Tomorrow–Halloween– is one of the biggest holidays in America. It’s second only to Christmas, in terms of amount of money spent and numbers of people who participate. Yet, many people are vehemently opposed to it.
I do get it that our world is scary enough without adding bloody ghouls, zombies, and vampires to the mix. Naturally, responsible parents need to accompany young children and issue strict warnings to older ones to not accept opened candy bars or dart across dark roads without looking.
But dressing in costumes and amassing large amounts of fattening candy until you succumb to a sugar-induced coma is just plain fun. Are we at risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water here?
Some friends of mine hide inside their unlit homes and refuse to answer the doorbell when costumed kids come calling. Others–presumably not Catholics–shuttle their children off to (boring) Reformation Day parties, celebrating the date in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral.
Many Christian churches have nearly cloned the secular tradition with their sanitized alternative, called Trunk or Treat parties. Children come dressed up, and after routing around in the trunks of cars, they leave with bags of candy. The evening spent in the church parking lot is safe and filled with friendly faces you already know. The kids don’t have to interact with strangers. In turn, they don’t threaten those strangers with the fear of throwing rotten eggs on their houses.
Other churches have varied the names: Fall Festivals, Harvest Parties, or Great Pumpkin parties. The intent remains the same: anything to keep your children from the scary world out there.
But this is my question: Isn’t getting to know your neighbor part of what Christians are called to do? It seems that we might be missing an opportunity here.
When else will dozens of children stream across my yard and knock on my front door? I don’t want them to see us as that crotchety old couple who are too religious to be fun, feeding the prevalent view that Christ-followers are judgmental fuddy-duddies.
My husband and I want every aspect of our lives to contribute to our overall mission of knowing God and making him known. We refuse to close the door on potential relationships with children (and their parents) in my neighborhood because the way we celebrate Halloween in America** makes us uncomfortable.
[**In Europe, Halloween is a beautiful, reverent evening to prepare for All-Saints Day the following day. I loved to watch people walk to the cemetery, armed with white flowers and white candles. They would lovingly care for their family’s graves, pick up fallen leaves, tidy up, and place the flowers and lit candles by the headstones. There was nothing frightening about it.]
Steve and I will continue to dress up, although never in a macabre outfit. And we dole out candy. We ask the kids their names, comment on their outfits, and wish them fun. We use the opportunity to keep the door open to more relationship in the future. We try to reflect a glimmer of Jesus’s heart: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.”
It’s just a small thing, but the kids do remember who’s friendly and who isn’t. I love hearing them say, You always give out good candy bars, or I remember you! Your house fell on the witch last year, too.
We want to be friendly neighbors. Who knows where that may lead?