17.10.17

Why We Love Halloween

Over the years, and especially after sharing why we don't do Santa, I've received a ton of questions about Halloween. Most wonder if, as a Christian family we celebrate Halloween, if we go trick-or-treating, and how we navigate a holiday that is often linked to sorcery, dark arts, and evil. I'm glad to share our take on Halloween, and I hope it's helpful for your family! Feel free to ask any follow up questions in the comments below.


To start, I just have to say, we love Halloween! I wish Halloween was more than one night! It's become probably the most community-based day of the year, and we love any opportunity to chat with our neighbours and get to know them better. Sure, we have weekends in the park, and school drop off and pick up to get to know local families, but on Halloween we are bumping into neighbourhood families every five feet! The heartbeat behind our church is always to be a light in the neighbourhood where we live. We believe strongly in investing in our neighbours and our neighbourhood. Halloween is one of the best nights of the year for doing just that, and I can't imaging wasting that opportunity and staying home (or attending a church event in lieu of trick-or-treating).

Some Christians are against Halloween because they believe the roots are in Pagan festivals or sorcery, but there are mixed accounts on the Halloween origin, and in fact, many historians trace Halloween back to Christian farming festivals. Regardless of the origins hundreds of years ago, Halloween today, at least for children the ages of ours and in our circles, don't celebrate the occult, they celebrate dressing up and eating candy.

Sure, in recent decades, Halloween has become increasingly tied to horror and gore, but that's certainly not obligatory if you're celebrating Halloween, and I don't believe it tarnishes the holiday for everyone. In fact, I'd argue that Christmas, though rooted in the birth of Jesus and God's initiating love for humanity, has become almost equally deplorable with the materialism, extravagance, and tall tales about Santa Claus. Halloween, in some circles, may represent things we don't want our children to internalize as true, but so does Christmas, and I don't see a trend of Christians bucking Christmas.

Taking your kids trick-or-treating is a great way to get to know your neighbours better and do something fun as a family. Many Christian families don't take these opportunities enough, I'd say. We take the Apostle Paul's ministry style of becoming all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), and we believe as it's written in Titus 1:15, to the pure, all things are pure. More than any influence in the Bible, we look to Jesus Christ, who ate with prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners without batting an eye. Christians today often tend to abstain from the people, communities, and events, where Jesus would most likely be found in the pages of scripture.

We see Halloween as a night of costumes, too much sugar, and being in the community. Often I get to know one parent from dropping off my kids at school, but I've never met their spouse, nor have they met Brad. Halloween is usually a time when all of the parents are out and about, mingling, and connecting in an informal way. In short, it's an incredible opportunity, especially for Christians who want to be a positive influence in their community.

This year Lily is being Elphaba, the "wicked" witch from the Wizard of Oz (who's actually good, according to the Broadway musical, Wicked) at school and Anne of Green Gables when we go trick-or-treating. I found two amazing costumes at the second-hand store and we couldn't decide, so she's being both! Oli is going as the Hulk, and Chloe is being a princess at school and wearing Oli's fire fighter costume from last year when we go trick-or-treating. I'm looking forward to a fun night out with my family and our neighbours, and of course, stealing my kid's Aero and Reese mini bars ;)

9 comments:

  1. I love your take on all the holidays. And who'd want to miss out on a once-a-year chance to pig out on Reese's peanut butter cups?

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  2. Anonymous17.10.17

    Same here, we don't celebrate Santa but we do celebrate Halloween. I had sooooo much fun trick-or-treating as a kid! One or two years we went to a Harvest Night at church and while the games were fun, it wasn't as fun as the trick-or-treating.

    My daughter is 3 so she's pretty excited about Halloween this year. When she was 1, she was too little for candy so we did "reverse trick-or-treating". We live in an apartment and don't get trick or treaters, so we dressed up our daughter and delivered candy to one or two dozen people: a few neighbours and people who work in nearby stores (our favourite coffee shop, florist, bakery, the barber and the tailer). It was so much fun! (Yeah for living in a walkable neighbourhood! :-) )

    When she turned two, we did the same. We handed out candy to the same people, and then we let her go trick or treating down one street. I love that she doesn't know any different - she's learning to give out candy too and not just get it. We plan to do the same this year.

    Glad to read about your views and to see you back online!
    Sarah

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    1. I love the idea of reverse trick-or-treating! That's such a great way to invest in your neighbours in a fun way, and I love how it makes the holiday about giving, not just receiving.

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  3. Thanks for this post and sharing your perspective!

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  4. Anonymous18.10.17

    Thanks for sharing this, but I have to challenge you on this!

    First, the origins of Halloween are absolutely not in any way Christian. The true origins of Halloween are entirely pagan and can be traced back to the pre-Christian Celts who believed that at a certain time of year the spirits of the dead and of the living were closest. That is, the spirits of the dead were thought to be roaming around the living, etc. Many of these traditions involved human sacrifices. If you don't believe me, familiarize yourself with individuals who identify as Wicca. You will be surprised. If not frightened. (As an aside, is Wikipedia considered a credible reference these days? Sorry, maybe it's because I'm not a Millenial, but confidentially referencing Wiki as a source makes me nervous).

    That said, these pagan traditions were incorporated into the church and became All Saints Day, etc. I won't go into all that, because I think we all pretty much agree (and actually, the Wiki article is not wrong on that front). Much like pagan traditions during spring time involving rabbits and eggs and fertility etc. were incorporated into Easter celebrations, so too were these pagan fall festivals and traditions incorporated into the church during this time of year.

