Halloween presents an uneasy set of choices for followers of Christ. Some traditions, like dressing up in costumes and trick-or-treating, seem harmless. Yet in recent years, Halloween has also grown more and more into a time of dark and frightening images, of celebrating evil.
Many Christians choose to avoid Halloween altogether. Many participate in fall festivals in their community or church but opt out of trick-or-treating on Halloween night. Here two mothers talk about how they use the holiday as an opportunity for family fun while also using the secular cultural celebration as a teaching opportunity to teach their kids about their faith.
Holding On to Our Principles While Joining in the Fun
by Lisa Lakey
When I was growing up, like most kids, I eagerly anticipated Halloween with thoughts of homemade costumes and sugar rushes dancing through my head. I still remember the exhilaration of running from house to house, gathering candy and small prizes to swap with my two older brothers, my parents always waiting nearby on the sidewalk.
Sixteen years after my final trick-or-treating excursion, the tables had turned. I was now a mother and a new Christian. When my preschooler donned a ballerina kitty cat costume (apparently, you just combine favorite things at that age) and asked if she could trick or treat, my husband and I had a decision to make. We had to decide whether we would allow our daughter to participate in Halloween festivities or write off anything pertaining to the day as evil.
We quickly found there wasn’t a shortage of opinions on either side of the issue. My husband didn’t trick or treat as a child but occasionally attended one of the “Fall” or “Harvest” parties that coincide with Halloween. In the end, we decided to participate in the Halloween night festivities without compromising our values. My daughter happily skipped from house to house in her purple tutu and cat ears.
Here are a few things we do as a family to hold onto our principles while still joining in the fun on October 31:
1. We don’t allow costumes that contradict our values. Any costume reflecting something evil in nature, or making light of evil, gets a quick “no” from mom. There will be no homicidal clowns, grim reapers, zombies, or anything offensive. Moreover, especially where my now tween-aged daughter is concerned, costumes must maintain an appropriate level of modesty. And trust me, I know what a challenge it can be to find appropriate costumes for young girls!
2. We carve pumpkins, but in a better light (pun intended). My young son could not wait to carve a pumpkin this year. While my daughter has no desire (much like her mama) to dig into pumpkin innards, my boy finds it fascinating.
One of my favorite resources this time of year is The Pumpkin Patch Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs. I’ve read this book to my littles every year since my daughter was small, and I read it every year to the Wednesday night preschool class at our church while carving a pumpkin or making a pumpkin craft. The book tells a simple story about a farmer choosing a pumpkin to carve and teaches a lesson about God’s love transforming us into something new. And because I am the one holding the book, I don’t have to scoop the insides out of the pumpkin. Win-win.
3. We make it about family and fellowship. My favorite part of the autumn season is all the opportunities to spend time with family and friends. We go to pumpkin patches, fall festivals, and gather at each other’s houses as the kids play and the adults enjoy the cooler weather. We trick or treat with the same friends every year, and it’s fun to look back in photos and see how much they have grown together.
And it isn’t just the kids who enjoy putting on costumes. My husband and I love to dress up with our kids. With our oldest just turning 11, it won’t be long before she is too cool to have dad be the Big Bad Wolf to her Little Red Riding Hood or a ‘50s “greaser” beside his diner girl. My favorite costumes were when my son was just shy of his first birthday, and he and my husband dressed as Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat. I’ve been Spiderman’s Aunt May, a mommy cat, and this year I’ll dress up as a Dalmatian fire dog to accompany my favorite 4-year-old fireman.
4. Use it as an opportunity to talk to your kids about Jesus. When my daughter was around 5, we walked up to a house in a friend’s neighborhood, and a grown man jumped out from the side of the house in monster garb to scare her. I don’t remember what I was dressed as that year, but I can assure you I resembled a mama bear as I gave the man an earful. Since then, we avoid the “scary” houses. For one, I don’t like for my kids to be scared by grown-ups. But also, there are some things that just aren’t funny—like death.
Halloween can bring a good opportunity to speak with your children about the truth of death. Dying is treated as somewhat of a joke this time of year. Take a moment to explain to your kids that death is no laughing matter. Without Jesus, we will be permanently separated from God in death. But thanks to God’s mercy and love, through Jesus we can have eternal life.
Participating in Halloween Without Celebrating It
by Sabrina Beasley McDonald
As parents and followers of Christ, my husband and I make careful choices about how we observe different holidays. While Halloween is a secular holiday for most in our culture, the same could be said for Christmas and Easter. One may even argue that the secular versions of those holidays are even more dangerous because they are masked behind beautiful colors and seemingly soft and harmless messaging.
The ugliness and darkness attached to Halloween make it difficult, but we’ve found many different ways to use the holiday to point our kids to the gospel and even share the message with others.
1. We don’t “celebrate” Halloween at our house. We participate in it … carefully. I make it clear to my kids that we don’t celebrate evil. We don’t decorate with ghosts or zombies. We use fall pumpkins, mums, and hay. The kids aren’t allowed to dress up as anything evil or demonic.
While we don’t celebrate evil, death, or demons, we do acknowledge that they exist. However, we don’t have to be afraid because God is greater than any evil or demons, and because Jesus overcame death. If they want something to be scared of, they should fear the wrath of God.
2. Halloween brings up the subject of death. Our culture does not like to talk about death. We have “anti-aging” products that keep people looking young. Permanent dyes hide graying hair. Medicine continually searches for paths to longevity. The average life span now is the longest it has been since the days of Noah.
So death is not an easy topic to bring up, especially with children. But it’s a necessary part of the gospel. The fear of death is what drives people to consider their eternal destiny.
For me, Halloween gives me the chance to talk openly to my children about death we've experienced in our family. Their biological father was killed in a car accident when they were very young, and this year a grandmother died. We can talk about where these loved ones are now. They aren’t zombies or skeletons—they are alive and will live forever because they put their faith in Jesus while they lived on earth. As Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
3. I talk to my kids about All Saints’ Day. Even though Halloween has pagan roots, like other holidays, it also has Christian roots. Halloween originated from All Hallow’s Eve, the day before All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day is a day to remember the martyrs and fathers of the faith that paved the way for the practice of our religion—people like the Apostles, Stephen, Perpetua, and Saint Thomas Aquinas. The goblins and pumpkin faces were meant as a device to scare off the evil spirits so that November 1 could be the holiest day of the year.
The idea of scaring off evil spirits is terrible theology. But when I talk to my children about the purpose for the scares, they realize that it’s not for celebrating evil. It’s for the purpose of celebrating the saints.
October 31 also happens to be the day that Martin Luther nailed The 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle church—the event that sparked the Protestant Reformation. That’s just another layer of educating kids about church history.
4. We use the day as an opportunity to share the gospel. Halloween is one of the best times of the year to interact with your neighbors and the culture around you. My family has used the days leading up to Halloween to go to the park across the street and pass out candy and gospel tracts to campers. This year, we want to go to a nearby apartment complex and knock on doors to pass out goody bags and tracts.
And what other time of year do dozens of strangers willingly show up at your home? I take my kids door to door while it’s still light outside, and then we come home to hand out candy and gospel tracts to the trick-or-treaters who come through our neighborhood. One year, the tract I passed out was so popular that people came to our door asking for them! I was passing out tracts to moms and dads and people who wanted to take some to their friends.
You can pick up gospel tracts for a minimal cost (just a few cents per tract) at your local Christian bookstore. And the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Live Stream Ministries are among several groups that provide downloads you can print.
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