Why the Devil Hates Halloween

And why he wants you to hate it, too

Children on porch on Halloween
Trick or treat! Children prepare to head out for some Halloween fun. Ryan McVay/Getty Images

When my sisters and I were young, we looked forward to Halloween. Why wouldn't we? Costumes, candy, good-natured scares, and a great workout in the cool autumn air as we ran from house to house—what was not to love?

Sadly, starting about the time that I grew too old to trick or treat (in the early to mid 1980's), a significant number of Americans began to regard Halloween in a different light. I've written elsewhere about a number of factors that led to the backlash against Halloween, but as the years have gone by, more and more parents who have fond memories of the Halloweens of their youth have decided that they will not let their own children participate in the evening's festivities.

I'm a strong supporter of the idea that parents know what's best for their children, so I never try to talk parents out of their decision not to let their children trick or treat (unless they ask me to). But for those parents who are on the fence, and who are worried primarily about the supposed satanic roots of Halloween (which aren't what they're claimed to be), I have just one thing to say:

The Devil hates Halloween.

Seriously. He can't stand it. And that, I'm convinced, is why he has worked so hard to try to convince good Christians that it's his holiday—so that they'll stop celebrating it.

Lest you think I've lost my mind, here are six reasons why the Devil hates Halloween.

Porch Lights Burning

My family lives in an older neighborhood in a middle-sized town in the Midwest. All the houses were built between about 1900 and the start of World War II. And that means that every one has a porch, the former social center of the neighborhood.

Yet even on the most perfect spring, summer, or fall evening, it's pretty rare these days to see anyone in the neighborhood sitting on his porch—much less an entire family, let alone neighbors or other visitors. When the sun goes down, the porch lights remain dark, because everyone is inside, enraptured by the flicker of his TV or computer or tablet or phone—and sometimes all of them at once.

There's only one day of the year when you can be certain that most of the porch lights on our street will be on: Halloween. And that's got to make the Devil angry. Because when the porch lights are on, the flickering lights that he likes so much are less likely to be lit, and even if they are, nobody's watching them. Everyone has better things to pay attention to.

Neighbors Being Neighbors

Actually, it's wrong to call them things, because what everyone is paying attention to on Halloween are other people—or, in a word, their neighbors. Halloween is the one night each year when you know you'll see folks that you haven't seen since—well, since last Halloween. And, chances are, you'll finally meet the new couple who moved in down the street—the ones you know you should have welcomed to the neighborhood with an apple pie or even just a friendly conversation. But you were busy, and you never saw them outside, and now here they are—handing out candy to your children and trying to guess what little Johnny's costume is supposed to be.

And the Devil doesn't like that. Not one bit. His work is so much easier when people choose to ignore one another. But on Halloween they can't—and, even better, they don't want to.

Children Laughing . . .

The old man down the street—the one who cuts his grass every time it grows a quarter of an inch—hasn't seen a Disney movie since he paid a nickel to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs over and over one Saturday afternoon three quarters of a century ago. So it's no surprise that he doesn't know that little Suzy is supposed to be Elsa from . But with every (wrong) guess that he makes, Suzy laughs a little harder—and he does, too. The two of them would probably stand on his porch and laugh all night, but there are more children coming up the walk, and they're all laughing, too—groups of brothers and sisters, friends from school, and erstwhile companions, drawn together tonight because they like one another's costumes and the sound of each other's voice.

The Devil doesn't like those sounds, though.

Happy children are less likely to grow up to be grumpy old men and women, and they're keeping that old man from sitting around, feeling sorry for himself since his wife passed away. Despair is the clay in which the Devil works; laughter washes despair away, like rain dissolving clay. 

. . . and Playing After Dark

Thirty years ago, children roamed this neighborhood all day and late into the night. As twilight turned to darkness, they kept one ear tuned to the sound of their mother's voice, waiting to hear her calling them home.

Today, those children are mothers and fathers themselves, and the idea of letting their own children play outside after dark like they did fills them with uncertainty and fear—another tool that the Devil uses to his advantage. The world is a different place today—largely through the Devil's efforts—and he can prey on the justified concern of parents for their children's safety to keep the whole family cooped up inside, away from friends and neighbors.

Except tonight. Because on Halloween, there's strength in numbers, and parents feel safe in letting their children enjoy some of the freedom that they had as kids. On Halloween, with the porch lights on and neighbors talking to one another and children laughing and playing after dark, this neighborhood looks like it did so many years ago, when everyone went to church on Sunday and families stayed together, and the Devil gnashed his teeth and waited for his chance to tear it all apart.

Generosity

And when the time came, he tore it apart not just through the skillful use of fear and despair but by attacks on neighborliness—otherwise known as generosity. Remember that pie you didn't take to the new couple who moved in across the street? The Devil was happy when you didn't do that.

What he doesn't like is what he's seeing tonight—neighbor after neighbor handing out candy and apples and popcorn balls, with no expectation of getting anything in return. Selfless action—that doesn't burn the Devil's britches (he'd like that); instead, it puts him on ice.

Gratitude

And—even worse, from the Devil's standpoint—all of those people who are giving without expecting anything in return are actually getting something: gratitude. He's worked so hard for so many years to convince children today that they deserve everything they get, so they shouldn't bother being thankful for anything—but tonight, they are. And for such little things! A bit here, a bit there, but it all adds up to a great treasure trove, and the brighter children might even see in that a metaphor for how grace and love work. (And if not, we parents can always explain it to them, and point out the parallels with that final scene in It's a Wonderful Life, when everyone gives what he or she can to George Bailey, and in giving they all get so much more.)

All Pointing to the Day That Follows

And that, in the end, is why the Devil really hates Halloween. Because even though he has tried his hardest to make us forget that Halloween has its roots in—and means nothing without—the day that follows it, the Devil himself can't forget. November 1 is the day we celebrate all of those souls that the Devil failed to snatch, and Halloween—All Hallows Eve, the eve of All Saints Day—is its vigil. And he can't stand the fact that we celebrate the vigil of this great feast by engaging in acts of generosity and gratitude and neighborliness, in laughter instead of despair, shining a light into the darkness and returning, at least for one night, to the way life should be lived every day.

The Devil hates that we celebrate the vigil of All Saints Day by living out some of the virtues of those saints, here and now, among family and friends. He knows that his job will be a lot harder if we keep acting that way. That's why he can't wait for the trick or treating to end, for the porch lights to go off and the TVs to turn back on, for the doors to close and the laughter to cease, for the fear and the despair of modern life to replace the joy of this night.

Enjoy your Halloween. That's the best way to make sure the Devil does not.