I am uneasy about celebrating Halloween.
While it is true that the history of celebrating Halloween is rooted in paganism and evil things, Halloween remains a holiday emphasizing death and evil, scary things. I’d be less uncomfortable if the holiday today was completely different than the origins of the holiday. But they’re not. I don’t like that. I have Christ in my heart, and celebrating the grotesque seems inconsistent.
Saying “trick or treat” means something. In the adult world we call it extortion. Why, then, do we at best teach our children that what they say doesn’t matter? Are the sweet children the essence of Halloween, or the teenagers destroying property as a “prank”? Is it inconsequential that we encourage greediness on this day and call it good?
The popularity with children comes down to two things: free candy and dressing up.
I wonder if parents who would normally feel uncomfortable with all that Halloween stands for, go along with it because otherwise they’d have mutiny among their children. I am not suggesting that trick or treating is sinful. Or that parents who decide to take their children trick or treating are being led by their children (considering our children’s needs and desires is a good, biblical action, after all, and children at different ages have different needs). I do want to consider though, whether my response is because of the rightness of the decision, or because my children will be happy or unhappy with my decision.
We see giving candy on Halloween as a good thing; those children who come to our door don’t know or care about the meaning of Halloween. Most of them aren’t threatening extortion, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to share God’s love with them. As for my own children, I recognize that even they don’t understand or care that the origin of Halloween was evil. I feel the tension as I weigh the consequences of asking my children to be different than every neighbor child, and even half the children in our church, perhaps. I have wondered whether I’m overreacting to the culture of Halloween, even as I want to insist “But these things have meaning, even if not everyone recognizes it!”
I finally decided something about Halloween and trick or treating.
If Christianity means something, then we should embrace a culture of life, not death, of giving and loving, not grabbing and threatening. Christians must be different in how they approach Halloween.
Lots of ways to be different, but here’s what I’m planning:
Get lots of candy to give to our neighbors. Have children take turns giving it away. We did this last year, and the children enjoyed being the ones to hand out candy. I suspect they still will. I want our home to be happy, not scary– lots of lights, happy music playing, children playing. Christianity is a culture of life, not death. I don’t feel compelled to give out Halloween tracts– but I think if you have a good one, it’s a good idea. If you do give tracts, give out GOOD candy.
Send my children with something to give to our neighbors. I’ve not made caramel yet for anyone here, so I think this is what we’ll do. That way, the neighbors can give them candy if they like, but the main purpose for us is giving, not getting. Is it better to give than receive? I’d like to print something out on card stock that says hello and why we are giving at this time. I’ll probably have let them dress up if they like, and take the candy on Halloween, but I don’t feel strongly about this.
Is that too odd? The difference between giving and taking is one reason I feel comfortable handing out Halloween candy, and giving neighbors candy, but am not comfortable sending my children trick or treating. It makes sense to me, but will it to my children? What will the neighbors think? What will other Christians who do go trick or treating think?
I like the idea of a Harvest Party or a Reformation Party. My brother’s church long ago did a carnival for the children each year– all the adults managed booths where the children played games for candy. Since our church isn’t doing anything like that this year, I’m on my own. I could invite some friends over and make our own party. I can imagine something fun enough that my children think to themselves, “This is better.” (For the record, I’m not a crowds and party person– but I think at our children’s ages, having something is important. Maybe we’ll have a foosball tournament, play games, eat lots of candy.)
It’s also a good time for asking questions and talking about how Christ makes a difference. Here’s what I’m planning to ask (I’m sure I can think of more):
- Why do children like Halloween so much? What do children not like about Halloween?
- What does it mean when people say “Trick or Treat”?
- What is more important to a Christian: life or death?
- What does God say about giving? grabbing? candy? [wisdom verses alert!]
Regardless of what you do for Halloween, Christ should be a part of the discussions you have with your children. What other questions would you ask?