Before I had children, I was such a good mom. I think a book was published a few years ago by that title or something similar. I only wish I’d thought of it first. It’s a sentiment that resounds loudly with me and most moms (if they are being honest) I know.
I mean, I had it all figured out: the “right” things to do and say to make my kids into perfect little angels.
I was so self-righteous.
Ironically, I’ve become the woman I used to judge. Because parenting—especially Christian parenting—isn’t quite so cut-and-dried.
I’ve now had a solid week to evaluate and ruminate over the oft-debated, sometimes controversial, issue of Christians’ celebrating and observing Halloween. We did celebrate it this year—and will continue to do so—and I think now I can articulate our reasons why and how they relate to our faith.
Growing up, we always celebrated this holiday with costumes and jack-o-lanterns. It was fun and always a family time with my aunt and uncle and some of their friends.
As I entered adulthood, I began to encounter Christian parents who chose not to celebrate Halloween. My goodness. I had never heard of that before! They cited the pagan roots and rituals from which Halloween came as their reason to shun the holiday.
Well, of course, I decided then and there that I would not partake of such evil, and my children would not, either.
And then I had kids.
As with most decisions of this ilk, I was determined to explore the issue and come up with my own defense as to why we would or would not celebrate this holiday.
Could we celebrate in good faith? Could we trick-or-treat to the glory of God?
We did decide the answers to those questions were “yes” and “yes,” based on a soup of various experiences and convictions:
• The first year we opened our door to hand out candy to our neighbors, I loved—absolutely loved—the community feeling. I loved chatting with neighbors and seeing cute little kids and meeting new friends. Like it or not, we in our neighborhoods rarely visit those who live closest to us. Our family tends to run in the same circles, and though we are called to be salt and light to those around us, I fear we rarely are because we just don’t get into the lives of those around us. Halloween night is a terrific opportunity to meet, laugh, and love on your neighbors.
After that first night of camaraderie and community, I decided that indeed it was a picture of the gospel. We gather with neighbors and caravan trick-or-treat through the neighborhood. We have the best time laughing and talking and eating and drinking. We are investing our lives in our neighbors, many of whom are not Christians.
• I think the context of Halloween has changed such that deciding not to participate in a contemporary event based on how it began 2000 years ago, is kind of like abiding by Paul’s admonition that women should not have braided hair or wear gold. Contextually and culturally, the roots of the holiday are irrelevant. (Yes, I know that there are those people who practice witchcraft and celebrate such occult aspects on Halloween. But aren’t there persons who don’t believe in Jesus who celebrate Christmas? Should we not celebrate Christmas on that basis?) Halloween was adopted by the Church in an effort to redeem it. I say, let’s continue that redemption and reformation, Christians! And to be consistent, if one chooses to abstain from Halloween based solely on its pagan roots, then one should also not celebrate Christmas and Easter and throw out their calendars, as the months of the year and days of the week derive their names from pagan gods and goddesses.
• Abstaining from Halloween because of its “evil” associations is for me a stumbling block. That’s right. That abstention actually contributes to my sin.
I am such a Pharisee at heart that I’m quick to grasp anything that may make me feel superior or more holy or more righteous. I want to point to one something that I do or don’t do that shows everyone else I’m a Christian—and a good one at that. For me, it’s much more humbling and a greater exercise in dependence on Christ to participate within the boundaries of Christian liberty. It stretches me more as a Christian (and as a Christian mom) to participate while teaching the children about freedom in Christ and doing all to the glory of God.
We’ve had discussion after discussion with our six year-old about the difference between the delight, fun, and creativity associated with dressing as a make-believe fairy or princess as opposed to celebrating or calling attention to evil or demons. So, even within the parameters of the celebration, we are able to give Christian lessons.
• We also observe Reformation Day on October 31 with our kids. In 1517, Martin Luther set the Protestant Reformation into motion by nailing his 95 theses on the Wittenburg Castle door. That one act forever changed the Church and all of civilization.
I read an interesting post that has been floating around the Internet since 1996. Basically, it states that Halloween’s pagan origins have been grossly misunderstood and Halloween began as a Christian celebration of Christians mocking at Satan as he is defeated by Christ. I certainly applaud this sentiment. The problem is that I’m not sure if it’s true or not. I question the guy’s scholarship because I can’t find any original source anywhere. I will continue to research this, though.
Finally, I do not judge nor condemn parents for any decision they make for their family. For Christians, we are free in Christ. Whether you sit at home on Halloween night, take your little princess and pirate to the church fall festival, or trick-or-treat with the neighbors and roast marshmallows at a bonfire, it is a matter of personal conviction.
As with most everything in our self-gratifying, idol-worshipping, need-meeting culture, all holidays have become sensationalized and commercialized. Redeeming the holidays with a focus on something other than self and acquiring more, more, more! is a daunting task. But I think God calls us to be culturally relevant without compromise of conviction. Let us not forget that he has ordained all, including the time and place in which we live.
Photo credit: flickr.com by solyanka