Halloween Then and Now
Being nearly four weeks postpartum after delivering my daughter, pulling on a pair of pajama pants I’d purchased nine years ago (in high school) that FIT was an exhilarating feeling! After doing a little happy dance in my bathroom, I couldn’t help but giggle thinking about why they’d been purchased to begin with. Halloween that year fell on a Sunday, so my youth group (which met on Sunday nights) held a costume contest. That very same weekend was my turn to take home the robot baby in my child psychology class. I named him Stewart, and he and his crying timer were essentially attached to me from the end of the school day on Friday to beginning of the school day Monday.
Because Stewart would be going to youth group with me, I figured my costume needed to incorporate him somehow. So, I dressed up as a toddler with my costume consisting of a gray and pink PJ set, pigtails, slippers, and my robot baby Stewart. This Halloween, nine years later, I think I just might dress up as a toddler again, and pass out candy to our trick-or-treaters with my living baby on my hip!
I grew up in a church and city where Halloween was a very safe, community-centered holiday. But soon after my husband and I moved out of state, I learned that the Halloween we grew up with isn’t the Halloween many communities in our country experience. And when it comes to the Christian community, even broaching the topic of Halloween feels a lot like talking about gun control these days. For some people, Halloween equates to a day of violence and fear. For others, it’s confusing since some people choose to use the holiday as an excuse to glorify the enemy.
To Trick-or-Treat Or Not?
So, where’s the line? Should believers celebrate Halloween? Or should we ignore the holiday altogether?
One of my favorite perspectives on Halloween comes from Ray Comfort who challenges believers to turn “the most evil night of the year into the most evangelistic.”
Does this mean pass out gospel tracts instead of candy to your trick-or-treaters? Sure, you could do that. But I challenge you to consider taking advantage of the opportunity this holiday brings to accept the second greatest commandment Jesus gives us–to love our neighbors. (Mark 12:31)
Six Ideas to Shine Your Light on the Darkest Day of the Year
1. Get to know your neighbors!
Is there a local fall festival, a haunted house at the clubhouse, or maybe a parade in your neighborhood? Go and strike up conversation with someone you don’t know. You don’t know where a simple, “Oh my goodness, your child’s ladybug costume is so cute!” comment can go. If there isn’t a local activity like this in your community, organize one and give your neighbors and their kids a safe place to attend where they can mix and mingle and play during the light of day.
2. Have some deadly conversations.
Every year in October, Hollywood releases at least a couple scary movies. Why? A. Because people will pay to go see them. Thus, the movie studios will make money. B. Because people have a fascination, whether they realize it or not, with the spiritual realm. Don’t believe me? How many TV shows/movies have there been in the last five years about zombies??? Mmm hmmm… FASCINATED. Now, thanks to social media, the commercials for these scary movies are literally everywhere you look, not just on your TV. By the time October 31st rolls around, people are PRIMED to talk about the afterlife. It’s not a weird, out-of-the-box topic to casually bring up in conversation.
Is there a neighbor, co-worker, or classmate you’ve been wanting to share your faith with? Well, the fact that these scary movies are coming out gives you the perfect opportunity to start that conversation.
You: “Hey Jane, have you seen the commercials for that movie coming out about the haunted house with that actor from that superhero movie in it?”
Jane: “Yes. Creepy! (or) Definitely going to see it!”
You: “All these movies always get me thinking about the afterlife, you know? Where do you think you’ll go when you die?”
And there you have it. Satan didn’t realize he was setting up conversations about Jesus when he planted the seeds for horror films to be made! (Check out LivingWaters.com for how you can answer questions that might come up during the rest of this conversation.)
3. Spread some cheer by “boo-ing” your neighbors.
This was my favorite Halloween tradition growing up. One very special neighbor starts it by taping a white piece of paper with the word BOO printed on it in a big font on the front door of someone else’s house. On the front step, they also leave a small bag of candy with a note. The neighbor who has been “boo’d” then has to go and “boo” two more neighbors. The goal is to “boo” the entire subdivision by Halloween. It was so much fun to see the entire subdivision participate as day after day more houses would have BOO’s on their front doors! Do you know a family with a child who might usually not feel included? Boo-ing their house is a great way to fix that!
Seriously, just kick it off in your neighborhood, and you’ll be surprised at how excited all of the kids get. Next year, they’ll be chomping at the bit waiting to be BOO’d! And don’t limit it to just families with kids. The goal is to include EVERYone! (Download these free printables and start this tradition in your subdivision!)
4. Go trick-or-treating with your kids
Be sure to knock on the doors of the elderly in your neighborhood. There’s always at least one house in every neighborhood that belongs to the elderly man or woman who rarely comes out of their home. Aside from the mailman or door-to-door salesman, there might not be many people who come to call on them each year. Go ring their doorbell. Odds are they have a whole bowl of sugar-free candy ready to pass out, and they’re eager to see all of the bright, cheery faces of little ones at their front door.
Want to take it a step further to really bless their socks off? Take an afternoon before Halloween and make homemade “Happy Fall” cards with your kids for them to pass out to each house they visit trick-or-treating. For individuals without grandchildren or poor relationships with their children/grandchildren, not only will receiving a handmade card touch their heart, it might encourage them to reach out to the kids in their life with whom they need to foster a closer relationship.
5. Go trick-or-canning!
Have kids who are really too old to be trick-or-treating? Trick-or-canning is a phenomenal opportunity for older children or teens to give back to their community while having fun. It’s simple: instead of asking for candy, have your older children/teens dress up in appropriate costumes and go door to door like they’re trick-or-treating. Instead of “trick-or-treat,” have them say, “trick-or-can” and ask for a couple canned goods that will be donated to a local food pantry.
If your neighborhood has a monthly newsletter, ask the newsletter’s editor to include a little blurb giving homeowners a heads up to have a couple canned good items ready by the front door. (Another tip: You might want to slowly drive behind them in your car or a golf cart – cans are a whole lot heavier than candy corn!) Want to take it a step further? Have your kids’ friends come trick-or-canning with you! Then, wrap up the night of trick-or-canning with a chaperoned costume party at your house. All in one night, you’ll be providing an awesome and fun community service project for all of them to participate in as well as a safe gathering place for them to party in their costumes.
6. Pass out candy.
Don’t have children at home who are old enough to go trick-or-treating? Or maybe you aren’t up for walking the neighborhood? Turn on all of the lights in your house, unlock the front door, and pass out candy. On October 31st, dozens of families will come to our home, and we have the opportunity to not only show our face to them but to also love on their kids simply by giving them candy and complimenting their taste in costumes. We don’t know if the kids who come to our door have life spoken into and over them. Our compliments and genuine interest in their creativity and choice of costume might be the only affirming thing they hear all week.
Satan’s Epic Failure
Considering all of these opportunities to love our neighbors, I can’t help but wonder if Satan realizes his epic failure with Halloween. He thought he had claimed October 31 when people started using Halloween as an excuse to glorify evil. That on this day, people would honor him and subsequently fall into states of confusion and fear and loneliness. Has this and does this happen? Heartbreakingly, yes. But when we choose to reclaim the day, the lonely will be visited by children. Friends and co-workers will courageously enter into eternity-impacting conversations. The needs of the needy will be met. Life will be spoken into the spirits of little ones. And neighbors will feel like they belong–whether it’s because someone stuck a piece of paper on their front door or because a new friend was made at the fall festival.
So, where’s the line on Halloween? It’s up to you. Are you going to let Satan have the day? Or will you redeem it as a day the Lord has made–a day filled with opportunity to shine the light of Christ by loving our neighbors.