It’s Halloween, and I’m Confused

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*Sigh* It’s Halloween, and I’m confused. Maybe conflicted would be a better word.

On the one hand: It’s Halloween and I want to belong. It’s the one day of the year when our neighbors open their doors to us, and knock on our door in return. It’s our annual opportunity to pound the pavement with our community: to admire cute littles, to exchange names and pleasantries.

I’m all about chocolate, and believe me – I’m all about dress-up.

A very pregnant Halloween. And yes, that's body paint.

Yes, that is body paint. I LOVE imagination, fancy dress, and I love community. I don’t want our kids to be the ones who say “sorry, we don’t do that”, or to skip a day of school in protest. In general, I’m one who looks for opportunities to engage with people and culture: to do so with love, grace and wisdom. But I’m a little lacking on wisdom on this one.

Because for all that I want us to use this opportunity to connect with our community, Halloween is also something I really don’t want to belong to. The decorations are grizzly: bats, witches, spiders webs, zombies and graveyards. Blood, slime and skeletons. They ALL fail the Philippians 4:8 test of things that are lovely, admirable, excellent, honorable and praiseworthy.

More than just unpleasant and unlovely, the themes are downright terrifying. My children are not yet at the age where they want to go to Halloween parties where the threat of horror movies looms large, but already they think Finding Nemo is scary because the kid loses his mother and then gets chased by a shark. Just a casual walk down our street trick-or-treating with the neighbors brings us across all sorts of decorative horrors, and I am not ready to talk explain zombies and ghosts with them. It’s awful. Truly, awful. That which is make-believe about Halloween is creativity designed to frighten, that which is true about Halloween is a realm of spirituality I’m deeply wary of. Satan and his minions are real and I don’t want to mess with that by making evil “approachable”.

So what to do? What to do? Can we accept the good without the bad? Is there a way of engaging positively and redemptively with this most awful of celebrations and escaping its evils?

In principal, the answer should be yes. After all, we celebrate Christmas and choose to embrace the telling of the Christ-story and the joy of giving, while eschewing the pagan solstice background and also hoping our children will miss the lethal spiritual lessons of materialism and greed which underlie our Western celebration of the day.

We celebrate Valentines day and choose to celebrate friendship and love, while distancing ourselves from the lies about romantic love which “completes us” and averting our eyes from the love=sex undertones which pervade so much of the adult Valentines day mania.

If we think that the materialism of Christmas or the erotica of Valentines Day are any less dangerous to our souls, perhaps we’re underestimating their power.

But all that being said – I’m still not sure about Halloween. I’m not sure what to think about it, and not sure what to do about it. Do we withdraw? Do we engage, but with all our conservative “I’m here but I’m not really loving it” vibes escorting us down the road? Do we seek to engage fully with our own Christian version of the themes: “Boo! Jesus loves you!”, or “There will be a day of the dead! And on that day, Jesus will rescue those who belong to him! Happy Halloween, and don’t eat too much candy!” Do we dress our kids as Lazarus and hope that someone asks us to give a reason for the “hope we have” (1 Peter 3:15)? Do we carve redemptive pumpkins?

christian pumpkin

My children want the candy and the adventure. They want to be like their friends. One of them wants to dress up as a spider, the other as a mermaid. Part of me bristles at the thought of the spider (because, ew!) and adores the idea of the mermaid – but then again, God created spiders but did not create mermaids. So what is this Christian mama to do?

As I said: it’s Halloween and I’m confused.

This is the second-to-last post in the 31 Day writing challenge. I chose the topic of Belonging. To see what other random thoughts this topic has generated in my little brain, click here.

Photo credit: Marci Lapan on Pinterest

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13 thoughts on “It’s Halloween, and I’m Confused”

  1. Me too. 🙂 This is the first year we’ve really had to deal with it, as South Africa doesn’t make it an issue for kids, really. But now it’s kind of in our faces. I thought about letting our kids dress up with creative outfits they could concoct with things we already have in our house, then only trick-or-treat at my dad’s and my sister’s. But in the end, we’ve decided to give it a miss altogether. We don’t live in a neighborhood, so we won’t have anybody ringing our doorbell, which makes it easier to decline participation. My kids are old enough to be disappointed, but also mature enough to understand our decision.

  2. Interesting. Because my daughter is so young, I had not thought about having to explain those decorations to her. Clearly at this point she won’t notice or care. She also won’t care about the candy, which is good because she isn’t going to get to eat much of it. But you’re right. She’s going to be asking questions one day and I’ll have to answer to them. I think we’ll encourage positive costumes (spiders are… um…. questionable 🙂 ) and explain the origins of the holiday and which parts we embrace (the pumpkins and scarecrows part) and which parts we eschew. Hopefully that’s as simple as it sounds in my head. 🙂

  3. Thank you. Finding Nemo is TERRIFYING. I hate that movie. It freaks me out.

    If it’s any consolation, here’s the child’s p.o.v.–
    My parents took us trick-or-treating and let us dress up. We handed out candy and we carved silly pumpkins (though no decorations on our house). I never got weird spiritual vibes, nor asked what the day was about. To a child, the point is clear: this is a test of bravery. Everyone tries to frighten you, and if you’re brave enough, you get rewarded with candy. Most people put out skeletons, mummies, zombies, and ghosts because they’re scary, not because they believe in them or want us to feel like we can or should call upon the spirits of the dead.

    Even now, the connection with dark spirituality mystifies me. Surely such followers and dark mystics are as repulsed by what halloween has become as we could be of Christmas? As a child and a teen, halloween never made dark spirituality approachable. Instead, halloween was simply a time when we got to live our fairytales and fight our dragons–our fears–and win.

    Of course, that’s just me….

