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.

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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. ๐Ÿ™‚
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. ๐Ÿ˜‰
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.

Retreat Review

I got so little sleep this weekend I am on the verge of collapsing onto the couch and not getting up, so I thought I’d better jot down some favorites from the weekend — in no particular order.

1.  One member of our leadership team was unable to attend due to health problems.  In order to make her feel missed, we called her and sang “Where, Oh Where Are You Tonight?” at the top of our lungs.  I think it made her feel better.

2.  Getting to know our speaker, Ruth, better.  Her story is here.  We discovered that she grew up in Simi Valley, CA, about twenty minutes’ drive from where I lived in Camarillo.  We bonded over books and music.  She is an inspiring lady, using her suffering to the glory of God

3.  Stretching my teaching muscles a little.  I took one of the three teaching slots, and the ladies there got what they paid for. ๐Ÿ˜‰  Seriously, this was a far more serious assignment than I’d been handed before.  It is always good to take risks and trust the Lord to use your own efforts to the glory of God.  The Lord used the material to hammer me in a couple ways.

4.  Working through a hard time with a friend and clearing up misunderstandings, expressing our need for one another, and getting back to the Walk.  These things are never pleasant, but they yield good fruit always.

5.  Karoake.  My selections included “The Gambler” (aren’t you proud, Mom? I don’t think I even needed the words); “When I’m Sixty Four,” and “Angel of the Morning.”

6.  One of my friends surprised everyone by doing a Tina Turner dance.  That’s really all I can say.  It’s a far greater story than that, but she would come over and kill me in my sleep if I told you.

7.  The most “senior” lady amongst us was the only one to pull a practical joke.  There’s a lesson there for all of us about getting older.

8.  We sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” twice…ladies singing acapella in the middle of the woods on a mountain.  Nice.

9.  Increased vulnerability, trust, and honest conversation amongst everyone.

10.  Feeling justified in wearing a sweatshirt, sweater, scarf, and hat on a walk on Friday.

There may be something more to that last one…I have had a hard time regulating my body temperature today and I’m starting to wonder if I’m getting sick.  Maddie has a fever tonight and I may not be far behind her.  Which leads me to #11…

11.  Emailing the music director to tell him I won’t be in choir tomorrow due to Maddie’s illness, and admitting that there will no doubt be rumors about how I’m sleeping in and missing church because of the retreat.  His quick-witted reply was “It was probably all that drinking….”

(No, there wasn’t any drinking.  Though if you saw us laughing you might wonder.)

It was a GREAT weekend!  Thanks for your prayers.

Thanksgiving Poetry

Here are the two poems we’ve been working on for Thanksgiving. The first one Ben has memorized; the second is Cameron’s.

01 – We Thank Thee

For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.

For blue of stream and blue of sky;
For pleasant shade of branches high;
For fragrant air and cooling breeze;
For beauty of the blooming trees,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.

~~Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882

(from) The Supper of Thanksgiving

For the bread and for the wine,
For the pledge that seals Him mine,
For the words of love divine,
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

For the body and the blood,
For the more than angel’s food,
For the boundless grace of God,
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

For the chalice whence we sip
Moisture for the parched lip,
For the board of fellowship,
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

For the feast of love and peace
Bidding all our sorrows cease,
Earnest of the kingdom’s bliss,
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

For the paschal lamb here given,
For the loaf without the leaven,
For the manna dropt from heaven,
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

Only bread and only wine,
Yet to faith the solemn sign
Of the heavenly and divine!
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.

~~Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

Outtakes

Kiss the pumpkin.

Kiss the pumpkin.

Kiss the pumpkin.
That is a stupid idea, Mother.
Instead I will pose as one of the paintings we’re studying in school.

Mom: “Pretend you just ate something gross.”

Mom: “Now look serious.”
Boys: “What does ‘serious’ mean?”
Mom: “Act like you’re thinking about something.”
Looks like Jonathan is still wondering.

Eventually we always end up here.
Get AWAY from me.

To Autumn


by William Blake

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stainรจd
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

`The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

`The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.’
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

(William Blake is our poet this term and I am LOVING it. Look here for what else we might be up to.)

Happy September

(this is a photo from one year ago)

“The morrow was a bright September morn;
The earth was beautiful as if newborn;
There was nameless splendor everywhere,
That wild exhilaration in the air,
Which makes the passers in the city street
Congratulate each other as they meet.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


In No Particular Order

I’m thankful for…

Candles. The long North Carolina fall. Good Earth tea. My husband. My children. Flannel sheets. My extended family. The freedom to educate my children myself. Old book smell. New book smell. The YMCA pool. Good friends here and everywhere. God’s grace in salvation and sanctification. Sweaters from J Jill. The Square Peg Alliance. Handel. Chocolate. Coffee. Le Crueset cookware. My (still sorta new) gas stove. Laughter that brings tears. Christmas movies. The smell of woodsmoke. Tulips. Tim Keller. Sarah Edwards. Jane Austen. C.S. Lewis. John Piper. Health. My family’s health. Clean water. Avocados. Security. Eternal life. Nigella Lawson. Ina Garten. Grapes. Trash pickup. Baseball. Old hymns. Lobster. Dishwashers. The Nutcracker Suite. Fourth of July fireworks. Blueberries. Red wine. White wine. My little desk. My blog readers.