Thursday, November 08, 2007

Halloween: Should We Celebrate It?

Halloween is a week behind us. Those of us who have children or work with children’s ministry may be going through a time of self doubt about our level of participation in Halloween or lack thereof in my case.

I used to have the “weaker brother” attitude toward Halloween. As long as it didn’t lure me or my brother or sister in Christ to do things violated our consciences, it was all right to do. After all, several holidays are based on the dates of pagan holidays such as Christmas and Easter. As the Church conquered lands in the early centuries, in their efforts to change the hearts of new believers, they shrouded pagan holidays with a veneer of religion. Thus Halloween, or all Hallow’s Eve celebrated the lives of the Saints as it led into All Saints Day, November 1st. Isn’t this about as “pagan” as the situation the first century church faced in the dilemma of whether to eat meat offered to idols? (1 Corinthians 8)

Yet several things this year have swayed me toward a more cautious stance toward Halloween. Christmas and Easter actually celebrate the birth, life and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Those are true historical events and very much worth celebrating. Yet Halloween is basically a holiday of death, so contrary to my Christian beliefs. In our society, the seemingly innocent traditions of distributing candy and dressing in costumes, easily lure our children into more gruesome and despotic celebrations. One cannot even turn on the television the week before October 31st without needing to do a fast switch on the remote past the horror flicks. Children turn into teens who become enamored with dabbles into the occult and witchcraft oriented groups. I’m horrified to hear from my college age daughter of some of the practices at her campus. She literally hides in her room on Halloween night to avoid the ghoulish or lust invoking characters that walk her halls or the promiscuous orgies that take place on other parts of the campus.

The Bible tells us to avoid even the hint of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). It also tells us to have nothing to do with the occult or witchcraft (Deuteronomy 18:10). Behind the surface of Halloween, these things abound. How can I as a Christian, as one who celebrates the hope and life giving love of my Savior, how can I indulge in a holiday that celebrates death and the darkness of the spirit world, and encourages greed and self indulgence?

Yet, I know as a parent that it’s awfully hard to fight these things, especially when all the others kids are doing it, even the ones at church. Too often the church has been guilty of wagging our finger of condemnation in the face of those who do participate in questionable activities without providing alternatives. Giving an alternative will teach our children how they can live their lives differently than how the world suggests. We can use alternative programs to reach out other children. In a time when it’s becoming more and more unsafe to let children roam the neighborhoods collecting candy, the church can provide children a safe and spiritually healthy haven on Halloween night.

While I’ve come to the conclusion that Halloween is a holiday I don’t want to celebrate, I also believe that God is in the business of making redemptive use of bad things and so should we. I’d like to suggest a few alternatives, programs I’ve seen done and some I’ve tried myself. In making these suggestions I want to give two caveats. One is the weaker brother rule. If your activity will lure someone to violate their conscience, don’t do it. The other is check and double check your motives. Are you doing your activity to redeem this evil night or are you doing it to compromise and conform to the world? If it’s the former reason, go for it.

1. Elkhorn Valley Christian Camp holds a reality walk each year, a walk through the woods that presents tableaus on a subject. This year’s theme was “Sin: It’s deadly.”

2. A church in North Carolina held a “Tract and Treat” where kids went door to door to pass out tracts about the church.

3. A church in Colorado had their children dress in non-scary costumes then took bananas to distribute to the residents of the nursing home. “No trick just a treat” was their slogan. The residents loved see the children.

4. One year, I held a church camp reunion for the children who attended the week of camp my husband and I were deans for. The theme of camp had been Fully Rely On God or Frog It. So we had a frog party. Every one was invited to dress in bible costumes or something green (no scary costumes) and bring a snack that had to do with frogs. We had cupcakes with gummy frogs, lily pad cookies, and rice krispie cookies decorated with plastic flies. My children still talk about that party.

5. Another year two other families joined us for a fun night. We played “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” and broke a piñata in the backyard. We had parents work with their children to create masks of their favorite book character out of paper bags and art supplies. Then one of the fathers gave a devotion on the masks human beings wear to hide who they really are, but God sees us on the inside and loves us anyway.

6. When my children were teenagers, we invited their friends for a pumpkin carving party, providing patterns of goofy faces and famous characters with their choice of music. I still have fond memories of girls dancing in my kitchen to the music of Billy Joel, holding wooden spoons as microphones.

7. Pantano Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona has held for years a “Pumpkin Patch” carnival with booths, games, foods and fun activities. Before the event begins, volunteers “pray the premises,” praying for God’s protection and presence, that all that is done and said might be to His glory. It’s one of the church’s major yearly outreaches to children.

How can you redeem this holiday and provide a God-glorifying alternative? Share your idea in the comment link below.

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