Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween

OK, I admit it...I love Halloween.

The costumes, the trick-or-treat, the candy, everything.

In fact, as I write this post, I am sitting in my living room waiting for another knock on our door so I can dole out candy bars and Skittles to another cute kid.

I know that many people would say a Christian shouldn't love Halloween, but I do. I always have. It was great fun as a kid dressing up and going around the neighborhood collecting candy, and then stuffing my face with it after I got home. And then when our kids were growing up, Halloween was almost more fun for our family than Christmas. I still remember some of the more hilarious costumes our kids wore. They were usually quite creative. My favorite was the year David wore a Richard Nixon mask.

The churches I've served (until the present one) seemed to think Christian children ought to have a "Halloween alternative" (which translated means: dress up as Bible characters, Disney characters, football players, etc. - just not witches and ghosts and demons - and collect candy and stuff your face with it after you get home). I was never a big fan of those events. I have always felt that Halloween gives Christian families an unparalleled opportunity to walk around the neighborhood, meet the neighbors we rarely talk to the rest of the year, have fun with the kids, and show people we're normal. It has always bothered me that many Christians withdraw from the culture and have their "alternative" celebrations.

I know the arguments, and if you believe Christians shouldn't participate in Halloween I see your point. I just think that, as long as your kids aren't dressing up like Satan or something, it's pretty harmless. It's a time for community, for family, for being salt and light.

And eating a lot of candy.

9 comments:

orangejack said...

I agree with you completely! Last night Patricia and I were talking about how of all the holidays, Halloween SHOULD be done more in communities. It's the only one that encourages community interaction. Granted we're hiding behind masks, but what other holiday does the community actually go around and interact?

And it's fun. Yes, a lot of really nasty stuff can happen and it's an excuse for already 'bad apples' to act out, but at least in my community, it was all fun and very benign.

Anonymous said...

Dad, I put my foot in my mouth BIG TIME yesterday. We were talking about Halloween with our neigbors and talked about going to the alternative Christian celebrations, etc. Tim mentioned that I as a PK was always allowed to celebrate Halloween. I then mentioned that as long as I didn't dress as a witch, monster, or anything scary like that my parents, and I didn't mind the celebration. I then turned to their 4 year-old daughter and asked, "What are you going as?" She answered, "A witch! A scary witch!"

- Jenn

Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

Mike,

I hear what you are saying about community involvement and agree with it. However, I'd argue that neither is there anything inherently wrong-headed with a church (or Waterford Lakes Towne Centre) providing a safe, friendly place to bring kids to wear costumes and collect candy. In the case of a church, of course, this should not be an insular event but an outreach and a community affair.

Such an approach may be more appropriate in rural locales, like the one where I grew up until I was 8 -- a small town where the houses were far apart and trick-or-treating was impractical. But even here in suburbia, some like my family live in small neighborhoods or no neighborhoods at all, which can make trick-or-treating less of a community celebration and can make an alternative welcome.

Moreover, I see no problem with mixing or replacing Halloween with a Reformation Day celebration, which has rich historical meaning for us. Clearly, we are not bound to honor any holyday (except the Sabbath :-) ), including Halloween and All Saints Day or Reformation Day, but neither are we forbidden from honoring them if we do so with proper motivations. As my wife said over at Craving Grace, the bottom line is that we need to be intentional in whatever we do so that it is all to the glory of God.

Amy said...

I'm so glad that you wrote this! Really, I can see both sides of the argument, but I have never been a big fan of the "Halloween alternative" either. It just separates Christians from non-believers even more than we already tend to do. I don't think we should condone dressing up like demons, but there are so many alternatives to that!

Anna said...

Not having grown up with any Reformation Day celebrations or Halloween alternatives, I actually want one. We don't live in a community that participates in Halloween, and to go elsewhere just seems lame to me since the point (if there is a point to trick or treating, other than fun) is to build community. Hence my post on the Craving Grace website.

I look forward to either some Reformation Day celebrations or living in a neighborhood where Halloween is actually fun.

Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

Interestingly, James Jordan argues that if we're going to dress up like anything, demons are perhaps the best thing we could choose. (Note that I'm not sure I buy all of Jordan's argument on the Christian origins of Halloween. Cf. the Wikipedia's account.)

Hat tip to Kelly Johnson for the pointer to that article.

Mike said...

Wow, I didn't think my post would stimulate such an interesting discussion! Thanks for contributing. Anna, I also enjoyed reading your Craving Grace post. I am sympathetic on the point of celebrating Reformation Day. We did that in my church in SC every year, and then we'd take our kids back home, let them change if they wanted to, and then go trick-or-treating! I remember the year my daughter Rebecca dressed for our church party as The Last Supper (yes, that's right, she had a table on her head with bread and a chalice on it)! I also performed a little Martin Luther monologue. We ought to consider starting some type of RD tradition at UPC. Still, I like most Halloween traditions.

Jill said...

I commented on the Craving Grace sight about this already, which said just about all that you said Mike. I would add that by participating in Halloween, it gives great opportunities to talk to our kids about evil and what God desires for our lives. And even more so, how God has defeated evil already on the Cross!
As far as being in a neighborhood that doesn't celebrate it well...one idea would be to go to a friend's house and go around their neighborhood with them. That is what we did our first year. Plus it was fun to talk with the grown-ups as we walked around. But the last 2 years, we decided to stay in our own neighborhood and get to know them more. It has been really good.

doodlebugmom said...

I am with you, I love Halloween!