For a brief period of my childhood we lived in the city. Understand that by city I mean as opposed to the country, not a location of dense population. We lived in a funky pink colored house on Kipling and through my young eyes our neighborhood looked just like those I had seen on television, a street lined with houses side by side. I don’t remember other children that may have lived near. My world centered around my home, particularly around my older brother. We played and rode our bikes and had adventures in the empty lot across the street.
We lived there only a short time, but I remember that while there we made costumes for Halloween. There were no funds for store-bought costumes and I suppose there were some complaints registered over that fact. However, left to our own with paper grocery sacks, construction paper, crayons, scissors, glue and very active imaginations, we happily created our own. I don’t remember what any other children wore that year. I don’t even remember exactly what our costumes ended up looking like – I think mine was a witch. But I do remember the fun of it all. I remember leaving our door proudly donned in our creations, ready to fill our smaller paper sacks with sweet confections which was, after all, the whole point of the event.
As I think back on this time one word comes to mind: innocence. I was wonderfully oblivious to the evils of this world even while children dressed as goblins and ghosts stood beside me at the doors, arms outstretched for the tasty morsels that would be placed in our bags. I wasn’t scared or influenced to pursue darkness because of our costume choices. I was a child having fun in a paper sack.
I outgrew the desire to participate in this childish play helped along by the fact that we moved back to the country where there were no neighbor-lined streets upon which to display our paper sack designs. Halloween became only a time for a few parties at school and a gracious splurge of candy wherever you went. Prominent displays of ghosts and witches and Frankenstein greeted you around every corner. Scary movies that were forbidden in the early years were now the central entertainment at the sleepovers. Why do we find it entertaining to be scared? I do not know.
Adulthood came and along with the arrival of children were the decisions of how to train them up. As many Christians have done, I learned about the schemes of the devil and how deceitful and tricky he can be in leading us astray. I viewed Halloween through this lens and it became a day of evil, a day designed to lead our children into darkness and destroy their lives. We created alternatives with God-centered themes and made costumes and played games and had great fun. We taught the two older children how wicked this day was and they experienced nothing other than the fun of our Fall Festivals. Good choices. So when I succumbed to the pressure of my third child who wanted to dress up and go trick-or-treating, there was tremendous guilt as if I had abandoned all that was good and was offering up my child as a sacrifice to the devil.
Now I watch my granddaughter excitedly anticipate the purchase of a costume (no paper sack will do) and a fun evening of dressing up and receiving a bucket full of candy. Should she want to dress as a zombie or a vampire I would carefully make every attempt to steer her in a different direction. (Should her mother encourage such a choice, I would masterfully exert my influence over both of them in order to have my way…) She is beautiful and it would sadden me to see her dressed in something hideous. Thankfully, she is very much a girlie-girl and desires to be dressed in sparkles and shimmery fabric and I can avoid being the party-pooper. I probably will not see her on the night she is this princess, but it makes me happy nonetheless.
Which makes me face my hypocrisy. While heartily sounding a very spiritual “Amen!” to the teachings of the evil influences this holiday represents, I smile at her choice when it is far more likely that this precious life I love so dearly will be more negatively influenced by the princesses of this world than any goblin or werewolf or witch. The images she is bombarded with on a regular basis promote a consuming self-centeredness and impossible standards with the potential to lead her into discouragement and defeat, two of the strongest life-destroying demons to ever exist. And I have been guilty of judging the parents of the child dressed as the walking dead with a blood-like substance dripping from the nauseatingly realistic wound that has been created, as if they love their child or God less than the parents of the sweet little tiara-adorned life that will knock on my door.
As Christians we must each decide what to do with Halloween. There is much evil in this world and we are called to stand against it. But let’s not get so focused on the outward displays of what we call evil so much that we miss those more likely to capture our children – greed, selfishness, jealousy, etc. The answer to evil is the same as it has always been. Light dispels darkness. Be the Light to your children and your neighbors and the world.
Let your Light so shine before men that they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
“What is Halloween all about?” I asked our twelve-year-old this morning on the way to school.
“Candy” he replied.
Just as I thought.