A spooktacular idea

So tomorrow night is Halloween … cue some spooktacular puns, please!

… Have a frightfully good time, a fang-tastic night, and party just like the gh’oul times? … I could go on, but I completely digress from the point of this blog …

As a child I was never really allowed to take part in Halloween activities, because it wasn’t very ‘Christian’.

And I can’t say that I didn’t resent being pulled from Halloween celebrations at school, never going out trick or treating for sweets, or being prevented from attending parties that other friends were attending.

But I do understand why my parents did this, just as I completely respect any parents that still make the choice to separate their kids from Halloween activities today because of concerns about it’s darker, spiritual roots.

And if I’m honest, the extent of our participation in Halloween is something I have wrestled with too. But last year we chose to allow our little boy to dress up and attend his Halloween party at his nursery, to go on a trip to the local pumpkin patch, to help me carve his favourite superheroes into pumpkins, and to welcome trick or treaters with sweets. And do you know what? This year we will do the same…

On the one hand I think it’s perfectly understandable as a christian not wanting to expose your children to something very pagan in its roots, but I also find that as I try to carve out my space in this world as a more modern, progressive christian, I would rather my family be known for what we stand for, more than for what we stand against.

“I would rather my family be known for what we stand for, more than for what we stand against.”

And I want us to be known for our joy, our sense of fun, our generosity, hospitality, kindness, inclusivity, community spirit, and also for our faith in God… rather than for our religious withdrawal from certain secular celebrations.

Of course there is a darker side to Halloween, which isn’t just about seasonal pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, kid’s dress up parties, and collecting candy from your neighbours – but isn’t that true of so many things in our culture these days? The Easter Bunny and Christmas trees also have pagan roots, although interestingly not many christians have any issues with displaying them in their home … instead they have reclaimed these traditions as their own.

And right now, we live in a neighbourhood with a high number of young families, where Halloween is always kind of a big deal. There’s so many little ones out with their parents trick or treating for sweets, and I honestly think Halloween probably brings more of our neighbours out into the streets and onto our doorstep than any other day of the year. It creates such a great sense of community spirit…

So I am left wondering, how we are to respond?

Should we lock the doors and turn out the lights, or greet them as a family and seize the opportunity to chat and to make new connections with some of those families we live alongside? I wonder what Jesus would do…

“The new testament reminds us to ‘be in the world, but not of the world’ and to me, that speaks to me of practicing real discernment”

The new testament reminds us to ‘be in the world, but not of the world’ and to me, that speaks to me of practicing real discernment in all things – and not just on Halloween either.

Because when you really stop and think about it, there’s good and bad influences in aspects of almost everything in our culture today; music, fashion, TV shows, social media, books, sports, food and drink, politics, Christmas… it’s a total mine-field for parents these days, the list could go on and on…

But actually, the more that I wrestle with practicing discernment in those ‘grey areas’, the more I discover that it requires much more of me than blanket religious boycotting or total withdrawal ever could. It requires that I develop greater maturity and sensitivity, and that I really learn to listen to and trust the still, silent voice inside.

And I am certainly not trying to suggest how anyone else should raise their family or saying whether you should join in Halloween activities or not, because it is really an issue of exploring your own, personal values, convictions and boundaries, which may not be the same as mine.

Perhaps there’s also something really useful to be learned from the early church’s attempt to co-opt the event with a more positive re-focus by celebrating the lives of faithful Christian saints the day before Halloween.

And in fact, you can still see many churches continuing in that same tradition through their hosting of alternative Halloween ‘light parties’ today. Indeed, my own local church is holding one this year and when my son is a little bit older, its something we may well consider taking him to.

But for me, my bottom line is always, always, always that I want to live confidently in the knowledge that He who is in me is greater than all the other influences in the world, and for my own family to grow up knowing that same confidence too.

Most of all, I want to be someone who celebrates the good in our world wherever I see it, much more than I worry about the bad  – and not just on Halloween, but every day of the year.

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