    Second, please do not in any way make an argument for Halloween by comparing it to the way consumerism/materialism has hi-jacked Christmas. There is no ambiguity about the origin of Christmas. The corruption of Christmas by modern day pagans in no way mitigates the meaning of Christmas; and especially not to those who have been saved by Christ. No serious Christian would stop celebrating the birth of Christ because our neighbors are not doing it and/or not doing it correctly. Same for Easter. The same, however, cannot be said about Halloween. There is no Christ-centered celebration at the core of Halloween. And, either way, making an argument that we can celebrate something because we can decide what we want it to be is very slippery.

    Also, I'm not trying to sound like (or be) such a stickler, but I would really caution you about having your daughter dress as a witch. There is no such thing as a "good" witch. In our post-truth culture where "evil is good" and "good is evil," where everything is on a spectrum, where it's all some shade of grey, I would not allow my child to dress-up as a character with such blatant negative connotations (to put it mildly). There are so many other "nice" characters that are wholesome and edifying. Maybe encourage her to be something else? And explain why?

    Anyway, I want to be clear that dressing-up for kids is just plain fun (my kids wear different costumes multiple times a day) and it's especially fun at Halloween when they get tons of candy. That said, I did not trick-or-treat as a kid and I was fine. My new-Christian, Eastern Euro immigrant parents were like "What is this 'trick-or-treat' business??" My mom was like "You want candy? I'll get you candy." My husband, however, and my best friend (whose father was the pastor of our very large urban church) trick-or-treated. And obviously, everyone "turned out just fine." (well, at least they did :) As Believers, my husband and I see both sides of it very clearly and feel stuck smack in the middle. Not sure what to do. We see it as an opportunity to get to know our neighbors; kind of like you said. Incidentally, Russell Moore wrote a great piece about this last year; he is all about getting out there with this neighbors. But, the other side is that it's an opportunity to have our neighbors ask why we do NOT participate (which happened to us last year). Not participating (and by that I mean not trick-or-treating) is also an opportunity "We're different. We're weird. And this is why. . ."

    Sorry for the super long comment!

    -Roxana

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    1. Hi Roxana, thanks for your comment and for reading :)

      I don't mind being challenged on my views at all, in fact I think it's fun to hear how other families do things.

      I respect Russell Moore a lot and have learned from him on many subjects (adoption, ethics, culture, etc), but I often find myself disagreeing with him and siding more with the likes of Timothy Keller and Tim Challies, who seem to be a bit more engaged with the secular culture around them.

      I have updated my post to include the scripture that influences our motives in celebrating Halloween (fun fact: these verses and others also fuel our passion for Christians to send their kids to secular public school, something else I know Russell Moore would disagree with).

      These days Wikipedia is often referenced, so I'm not going to apologize to linking there. The article is well cited and has many sources, and frankly, it's the easiest way to get a consensus. I saw many other articles as I was researching that said basically the same thing: historians disagree about the true origins of Halloween. Regardless, the origins are not how or why we celebrate today, so I think it's a moot point. For us, if 500 years ago, people used a certain holiday to practice evil, and today it's a chance to have fun with our community, we don't feel bound to abstain because the original holiday is so far from what it means today. I'm not saying that Wiccans don't see things differently, but we aren't Wiccan (obviously).

      Regarding Christmas, I think you misunderstood my point. I was trying to distance the holiday's origins with the current day reality. The origins of Christmas are Christian, but today most athiests still celebrate Christmas with santa claus and family gatherings. I grew up in such a family. As Christians, I see celebrating Halloween similarly. We have made the holiday our own, in a way that we can practice it without embracing the original (according to some historians) purpose. I agree that there is no Christ-centred celebration at the core of Halloween, but does that mean that Christians can't celebrate it? Does your family celebrate Thanksgiving, birthdays, or Valentines day? All of those are void of Christ-centred origins, but they're still a fun thing to celebrate.

      As far as Lily dressing up as a witch, I totally understand your hesitancy. In fact, I asked my husband before buying the dress at the thrift store because I wasn't 100% sure if it was a good idea. I would never let my child dress up as, say, a devil, but after seeing Wicked on the London Stage last month, and hearing that story, I felt we could reconcile the costume. My husband and I both considered it and felt we could use the costume in good conscience. Funny, I'm more concerned with Chloe wanting to be a princess (don't get me started on princess culture and the ways it can be damaging to girls!)

      Lastly, I just wanted to mention that Russell Moore's piece about not trick-or-treating and having a witness as he tells his neighbours why they're not going... frankly, I think he's missed the point. First of all, he does live in Kentucky, the Bible Belt of America, so his culture is already much more generous to the conservative christian values Moore follows. I've spent many summers in Kentucky while my husband did his MDiv at the same school Moore taught at, so I know the culture well. He's living in a bubble. If his best opportunity to share the gospel with his neighbours is telling them why he's not letting his kids go out with their kids to collect candy, I'm not impressed, and living in French Canada, my neighbours wouldn't be either. Engaging WITH culture and spending time WITH nonChristians is real life evangelism. Explaining why we're staying away isn't. Jesus was right there, in the thick of it, and so were his disciples. And his final command to us was to go to the ends of the earth to make disciples - how can we do that is we continue to keep unbelievers at arm's length?




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