Something I’ve had to deal with since having children is the annual arrival of Halloween. Incidentally, when I was beyond my due-date with my first child, I had told my midwife that I didn’t want to schedule the induction for October 31st because I didn’t want to purposefully make that day my daughter’s birthday. So instead, I scheduled the induction for November 1st. Go figure, I had a 4-hour labor on October 31st, birthing my daughters ten days after her due date, and on Halloween.
The first year, it was pretty easy to get our Halloween-loving side of the family to ignore the fact that we weren’t observing it because of my daughter’s age. The second and third years, family demanded explanation as to why we don’t dress up and trick-or-treat. And now, year four approaches, and my daughter is noticing the costumes, and is expected to give answers to all of the strangers who ask what she’s dressing up as for Halloween. The decision is brought up again: Halloween, or no Halloween?
My decision to celebrate (or not celebrate) holidays has always been two fold: I consider the history of the holiday, and I consider what it stands for today. For instance, Christmas didn’t start as the celebration of Jesus’ birth. In fact, Jesus wasn’t even birthed around that time of year. But, the history of St. Nicholas is a good one, and clearly, the idea of Christmas today is wonderful in that we focus on giving gifts to others, serving, loving, and celebrating the idea of that nativity and Jesus coming to this world as a baby. Easter, on the other hand, I don’t even like talking about, to be honest. The history is a pagan one, and today, even in the “Christian” community, it’s all about getting things. I made the mistake of attending church the Easter Sunday after my daughter was a few months old, and we were bombarded by “what did the Easter Bunny bring you?!” “oh, look at your pretty dress!” and “did you see that other girl’s cute hat?”. MATERIALISM!!!!!!! Not exactly what I want to impress upon my children. Passover and subsequently the Resurrection, however, I do want to observe with my children as that is the historical and accurate celebration of our faith, and what’s nice is that we can do that according to the actual dates every year, as well.
So, Halloween. The roots are not something I want to encourage for my children–from the best that I can tell, it is a festival that evolved out of the Celtic Samhain festival. Here’s what Wikipedia says about Samhain:
Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a time when the ‘door’ to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings, to come into our world. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. It has thus been likened to a festival of the dead. People also took steps to protect themselves from harmful spirits, which is thought to have led to the custom of guising. Divination was also done at Samhain.
Some people bring up the relationship between Halloween and All-Saint’s Day, saying that there is a “christian” sort of influence on the holiday. Here’s what All-Saint’s Day is all about though:
It was traditionally believed that the souls of the dead wandered Earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Eve gave them one last chance to get vengeance on their enemies before moving onto the next world. It is thought that, to avoid being recognized by a soul, people would wear masks and costumes to disguise themselves. Today, this has been continued by children guising (trick or treating)
Yeah, All-Saint’s Day? Souls roaming the earth? Taking vengeance on enemies? Not so much. Next, the debate that a lot of people I respect hold: that trick-or-treating, the costuming, the “fun” and “innocent” part of Halloween is fine because it’s just one night, and it’s fine, we don’t get scary costumes.
If I look at it like I do other holidays, I can say with certainty that the history of Halloween is nothing that I can support in my house. If I was to be negligent in teaching my child math, personal hygiene, or how to walk, everyone would consider me an incompetent parent. The spiritual training of a child should be no different. I am responsible to raise my children to understand how to love and honor God, and I’m pretty sure the world will try to confuse them enough as they grow up without my help!
If I look at what Halloween stands for today, I still cannot celebrate it. It’s not about fun, people, it’s about scary! Have you LOOKED at your neighbor’s yard recently? Since when is death, disease, bondage, and fear, something that we’ve learned to consider “fun”? No wonder so many people are desensitized to these things to the point that they get into detrimental situations later on in life, between this sort of thing, what we see on TV, and what we joke about (I’m guilty of the joking, I admit).
The struggle for me this year is not if we’re going trick-or-treating or not. It’s if we’re going to do the “church alternative” to Halloween. Part of me says, hey, it’ll be fun, there won’t be anything honoring scariness or fear, and then we can stop dealing with the questioning of what the kids are “wearing for Halloween.” On the other hand, I feel like that’s a cop-out and that if we are to be separate from the world, then we shouldn’t dabble in the gray-area of anything (I’m speaking to professing Christians here, and please don’t feel that I’m telling you how to live your life in this post–I’m just sharing my own personal struggle and beliefs and I am not at all offended by or judging anyone who celebrates Halloween or any other holiday). I don’t want to teach my children that “if you just put church into the sentence, then it’s ok!”. On the other hand, I think churches offering an alternative is a great idea because then at least you’re ministering to people that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to, and you know that the kids are safe! For my family though, I’m just not sold on it and just don’t have peace about partaking in anything having to do with Halloween, no matter what sort of Christian label we slap on it, or how innocent it may be.
My husband is ok with Halloween; the church “trunk or treat” and also the cultural “trick or treat”. Me? I’m unsure what to do this year.
And PS, the kids want to dress up as firemen.