What to do on Halloween? (again)

A couple people asked me for my opinion, so I thought I would re-run this piece from 2006.  This year we will not be able to do our regular routine since Halloween falls on a Sunday and we have church commitments. This is the spirit of what we try to accomplish on October 31st, though — being visible.  I think it’s tragic when Christians hide from their neighbors on the one day that they’re actually coming to our doors.

For more helpful discussion regarding Christians and Halloween, I direct you over to the Rabbit Room.


Well, it’s that time of year again. The inevitable question arises…what to do on October 31st? That’s right…how do we celebrate Reformation Day?

No, just kidding…that’s not the question I meant. The question is, what should we do as Christian parents of young kids on Halloween? What is the best thing for our children and our neighbors? How can we please God on this day?

Here’s a brief history of what we’ve done thus far in our young life as parents…

The first two years, we did nothing. We gave out candy but our kids stayed home, because a) we hadn’t thought much about how to approach the day b) it was too cold in Massachusetts to make it tempting to leave the house, and c) well, quite honestly, we were tired and just didn’t care that much.

When we moved to Southern California, the “cold” excuse was gone, and as Cameron emerged from his toddler years we decided we’d give Halloween a shot. I dressed Cameron as John Elway and Ben as a train engineer, and took them around our downtown area during the day, where local merchants were dressed up, handing out treats.

This trip was a turning point for me. As we walked on the sidewalks of Camarillo, the older children I saw were consistently dressed as horrible things. “Scream” masks abounded. Blood and gore were everywhere. And I wouldn’t have made a big deal of it, but Cameron, who was a tender age 2 1/2 at the time, kept asking, “Mommy, why do they look like that? Mommy, what’s that?”. I found myself searching for an explanation and one never came. What should I say? “Well, honey, today is a day that many people set aside for celebrating fear, death, and evil.” So why were we doing it?
One thing you should understand about David and I…(I hope I am not speaking out of turn here; if I am, David, please leave me a comment to correct me) …as parents, we try to be minimalists. By minimalists, I mean that rather than think about what we shouldn’t do, we think about what we should do. We try to start at zero and then start adding things. A good example of this is at Christmastime, when we don’t “do” Santa Claus. Rather than asking, “why not?”, we prefer to ask, “Why? What does this accomplish?”. With the short amount of time that we have with our children before they leave the nest, I would prefer to spend time on the truth rather than a myth…even if it is a fun, magical myth. So start knitting your “Mrs. Scrooge” sweaters for me now. In spite of the lack of Santa Claus at our house, we believe Christmas has done us good. And I say, God bless it. 🙂
But I’m getting ahead of myself…back to the question at hand. Why should our kids dress up and go trick-or-treating? The only really convincing reason I could come up with is that it’s a great night to hang out with your neighbors! What other night of the year will people willingly open their door to you? And this hit upon another problem I had with Halloween…people come to my house and stand back as their kids collect their candy, and then they’re on their way. I was always left feeling like I wanted to talk to them more!
So we have happened upon a compromise that we hope to try out this year. We’re going to throw open our garage, put up some twinkly lights, play some music and set up a table. We’ll have candy for the kids and coffee, doughnuts and cider for the adults. We’ve invited another family from the neighborhood to hang out with us, since their kids don’t go trick-or-treating, either. Our hope is that people will stay and chat and that it will be a more fruitful time than the usual “drive-by” candy collection.
The other option was to dress the kids up like Martin Luther and have them hammer a copy of the 95 Theses to everyone’s doors. But I don’t think that would be a good way of making friends with the neighbors. 😉
I’ll let you know how it goes!

P.S. Please don’t “hear” what I’m not “saying.” There are plenty of Christian parents who choose to send their kids out trick-or-treating for the same reason…to be visible in the neighborhood and get to know people. I’m just explaining why we’re doing what we’re doing this year, and maybe next year, depending on how it goes! Not everybody will land on the same conclusion that we have, and our traditions may change in years to come.

