Friday, October 31, 2014

Redeeming Halloween

I originally posted this three years ago, but it seems worth revisiting. Happy snowy Halloween to my Illinois readers!

When I was little, I celebrated Halloween without thinking much about the spirituality of it. We had a great time dressing up, carving pumpkins, and decorating--just without witches and other scary things.

When I reached high school, I had a handful of friends whose parents were opposed to Halloween and refused to particpate in any part of it. That got me thinking about my own views on the matter. At the time I concluded that there was nothing wrong with Halloween if it was celebrated Christianly.

When I had kids of my own, I followed my parents' example. But I wasn't totally comfortable with the whole thing. I mean, if Halloween celebrates death, and Christians celebrate life, how can we participate with a clear conscience? Is that participating in deeds of darkness (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11)? If it had existed back then, would Jesus have celebrated Halloween while he was on earth? I sort of thought not. So even as I dressed my kids up and handed out candy, I sort of felt like a hypocrite. I felt like I was compromising with the world rather than being a light to it.

Well, this year I've found a great book on the subject, and it's revolutionized my thinking.

This is a Tyndale House book (where my husband works, so we usually get free copies of this kind of book), published in 2004, but somehow I'd never seen it before.

The authors start by talking about the history of Halloween. As you probably know, it came from All Hallow's or All Saint's day, the day that honored all the saints and martyrs. This Christian holiday was moved to October in an effort to reclaim the pagan festival called Sow-en. The point of all of this is that Halloween started out Christian, and became about death and witchcraft later. So in bringing the light of Christ to this holiday, we are taking it back to its roots. The authors write, "This book is not a plan for Halloween alternatives. We don't suggest you simply remake the world's version of Halloween. We hope to inspire you to take back the celebration that rightly belongs to the people of God and restore the purpose for which it was established." (p. 18-19). No more guilt!

Here are some of their practical tips to help Christians celebrate Halloween spiritually.

1) Have your kids dress up likes someone that represents a group they want to tell about Jesus. This can be interpreted very loosely: Ninjas represent Asia, a flapper represents people in dance clubs, sea creatures represent sailors. The point is not to limit your children, but to add a spiritual dimension to what they want to do. I'd still leave out witches and wherewolves, though. Then use the week leading up to Halloween to pray for those people.

2) Decorate in ways that show light, not darkness. Think luminaria, white lights, and harvest themes rather than witches and ghosts.

3) Jack o' lanterns were originally created to scare away evil spirits, but these too can be redeemed. The authors have great suggestions for using pumpkin carving to show spiritual truth: as you cut open the top, remind yourself to have the mind of Christ; as you clean out the seeds, think about confessing your sin to God and allowing him to get rid of all that yucky stuff; as you carve the eyes, think about ways you can avoid looking for the faults of others; as you carve the mouth, think of ways to use your words to bless others; as you light the candle, think of letting Christ's light shine in you. It might be fun to have your kids brainstorm all the spiritual truths they can think of that relate to pumpkin-carving, using some of these examples as thought-starters.

4) As you open up your door to trick-or-treaters, think of ways to be generous. Make your home inviting and fun, even wearing a costume yourself. And in my opinion, if you're going to give out Bible verses or tracts with your candy, you better have the best candy on the block. (And it better be candy, not pretzels or fruit snacks!)

5) To have fun with the "trick" part of Halloween, think of people who might need some encouragement. Help your kids make cards or buy little gifts for these people, and then leave them anonymously. Kids love sneaking around, and this is one way they can have fun and bless someone at the same time.

There are tons more ideas in the book for fun parties and more. There is a really good chapter of ideas for teachers to do with their classes.

This year I'm going to get into the true spirit of Halloween, not celebrate it halfheartedly and with a touch of guilt! I hope you will too.