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.