6 Responses to “What to do on Halloween? (again)”

  1. Josh and Dana

    well that was nice of Steve. :)I'm not very far in my thought process of how to "celebrate" halloween with kids. Josh and I were both raised in families that did not participate and hid in the back of the house hoping no one would come to the door….so that's my default mode for halloween, honestly. I love a good fall festival, but for the last 3 years this holiday has caused many, many questions in my heart as a mother, a Christian and a neighbor. I don't want to hide from my neighbors, but I don't know how to answer my kid's questions either.I love your idea. Here's my question…how do you talk your kid's through what they will probably see at your garage door?


  2. Tracy Novick

    @Josh and Dana, even if it doesn't come to the garage door, you're going to see it somewhere: it's at CVS, it's the house down the street, it's the Halloween parade at school (if you have one). We've said that we see this as a fun time to play pretend, get dressed up, and, as Kelly said, go see your neighbors, but that for some people, it's about scary stuff.And also, as the kids get a connection to those who see it that way, I think it's less of an issue. For all that my neighbor across the street puts up the most elaborate Halloween decorations you've ever seen (including a graveyard), they know that he's a nice man who loves holidays and loves that kids enjoy his decorations. He does it to bring joy to the neighborhood (however much I might question how he does it!).


  3. Kelly

    I think that as the kids get older, they start to get a sense of what is beautiful and what isn't. Darkness reveals itself in many ways, not just in scary costumes. Sin is sin, but it's a heart issue. The Rabbit Room had a comment by somebody that they actually plan to dress as the grim reaper because they think it's healthy for people to be reminded of death. I read that and thought, "wow, that's not where I would go with a costume, but I can't argue with the motivation…."


  4. Rebecca

    I LOVE what you guys do with opening up your garage and hosting an impromptu neighborhood gathering. I was always saddened when my parents totally avoided the neighbors on Halloween and made us hide out in the basement. We've been talking about what to do, too, and while we're taking our 3 year old trick or treating this year (dressed as a doctor like his Aunt Ginny!), in the future as we get to know the neighborhood I see us doing something like what you do. Way to lead with love, Kelly and David!


  5. Amber Benton

    Kelly,One year we plan to do a reverse Halloween. We thought it would be this year since our youngest is two and the thought of it doesn't make me too weary. We want to bake cookies and make a great pot of soup and put in mason jars, maybe some spiced cider mix and knock on our neighbors doors and GIVE them something instead of asking for something. We know a lot of our neighbors and they are very generous with the activities my boys do. They buy boy scout popcorn, they participate in our food drives and service projects.This year, however, we wound up in the mountains with the grandparents for a long weekend – a trip rescheduled because of illness. The kids did dress up, no gore though. My little ones have a hard time with the gore, but honestly I have more of a problem with the sinister that doesn't look sinister than I do with the obvious stuff.In church we have been going through the book of Exodus and in my reading a couple of weeks ago I read again the passage the night of the passover. I have thought about how the Lord caused the Egyptians to give all their riches to the Israelites. Basically it sounds as if Israel plundered Egypt of all of its good stuff on the way out. I have been thinking about that in terms of our culture – that it's ok for us to lay claim to the good stuff in our culture (art, literature, music, fashion, science, etc.) and give thanks to God for what is good.We use Halloween as a good excuse to be creative (take a look at our costumes this year on BrightHouse). We never buy costumes but scrounge around and help the boys bring their ideas to fruition.One other tradition we do every year is invite friends over for our B.Y.O.P. (bring your own pumpkin) party. We gather for good food and fellowship and all the kids carve a pumpkin. We take them out and light them and read scriptures about being a light in the world. Our kids love doing this every year.Thanks for this post AGAIN – I remember it from before. Maybe next year we really will get that wagon full of soup, cookies, and cider (our garage is a workshop).


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: