What Do We Do with October 31?

I know, some people probably think I’m a day late and a dollar short; I may be a dollar short on most days, but I purposefully chose to post this selection after October 31 (so in that sense, I’m not late!)

Leading up to Halloween there’s always lots of thoughts running through my head about the day and there are multitudes of blog posts written about the day, particularly from a Christian perspective.  Should we “celebrate” it?  Should we boycott it?  What do we do with our kids?  Should we give in to letting them go trick-or-treating or should we “stand firm” and “be different” from the world?  Then there’s always the myriad posts detailing the history of the holiday – it’s origins in druid religion or satanic rituals.  And it leaves one asking the question, “What am I supposed to do (as a Christian/parent/kid/etc)?”  While I certainly am not suggesting I have the definitive answer, I just want to share a little where I’m at right now.

Over my relatively short life (I’m really not that old!), I’ve vascillated on this issue back and forth.  I remember as a kid (okay, I didn’t necessarily have deep theological convictions about it then, but bear with me) we dressed up, went trick-or-treating, and the Christian school I attended even did an annual fall festival (now to be fair it didn’t hurt that it was a Lutheran school, so October 31 is also Reformation Day).  As I got older I became vehemently opposed to the day – arguing with many people about it and taking a very legalistic attitude that no Christian should ever celebrate Halloween.  In college I was a member of a Christian men’s group and I remember when the group decided to throw a Halloween party a friend of mine and I boycotted the party so we could spend time praying for everyone that was there….  And on and on the story goes.

Then we had kids.  At first it was “we won’t celebrate Halloween”, but so many people were doing it.  I remember when our oldest was only a few months old we dressed her as a pea (in a pod) and took her out to family and close friends’ houses because it was just fun.  Now we have two girls and, yes, they went trick-or-treating last night with friends from (of all places) church.  I have other friends who are at churches that do trunk-or-treat, and colleagues at work were commenting today that they didn’t have many trick-or-treaters last night and the theory going around the office was they were all involved in activities at their local churches (I do live in the Bible belt, after all).

And yet I still continue to read posts and articles about how Christians shouldn’t dress up or go trick-or-treating because of its pagan origins.  And, to be completely honest, I can sometimes see both sides of the argument.  But here’s where I’m at right now…  We don’t teach our kids the “scary” side of halloween – they don’t know about the witches and goblins and ghosts, nor do we glamorize those things.  But it’s not just Halloween when we don’t glamorize those things, it’s all year – it’s part of our lifestyle, so when they see pictures in the fall it’s not like we compartmentalize and say, “Oh, well right now we don’t glorify those things, but next week when the movie comes out we will.”  And the girls’ costumes this year were Glinda the Good Witch (that daughter performed in the Wizard of Oz this past summer for her ballet recital) and Doc MacStuffins – hardly what I’d consider “frightful” attire.  I know there are those people out there who would say we’re bad Christian parents, some who might even tell us we’re evil for carving jack-o-lanterns (one of which had a smiley face and the second which Doc MacStuffins).

Every year during the fall we read a book called The Pumpkin Patch Parable and the Pumpkin Gospel.  And I realized something – when we (and I’m speaking of my own family here, not collectively as the church) refuse to celebrate Halloween because it has dark origins, what we’re saying is that it is too powerful for God to redeem – it’s just so bad and evil that there is no chance of God’s grace ever redeeming it for good.  And that bothers me – because (at least for now) there is nothing beyond the reach of God’s grace and mercy.  Nothing.  Now that doesn’t mean every Christian will or even should celebrate it.  I know Christians who have been rescued from alcoholism and can not set foot in a bar because if they do they will fall right back into that old sin; I know others who have been rescued from the very same sin of alcoholism and yet they can walk into a bar and minister to the people there and share the love of Jesus with them – in large part because they can relate to people easily who struggle with the same sin.  What is sin for one person may be perfectly acceptable (and even required) for the next.

I’ve realized we can look at Halloween that same way, too.  We can carve pumpkins and not celebrate the darkness; we can trick-or-treat without honoring the devil.  Rather, we can do both these things as examples of God’s grace redeeming the darkness for his glory.  So that’s what we do.

There are several poems available online that help illustrate this much more elegantly than I do, but this one (labeled the Pumpkin Prayer), I thought offered a great image.  I also remembered back to some of my old Church History classes in which we learned that both Christmas and Easter originated as Pagan holidays, and the church chose to celebrate the birth and resurrection of Jesus (respectively) on them in an effort to turn people away from the false religion and towards the risen Savior.  Seems to me that’s what some are trying to do now with how they are telling the story of redemption by recreating and redefining the traditions that have been associated with Halloween.  Again, I’m not saying everyone should celebrate the holiday, I’m simply challenging those who choose to boycott the day to carefully consider why they do it and what they are saying (and it may be perfectly legit).  To those who do “celebrate” the day (for lack of a better term), I also challenge you to examine why you do and how you are shining the light of Jesus through your activities.

I’ll close with one some-what related story… The past week Melissa was watching one of her favorite reality TV shows (which I won’t name, but if you watch it regularly you may recognize my description), while I was working on the laptop (so I only half paid attention!)  This particular episode (a rerun from a couple of years ago) focused on the relationship between a young man and a young women who were engaged and had made a commitment they were not going to kiss before their wedding day, and to help hold them accountable whenever they went out on “dates” there was always some sort of chaperone present.  On the particular date they were on on this episode it was a younger teenage sibling who had the honor of being the “chaperone”.  What was ironic, though, was that after the meal they had to take this chaperone back home and get an older chaperone because the movie they were going to see had a “minimum age of 18”.

Now I’m not arguing for or against kissing before marriage, nor am I saying it’s right or wrong to go see movies.  I will tell you I had to laugh, though, when I overheard this part of the episode and I looked up at Melissa and said, “So you can’t kiss before you’re married but you can go see a rated-R movie that probably has a lot more than kissing in it!?!”  It just struck me as odd and somewhat of a double standard.  Who made the arbitrary decision that one act (kissing) is morally unacceptable but another act (watching a movie that, if rated R, had at the very least some morally questionable language and scenes in it) was perfectly fine?  To be fair they never said what the movie was they were watching, so maybe it was The Passion of the Christ, but I think you get my point…  Sometimes we take a stand against one thing yet turn around and do something completely different that, in the eyes of someone watching from the outside (and, make no mistake about it, people are watching you if they know you’re a Christian), looks hypocritical.

I’m not perfect, and I’m not claiming my family is.  What I do believe is that nothing is outside the redemptive power of God’s grace and love, and for that reason I’m going to work to demonstrate that redemptive power through something as dark as Halloween – because if God can’t be present there, well, then I would suggest our faith is in vain.


2 thoughts on “What Do We Do with October 31?

  1. Yep, it’s complicated. But here’s the thing; just like the world often acknowledges and celebrates Christmas for wrong reasons, Christians can acknowledge the reality of Halloween and provide light to this dark day. What frightens me is how popular the dark side of Halloween has become. From that perspective, it is scary!

    • I agree with that and perhaps I didn’t make that clear enough in the original post. I would certainly question whether celebrating the evil origins of Halloween was a redemptive act – my point is that in dressing up and participating in it we need to so it in a redemptive way that shows the difference between the believer and the non-believer

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