Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Halloween Conundrum

Image credit: Flickr

Every year on Facebook I see a couple of things in the last week of October:  I see lots of pictures of cute kids in costume off to trick-or-treating, and I see status updates in shocked disbelief that some Christians dress their kids in cute costumes and take them out trick-or-treating. 

I get it.  I do.  This is a controversial thing in the evangelical world.  I have friends who love Jesus and love Halloween, and friends who follow Christ and can’t stand anything to do with October 31st festivities.  It’s something we’ve discussed and worked through in our home too.  And while I’m not interested in the least in opening up a debate, this is where I come out on Halloween at this point:

  • The origin seems somewhat muddled to me, with different sources giving varied histories and credit to several people groups for everything from the time of year in which Halloween is celebrated, to the customs of pumpkin-carving and gathering candy from neighborhood homes.  Most everyone agrees that some form of Halloween has pagan roots, and that over the centuries, both Christians and groups that deal in the occult have each snagged parts of the celebrations to meld with their customs and make it their own thing. 
  • It would be pretty hypocritical of me to avoid Halloween based simply on its roots in paganism.  To that end, I would also need to avoid the use of most Christmas décor (and cease celebrating it on the 25th of December), come up with alternate months of the year to make up my calendar, and refuse to attend churches that place their clergy person behind a pulpit. 
  • Focusing just on Halloween, if I were to avoid it altogether, what all does that mean?  Just no trick-or-treating?  No pumpkins on the porch?  No pumpkins that are carved?  Can they be painted?  Can I buy candy in the month of October?  What about when it’s 75% off?  Can my children play dress up?  Can they just not dress up on October 31st?  Is the church down the street that’s having a “Fun Fest” on the same night with costumes and candy “observing” Halloween?  Or are they not, because it’s held at a church and called something different?  Where’s the line?  (I’m not being a bit sarcastic … these are seriously the questions I start to ask when I go down that road.)
  • I believe that spiritual battles exist, and that we are to be wise and discerning.  We talk about this with our kids.  Just the other day Maya turned off a My Little Pony episode because it contained a lot of talk about spirits in a way that she knew I wouldn’t be comfortable with, and didn’t feel right to her either.  We definitely don’t brush these things aside.
  • I know and understand that there are people who use Halloween as a day to engage in some seriously dark spiritual practices. 
  • I also know and understand that for most who participate in modern-day Halloween events, the intent and focus is fun and family.
  • I believe my God redeems, that the earth is His and everything in it, and that He looks at the heart. 

And you know what?  Even for those who’d agree with every single point I just made, we could end up at completely different places as far as how we do (or don’t do) Halloween.  I’m okay with that. 

Here’s what we do:  We carve pumpkins, but we don’t do Halloween décor.  Our kids can dress up as something cute/nice, and we will take our Disney princess and Buzz Lightyear to the Trick or Treat Main Street put on by the downtown businesses on Wednesday afternoon.  We don’t do scary, creepy, bloody, monsters, witches, etc.   We don’t do evening trick-or-treating either.  The Main Street thing has a broad daylight, family/community feel, with primarily very young kids dressed as princesses or ponies and walking from the coffee shop to the bookstore to have a piece of candy dropped in their bucket.  It’s nice, and it feels to us like a way to stay within our own comfort levels with the holiday. 

I don’t claim for one single second to know what the over-arching “right” answer is on this.  I love my friends who go all-out for Halloween, and those who firmly avoid it.  To me, this is just another one of those complicated areas where grace and respect are due as we all do our best to sort it through and follow God’s lead. 

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