We didn’t celebrate Halloween in my house. There are a handful of pictures of Preschool Me as Red Riding Hood, but by the time my sisters came around, my parents’ “liberal trick-or-treating” urges had been thoroughly quashed. No carving pumpkins, no “what-are-you-going-as-this-year” discussions, and absolutely no witches, ghosts or monsters.We also didn’t do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy.This sounds weird to most of you, right?
I don’t regret my somewhat unusual childhood. I didn’t miss anything important. I learned that I didn’t have to be like everyone else. And I didn’t often feel deprived (also, I snuck out with Jen Mastre to go trick or treating several years in a row… sorry Mom).
But, my husband comes from a very different culture than mine (most North Americans refer to it as Middle Class Normal; we called it “worldly”). When our cultures collided, I was forced to evaluate exactly what I think and believe about Halloween. And what it means to be a Christian.
Christians feel a great responsibility to represent Jesus to the whole world. When you love/admire/respect someone so deeply and feel that your every action reflects on them, well, that’s a lot of pressure. And sometimes, we can get weird about it. Halloween is one area where we as Christians sometimes overreact and freak the hell out (pun intended).
There are belief systems which are repugnant to me. Satanism, Aryan Nation, Rampant Consumerism, “Not Liking” Chocolate… to name just a few. But I’ve come to a point in my life where I am no longer threatened by them. God is not panicked by Halloween, so why should we be?
Whatever position you take on the Origins of Halloween debate (evil demonic ritual or harmless harvest party), at this point in history, right now, it has become a mainstream celebration of masquerade and candy and general creepiness. What matters most is not what it once meant, but what it means now. A lot like that pagan festival at the end of December that we’re all so fond of these days.
Make of it what you will. October is full of teachable moments in our home about what we believe and why we’re weird and how we live and how it’s okay for people to do things differently than us. And there are many good things about Halloween, especially for Christians:
- It builds COMMUNITY. It’s a rare chance to spend time with your neighbours. And show off your kids. In really cute costumes.
- It is an opportunity to be GENEROUS. And kind. And neighbourly. And hospitable. And all sorts of Jesus-y things. A unique chance to do all this in a culturally appropriate, non-obnoxious way. Plus, the really cute kids in costumes come right to your door – how convenient is that?
- It is FUN! This seems like the weak post-script at the end of the list. I mean, Christianity isn’t about having fun, right? Except for all the talk of joy and love and endless feasts/celebrations throughout the Bible which paint a different picture. I can’t see Jesus as the disapproving sourpuss with a dark house; more likely he’d be out there high-fiving the neighbour kids and enjoying the cute costumes. I know I will. Well, that and making sure the appropriate Candy Tax is levied on each child.
That said, I still don’t love Halloween. It’s just not my thing. We have friends who absolutely adore it and enjoy every minute. According to some consumer reports, it is second only to Christmas in holiday popularity.
But I find much of it unsettling. Years ago a neighbour strung up the corpse of a child in a tree, noose and all. Of course it was fake and supposed to be a fun decoration, but that year we knew two children who had been murdered. To say this was an upsetting would be an understatement. It gutted me that anyone could make light of it.
So we drew our line in the sand.
We do not celebrate fear and violence. This is our Halloween compromise. We enjoy the good. We avoid the bad. And for us, that means no spooky, scary, gorey, creepy, bloody, or (and this one is the rule throughout the year) slutty.
So here’s me, and this is how we redeem Halloween in our house.
Where do you stand on Halloween? Anything goes… the creepier the better? Or are there limits?