  4. I grew up without any Christian background. When I came to faith in Christ in high school, some friends invited me to a haunted house sponsored by a Christian campus ministry. Halfway through, I found myself wondering why Christians would want to do be a part of that darkness, as Liz above named it. I haven’t participated in it since, and I’m a grandmother now. It was a challenge when my kids were growing up – the church “Harvest Fests” never quite made up for the fun they imagined their neighborhood friends were having even though they always ended up with plenty of candy.

    No easy solution. But you’re asking good questions. 🙂

    1. Thanks. This is a real cross-cultural conundrum for me, so the stories of believing Christians native to this country are really helping me get some perspective on what we are dealing with 🙂 I appreciate your encouragement!

  5. Our pastor says it’s his favorite holiday. Kids dress up as monsters and are given treats – our ugliness shows but we are given gifts anyway.

  6. I loved reading your thoughts on this! For my part, I did keep my younger children home from school yesterday and I did take them out in the afternoon to spare them from seeing their school friends/neighbours all dressed up and enjoying the festivities. (Last year, my lack of Halloween experience showed and we got caught out walking home while the rest of the neighbourhood was out trick or treating. My eldest must have been asked 30 times, why she wasn’t dressed up. Not a fun parenting moment!)

    I admit that I struggled with the decision not to participate last year and this year (it was not an issue in Aus), because it is hard to watch your kids have to miss out and make excuses with their friends (well my eldest does, my 5 yrold will regale you with reasons why Haloween is “bad” and why you should believe in Jesus if you dare to raise the topic in class!). I have berated myself for being too conservative and literal in my approach to Christian parenting. However, I don’t think my kids really missed out on anything last night and seeing their little friends faces (on fb) transformed into, quite realistic—kudos to the talented women in my community, zombies and vampires grieved my heart and much as watching my children miss out.

    In some ways, my kids are less “on the fence” than I am. As far as they are concerned it’s simple. This is a holiday that belongs to the dark kingdom and we are not to be scared of it, but we don’t participate in it. My 9 yr old gladly handed over the lollies she had been given at school the moment she walked in the door and my 5 yr old, after checking her class blog, declared that she was glad she did not go to school because the had “horrible Halloween stories”. (I didn’t tell the 4 and 5 yr olds why they stayed home). My 4 yr old, just wants halloween to be over so that he can get back to playing a game on his ipad that the children have a self-imposed ban on at the moment because of its halloween theme. I, on the other hand, research it, make justifications for why I could maybe just attend the adult party and I struggle to hold my nerve, after all, we all want our kids (and ourselves) to fit in.

    It is not always comfortable to be “set apart” and it does feel uncool but I cannot apologise for my stance on it, .Haloween IS still a practiced occult festival and I cannot in all clear conscience particpate in its celebration. I don’t have any issue with my Christian friends who enjoy Hallowen as much as Christmas. There is room in our faith for different understandings. I have been given certain experiences in my life and those experiences have given me insight into the spiritual realm that I cannot ignore or undo in my mind. This those experiences in mind, I cannot participate in Halloween without feeling like it’s a betrayal to my Father. However, I do not necessarily believe that this is the standard for all believers. I wanted to share my thoughts with you and your online community because with all that being said, I am still confused—well definitely torn!! And, I think you are pretty special for being so truthful.

    p.s. well done on the 31 day writing challenge

  7. I grew up with hallowe’en, but in a non-churched home. Teens didn’t do hallowe’en back then, so when I had young children I had to face it for the first time as an adult believer. I could find the redemption plainly in Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Easter. I could find no good in hallowe’en. The good was long gone ( All Saint’s Eve => Hallowed E’en ==> Hallowe’en) … long, long gone, without a glimpse anywhere. Our pastor at the time reminded us in a Sunday sermon in mid-late October that the Scriptures command us not to judge each other on which days we keep holy, but to remember, too, that in belonging we belong to God, and to His people, not to everyone, and that there was nothing wrong in finding opportunity to teach our children that God has set us apart to be a separate people, and to teach them how to be that with grace and not with judgment. [ and “keeping hallowe’en HOLY”??? hmmm oxymoronic much?.] We muddled and morphed through those first years, beginning with not being home on that night. Then we realized that our neighbors were coming to our door asking for something sweet – a treat – and what could be sweeter than the Word? We ordered tiny (2″x2.5″) “My Personal Bible” booklets and the kids – nearly all of them plus the teens – loved them. Of course we quickly realized we wanted to sweetened them further by adding candy as well. The following year many said with eager voices, “Do you have Bibles for us???” Alas, I have run out and neglected to order more. But when our kids were school aged a big group of believing moms all pulled our children from school not in protest, but with joy – to go on a private field trip, a day of sweet fellowship of those with whom we really DID belong. We piled into minivans and VW buses and went to the Hershey factory in Oakdale. (We lived in Stockton; the factory is now closed.) Today the Jelly Belly factory would likely be our destination. We took the tour, got free candy, had fast-food and fun at a park/playground, and a good time was had by all. At night we let our kids choose whether to answer the door, give the Bibles and candy, and see the children in costume. Mostly they were creeped out and “saw” the darkness. But I made sure to have our stash be all their very favorite candies, buying way too much and a wide assortment, and they got to split the left-overs. Then for their birthdays we had costume parties! 🙂 Just the choices of one Poppy and Grammy – ideas, not prescriptions. “Whatsoever you do… do it all for the glory of God.” Bring hallow’en to Romans 14, make the choices that leave your consciences light, based on seeking to glorify the Lord and strengthening others, then go in faith! There’s room for disagreement, differences, and grace in this. Asking the questions was a terrific start!

  8. I read a couple great blog posts this week – one of them talking about how this day is a celebration of conquering evil and by dressing up we mock Satan (which he hates). I really enjoyed them and posted one on fb the other day. 🙂

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