Friday, October 30, 2009

Much Ado About Halloween

Halloween is tomorrow.

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Growing up my main goal was to acquire the most candy and I eagerly anticipated decorating our front porch for our many guests. (I have since been informed by my high school sweetheart who lived in our neighborhood (now husband), that the repetitious scary music box from Hallmark wasn’t so much scary as annoying.)

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I have happy memories of bringing out the traditional ceramic pumpkin that my mom would have lit on the hutch (which now stores the overflow of our school supplies). Roasted pumpkin seeds would provide a delicious scent that filled our house. Dinner was a healthy WW (Weight Watcher) chili with salad, and excitement simmered as the time drew closer for cute visitors to appear at our doorstep. I remember dreading the hidden faces of the high-schoolers who would stop by, like my husband, who only wanted to fill his bucket pillowcase, and I delighted in the picture-worthy princesses, fairies, Rubik Cubes and potatoes that danced to our front step.

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So when I became a parent, I was faced with a hard decision regarding Halloween. I had fun celebrating Halloween as a kid. And typically the things that you have fond childhood memories of, you want to impart to your offspring.

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And so the argument begins. This is a hotly debated holiday in the Christian community. Traditionally, October 31st is considered a dark holiday.

In writing this post, I decided to visit a source that I value and respect, Focus on the Family. In response to the question, What about Halloween?, here is their answer:

Halloween is a rather different story. (See previous question and answer.) Whereas it can be argued that Christmas is a Christian holiday with Christian origins that has suffered the effects of growing secularism, Halloween can be traced to distinctly pagan sources. It is reasonable, then, that many believers would find some aspects of its celebration disturbing. I agree with them in that regard.

The traditional emphasis upon the occult, witches, devils, death, and evil sends messages to our kids that godly parents can only regard with alarm. There is clearly no place in the Christian community for this "darker side" of Halloween.

Even here, however, there is a place for some harmless fun. Kids love to dress up and pretend. If the Halloween experience is focused on fantasy rather than the occult, I see no harm in it. Make costumes for your children that represent fun characters, such as Mickey Mouse or an elderly grandmother, and then let them go door-to-door asking for treats. This side of Halloween can be thoroughly enjoyable for the little ones.

Let me add, again, that I've given you my personal opinion. I realize that the topic is controversial among committed Christians, and I'm sensitive to the reasons for their misgivings. My final word to parents on the subject would be "Stay true to your own convictions."

The above email response from Focus on the Family (displayed for all viewers to read), lacks a visible and documented research of Scripture, of that I am aware. But it offers a moderate option that parents can prayerfully consider. There are countless websites that attempt to persuade the reader to avoid this holiday with almost the same scare tactics as their counterparts.

Since becoming a parent, each year, I compare notes with my friend, Nickle, and others. Some years we participate to the same extent and some years we become like hibernating bears preparing for an early winter.

The past couple of years our church has begun hosting a Harvest Party. To some extent, this has been slightly unsettling to me because the children are still dressing up, getting candy, and celebrating on the same night or near Halloween. Admittedly, we have participated each year. It seems like we are dressing the day with a different name, though, much like when we don a costume. 1 John 1:11 states, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.”

The difference lies in the spirit of the celebration, a lack of scary costumes, and no tricking. By going to a party that is essentially the same, perhaps hosted on a different day, but with the Gospel shared at the end of the evening, am I imitating evil? Yes and no. Though out of context, 1 Corinthians 10: 31 says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

And this is how I have sewn my actions this year. I think that we are displaying fruit that is for the the glory of God. I think that we are taking a stand against the devil's schemes (Ephesians 6: 11-18). I think that we are training up our children in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6).

I have been challenged in the extent that we are to be involved in this over-celebrated day. My children are becoming more aware of their surroundings and have been asking questions about the various scary creatures with orange signs they see dancing alongside the road. Adults innocently have inquired what they will be for Halloween. I am quick to answer for them out of fear they will reply with, “We don’t celebrate Halloween. That’s Satan’s holiday.”


