greed-fueled joy, which is awesome, but different than a giving one.

Yet the gift of righteousness is present in any moment. Not the effete holier-than-thou kind of righteousness, but the pure kind that nurtures the soul and keeps God’s grace in human circulation.

This is why Halloween (at least the trick-or-treating part) is more Christian than Christmas. On the receiving end, we, as pumpkin-smashing, toilet paper-hurdling, egg-tossing sinners can show up, hold out our bags, and get filled. And on the giving part, we manifest as the divine enfleshed, abounding in steadfast love and giving our gifts freely to the sinner at the door.

Hope you had a holly, jolly Halloween.