London (CNSNews.com) - Christians in parts of Europe are taking a stand against aspects of Halloween, rejecting it as an unwanted "American import" and a festivity they say exposes children to evil influences.
A large number of churches in Britain are advising their congregations not to indulge in the traditional Halloween "trick or treating." Anxious not to be labeled as killjoys, some are organizing alternative "All Hallows" parties for youth.
Gavin Drake, spokesman for the Evangelical Alliance, said Tuesday it was not just churches that were opposed, but also charities aimed at children and the elderly, concerned that youngsters were exposing themselves to risks and old people were being frightened.
"It makes no sense that 364 days a year, children are told not to talk to strangers, yet on this day - in the dark - children are encouraged to go knocking on the doors of complete strangers," he said.
Drake said it was the "trick and treating" aspect of Halloween that was seen as a "U.S. import" while traditional British activities on the day include apple-bobbing and illuminated pumpkins.
"Opposition in the churches is focused on the spiritual dimension. While [the activities] are not in themselves evil, they send a message that dark forces are safe to play with. In reality, they are not. They are dangerous forces that nobody, child or adult, should be dabbling with."
In France and Italy, meanwhile, Roman Catholic clergy are also voicing opposition to Halloween, which has become increasingly popular in recent years, due largely to the efforts of advertisers and commercial interests selling products linked to the theme.
A leading cardinal in Italy, Milan Archbishop Carlo Maria Martini, has written in a leaflet handed out to youth this week that "Halloween is a type of holiday that is foreign to our traditions, which have tremendous value and must endure."
He urged youngsters instead to use the opportunity to honor their deceased loved ones, traditionally done by placing flowers of their graves.
November 1 and 2 are marked by the Catholic Church as All Saints and All Souls day respectively.
Traditionalist priests in France have characterized the day as one that is "devoted to Satan, ugliness and absolute evil."
At a demonstration in the city of Nice, priests and Catholic school pupils denounced a festival they said was "directly imported from the United States," according to wire reports.
Back in Britain, the Pagan Federation has protested to the publishers of the Encyclopedia Britannica about the leading reference work's definition of witchcraft.
The federation, which boasts 60,000 members, has hinted at legal action over the description of the activity as "the use of supernatural means for harmful or evil ends."
The Pagan Federation says the definition was based on years of disinformation, and claims that most of its devotees use the craft for positive purposes.
Halloween traces back to an ancient Celtic festival of Winter's Eve, which was associated with death in pre-Christian Europe.