In big ways we are participating in the day tomorrow. In preparation, more out of tradition, we bought candy at Costco, made our way to the pumpkin patch, carved the orange balls last night, saved the seeds to be roasted, and ceremoniously lit the pumpkins last night. We will be home tomorrow night to pass out candy (sorry, no organic candy for our guests).

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But here is what we are doing differently this year.

This week we began by reading several books about Halloween, specifically The Pumpkin Patch Parable and Halloween, Are You For Real?

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One of my jobs as a parent is to teach my child how to live in this world but not be of this world. I have to train my child how to think, make decisions after researching a topic, and how to live counter -culturally.

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In addition to reading these books, Carisa at 1+1+1=1 provided a great craft accompanied by a cute poem that we created during Tot School.

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Last night, we had a special dinner, take out pizza (and folks this is a unhealthy treat in our family) and carved our pumpkins together.

View pumpkin carving

As we did this task, we talked about how we were a lot like a pumpkin. First we washed the pumpkin, removing all of the dirt—much like what Jesus does for us. Choosing to be baptized shows the world that we believe that Jesus died for us and washed us clean of our sins.

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We cut open the pumpkin, which can be those tough times that God allows us to experience to make us more like Him. The slimy flesh we worked at to scoop out reminds us of the icky sin we commit and the work that Jesus did for us on the cross.

The boys gave us detailed descriptions of what face they wanted on their pumpkins, and we complied as much as our artistic talent would allow.

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Then, we carried our pumpkins out to the front porch and as Hottie Hubby lit the pumpkins we prayed for the day that people would be coming to our house for candy. We prayed that we would be able to converse with our visitors, give them candy, and share the Gospel with them through a Memory Cross Halloween card.

Halloween panels

And so . . . that leads me to now. I’ve told you everything. We just have to wait and see what happens.

What do you do with Halloween?


Carisa said...

Great post!!!
;) Carisa

Melissa said...

We don't celebrate Halloween, either, for all the reasons you listed above in your post. I think your take on Haloween is very balanced and in keeping with scripture. Lately, though, my children have said that the dressing up and candy seem like really fun ideas, and they wish they had some other opportunity to do all these fun things. Also, I love the idea of celebrating the harvest, and would love a square dance with homemade treats and apple dunking!!!

God's Dancing Child said...

We don't celebrate Halloween in our family either, but we greatly celebrate the God made the changing of the seasons, and autumn is our favorite! It is fun to carve a pumpkin and roast its seeds. It's fun to take in the scents and sights of fall.
But we don't participate in any of the church parties that "wear a mask" as you said, and pretend they are not celebrating Halloween when they really are doing everything the same.

I read this post (which is great) and thought of one I read just before yours. It's also a good one!

Prasti said...

excellent post! a friend of ours (who was just recently saved) handed out candy and also included scripture. i like that idea or your memory cross halloween card.

this is always an issue we struggle with every year. since we have an older son (12 y.o.) who has been participating in halloween since he can remember (before we were christians ourselves) we do allow him to dress up and go around for treats. but we have talked to him a/b the origins of the holiday and set up certain costume boundaries. with the rest of the wee ones, they have yet to participate in trick-or-treating and i think we'll broach the subject when they bring it up. right now, emma is content to hand out candy :).

i was also reminded of a couple of other sites that discuss this issue:

Michelle said...

We have never really celebrated Halloween, but our kids will dress up and go to a Harvest party at a different church even though I had the same thoughts this year about it as you did-they are still doing some of the same things around the same time (minus the scary costumes.) Our small church did an outreach at someone's house and passed out tracts and candy, but our kids don't actually go trick or treating.

Even an outreach or Harvest party has been difficult to accept because the evil side of it is very real to me,(I was into the occult before accepting Christ) but for most people I know, it really is just a fun and lighthearted event.