Is there any day that stirs up more controversy amongst Christians than October 31?
I have certainly had my share of discussions on the subject with fellow believers over the years.
As a child, my Christian parents ignored it entirely. We turned off porch lights, rented a movie, and hunkered down in the family room. And every November 1st, I would return to school empty-handed to gaze in wonder and envy at the piles of candy bars that poured forth from my classmate’s lunch boxes. Granted, there are certainly worse things than candy envy, but it never felt that way for me. In those days, the mere mention of Halloween brought up a host of negative emotions.
Some years, our church would offer an alternative way to celebrate: the requisite Harvest Party, which we all know is just a Halloween party with a churchy name. We would show up in our best costumes, bob for apples, compete at nibbling doughnuts strung on the clothesline, and win enough candy to fill my own Charlie’s Angel’s lunch box come Monday morning.
Slightly mixed message.
Calling an obviously Halloween party a Harvest party wasn’t fooling anyone.
When Chad and I became parents, we struggled with how to handle Halloween for our own family. We instinctively felt that it would be wrong to celebrate such an obviously bad holiday, so with no better ideas, we turned off the porch lights, rented a movie, and hunkered down in the family room. But it never seemed like the right solution. Why were we hiding? Were we accepting defeat? Did our neighbors think we were isolating ourselves? Being that weird, religious family?
So instead of hiding from Halloween, we tried ignoring it by dining out. But at every restaurant, we encountered servers dressed in costume, bowls of candy for the kids, and odd stares and questions as to why our little cherubs weren’t out to trick or treating.
So much for giving Halloween the cold shoulder.
In fact, Halloween had become the most dreaded day in my year, magnified just by trying so hard to avoid it.
Stymied, Chad and I continued to contemplate our options. One evening, whilst looking for alternative ideas on Focus On The Family’s website, I came across the book, Redeeming Halloween.
This little read not only gave the surprising (to me, anyway) Christian history behind the holiday (did you know that ‘hallow’ means ‘holy’ and ‘e’en’ means ‘evening’?) It also gave me permission to relax.
We stopped hiding in our basement.
We started helping our kids come up with creative super hero and princess costumes.
We lit up our home and filled bowls of candy to share with costumed children who traipsed happily to our door.
And a weird thing happened.
Our kids discovered the sheer joy of carving up pumpkins, scooping out strings of muck, and roasting slippery pumpkin seeds to savory goodness. They had a ball dressing themselves up and racing out into the frosty evening to fill their empty pillowcases with sugary lumps in bright wrappings.
As they grew older, they loved hearing about the pagan and Christian roots of Halloween and how it had evolved over the centuries. They never asked to be goblins or witches or devils for Halloween-mainly because we shared about why we believed that it did not honor the Lord for us to do so.
And every year, by November 1, they were over it and looking toward the Christmas season.
Which, by the way, we celebrate with the combined pagan trimmings of tree and gifts, and the Christian trappings of Jesus and Advent.
Each October is now a blessing to me because I no longer spend 31 days worrying. Now we get to fellowship with our neighbors and meet people who would otherwise never cross our doorstep. We do devotions with our kids about light conquering darkness. We dump everyone’s candy haul into a huge bowl and pick through it for favorites. We spend days coming up with creative costume ideas that we can execute thriftily.
We have fun.
There will be those of you who disagree with us celebrating Halloween at all. And that’s okay. I’m not telling you what to do or not do, just what has worked for our family. And hopefully, we can still be friends who disagree with grace.
So. Do you? Don’t you?