October 17, 2012

Halloween - What if You Don't Partake?

I have found over the years that Christ-followers' opinions about Halloween run the gamut. On the one hand, some folks enjoy dressing their kids in spangled costumes and traipsing them around the neighborhood to collect as much candy as their buckets can hold. And I even know at least one family whose teens are allowed to participate at local haunted houses - decked out in gory costumes and make-up - because they're run for charity. But, on the other end of spectrum, there are those who avoid any involvement in the traditions of the day due to concerns about their children's health, or because of a desire to avoid even the appearance of participating with satanic or Pagan practices.

Ultimately, I believe the decision to join in or not can be described as "a Romans 14 & 15 issue." That is, each family must take responsibility for seeking the Lord's wisdom and guidance and must then comply with the Holy Spirit's convictions on the matter. We ought not go along with our surrounding culture just to avoid making waves, but neither should those who've opted out assume that those who participate have fallen away from the Lord. Scripture calls us to be iron sharpening iron with other believers (Proverbs 27.17), so it's permissible to have respectful, uplifting conversations about this topic and any other, but we can - and should - do so without judging, from whatever angle we approach the day.

All that said, my family has come to the conclusion that the Lord doesn't want us to participate, and He's helped us to delineate specific reasons for our conviction. The decision hasn't come without angst; we've had to explain ourselves to "concerned" relatives, tolerate eyebrow-raising from friends (knowing they're probably talking about us behind their closed doors), and help our kids come up with polite answers to the inevitable, "So, what are you going to be for Halloween?" question they must field several times every October. But, ultimately, we all have peace that we've made the right decision for our family.

How do we manage when Halloween is splashed all around us from the day after Labor Day until November 1?
  • My girls are "sensitive." So when they were younger, they were very disturbed by the extremely gory displays in some stores. Thus, rather than subject them to unnecessary stress and the inevitable subsequent nightmares, I frequented stores with less prominent displays whenever possible; I even sought out and thanked the store managers for their sensitivity. When I had to visit stores with exaggerated displays - such as the local convenience store a block from my house - I purposed to go only when my husband could be home with the girls...and I politely told the store managers there why they'd see less of me (and my money) until after Halloween. That inconvenienced me - and it wasn't always fun to speak up, no matter how kindly - but it was a small price to pay for my kids' emotional well-being;
  • We've chosen not to participate in "alternative" events (i.e., church-sponsored Harvest Festivals and the like). I know many do so in good conscience, but for us those events have felt like "Halloween Lite," and we haven't felt comfortable attending. Instead, we've always spent the two months from Labor Day until Thanksgiving thoroughly engrossed in fall fun: apple picking, nature walks, making leaf collections, creating a wide variety of crafts, watching football, and baking, for example. We continue in that vein even now, and the girls have never felt they were "missing out." Though their fun varies from that of some of their friends, it's quite fun nonetheless, and it's also demonstrated for them that "different" isn't bad;
  • As the girls have matured, we've used the occasion of Halloween to initiate discussions about cultural and religious differences among various groups of people. We've explained how - because of our faith - we wouldn't participate in Ramadan or Diwali even if we lived in Saudi Arabia or India, respectively. And so, in the same way, we don't mark Halloween because, at root, it's a celebration of the Pagan religion. When they've asked why some Christians do participate, we've been able to share our understanding of Romans 14 & 15, all of which has been very profitable for their spiritual development;
  • In the last couple of years, we've begun to recognize Reformation Day as a family, reading biographical stories about Martin Luther and discussing other aspects of that cultural transformation throughout Europe. Some folks I know even have Reformation Day parties, and others focus on All Saints' Day or choose to use the month of October to learn about heroes of the faith, from Esther and Daniel to modern-day missionary friends and everyone in between;
  • As I said, we're not big on "alternate celebrations," but we also didn't want to spend October 31 each year either ignoring our doorbell or cowering in the dark so no one would stop by. Thus, we've opted to go out for a family dinner each year on that night, timing our outing to coincide with trick-or-treating hours. The girls know why we go out, but we've never made a big deal of it (i.e., "Hurry! We have to get out before the trick-or-treaters come!"). So it really has become just an enjoyable family tradition we happen to do on that day.
As with anything else, working out our faith in this area is a process; the practical application of our conviction develops and changes over time. Along the way I found a resource - Redeeming Halloween: Celebrating without Selling Out by Kim Wier and Pam McCune - that informed some of our decisions. I recommend it as a helpful guide for all Christian families because the authors address both sides of the issue: how to partake in a Christian manner and how to abstain without making one's children feel deprived.

Of course, in either case, we should seek to use October 31 as we should any other day: to grow in our own faith as Christian parents and to train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And rest assured; if He leads you away from celebrating Halloween, there is a reason for it, and He'll care for your family in the process.

Photo Credit: Germany is Wunderbar


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