Halloween is an unsavory holiday for many Christians. We don’t seem to know what to do with it. The black magic, the ghouls and other frightening images, the often devilish costumes, the spook alleys, the haunted house attractions . . . these all fly in the face of seeking after whatsoever is good, uplifiting and praiseworthy.
It might seem like an exciting holiday that children enjoy, but if you’ve ever lived in a country that practiced withcraft, you may have experienced how very real—evil and horrifying—it truly is. My children who have served missions in foreign countries (and brushed up with real Halloween stuff) have expressed surprise and wonder as to why good Christians would want to promote such a holiday and put up frightening decorations to invite such a spirit.
So why am I for Halloween?
Well, it’s about physics. Whenever you remove something and create an empty space, the vacuum begs for something else to rush in and fill the void. If you remove Halloween and stay home with the front porch light off and do “regular life”, you create a vacuum that is just yearning to be occupied. You might maintain the void for a few years, but as your children get older and more part of the world outside your cottage, you’ll find it harder and harder to fight off Halloween.
Halloween is the second biggest retail holiday, scoring just under Christmas in sales. That means everyone is thinking about, making or buying a costume or decorations or foods for Halloween. And your kids will sooner or later be touched by it. We can’t keep them little forever, but we can give them traditions with meaning that they can repeat with their own families.
I’m all for replacing Halloween with something better. And it is a perfect time of year to do it. Halloween comes just as the garden is being put to bed, and the pumpkins and big squashes picked. The orchard is ripe and laden with apples, and the cornstalks freeze and turn pale. There are autumn leaves falling. Your decorations are already in place! If you’ve done much food preserving, there is a definite sense of relief and cause to celebrate when your work is done, and the garden is closed for the season. It is natural to make it a time of celebrating the harvest! So why not have a Harvest Festival? Invite a few families, or a lot. Have it at your home, or in a bigger location. Here’s some ideas we’ve tried:
- potluck supper featuring soups and breads
- non-scary costumes for all, adults too: animals, historical figures, storybook characters, etc.
- set up some simple carnival type games around the edge of the room so children can go from one to the next (cake walk, bean bag toss, fishing pond, etc.)
- every family brings a bag of candy as a “ticket” to get in. The candy is then used as prizes in the carnival games.
- have a “healthy treat” Halloween with natural treats, popcorn, muffins, apples
- A “Family dance” (all ages): western line dances, square dance, English contra-dancing are all great fun!
Another tradition that our children have wanted to keep going, as they’ve grown older, is to visit the elderly people in your neighborhood or church community on Halloween—trick or treat style. Most of those who are elderly now grew up when Halloween was a more innocent holiday where the children dressed up in costume and went safely door to door through the neighborhood in droves. Most of the older people I know buy candy and wait and wait . . . and wait . . . in hopes of treating little children in costume. My neighbor told me that “The Hopkins” were the only trick-or-treaters she’s had in the last ten years! You can brighten someone’s evening by a visit, showing your costumes and staying for a while to chat. My college kids still go visiting our elderly neighbors on Halloween.
Whatever you choose, remember that children are quick to set it in concrete as tradition and want it be repeated every year. Celebration of harvest with family and friends, or visiting the elderly are both things I am happy to see my children carry on.
And oh, Happy
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