How We Do Halloween

CULTURE | 5 mins

Every year, I hear some Christians get all worked up about how awful Halloween is (pagan roots, witchcraft, all the death, etc.)

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I understand some of the objections, but unfortunately, the talk is often stoked by religious people who just aren’t very fun.

Our family has thought it through and decided we love the unique opportunities for generosity and community that Halloween brings, so I’m sharing our Halloween principles. Even if you don’t agree with ours, I hope you give it some thought for you and yours.

We stay in our own neighborhood. The best part about Halloween is that everyone comes out! We don’t let our kids trick or treat in their best friend’s neighborhood just because they have better candy, or the houses are closer together. We have hills, and the houses are far apart, so you really gotta work for it in our neighborhood! We want community where we live. Halloween is a night when everyone hangs out together on the street. So we walk in groups to follow younger kids. We drag fire pits out to the street, put some beers in coolers and let everyone stay up a little too late when it’s over. It’s so rare that people come out just to hang out and chat. I’m not going to miss out. Jesus continually instructed about loving our neighbors, and this seems an obvious way to take him seriously and do it.

We see it as an opportunity to be generous. We’re the full-size-candy-bar-house. We want families to associate the Pattersons with generosity and delight. To us, the extra candy cost is an investment in our neighbors’ big-picture view of what it means to follow Jesus. We don’t want to hand out gospel pamphlets (kids hate that). We just want to give freely. We organize a quick dinner before trick-or-treating to bless parents who are hurrying home from work at the last minute. It’s a big deal to have someone else take care of a decent meal (and by “decent” I mean Chick-Fil-A nuggets or cheese pizza and some fruit), so your kid doesn’t throw up on the street from all the candy. OK, they still might throw up, but at least they had some fruit first.

We celebrate with pumpkins instead of skeletons. I always tell my kids that we don’t “celebrate death.” I’m not totally sure that’s the perfect language, but it did stick. When my daughter was four, she asked a woman in Target who was buying gravestones for her yard why she wanted to celebrate death. That was awkward. But it was also a moment I knew she understood what I meant! This is a line in the sand for us. It means we don’t hang fake dead people from trees. We don’t make our yard a cemetery. We don’t dress up in costumes that are terrifying, bloody, or as characters who kill. We stick to fall leaves, pumpkins, mums, and costumes that would make you smile. This just seems consistent with what we say we believe. The letter in the Bible called 1 Corinthians says (speaking about Jesus), “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be eliminated is death.” Death is not our friend. So we don’t celebrate it.

We steer clear of “spirits.” Similar to the last one: Halloween is a holiday where “spirits” become visible everywhere. Yes, I do understand that the masks have people inside and aren’t actually demons. I get it. But again, I go back to the Bible for my cues here. The Bible always reinforces the reality of a spiritual realm we cannot see, where demons are actively seeding evil and doing the bidding of God’s enemy. I know evil isn’t happening through the plastic ghouls hanging on porches. However, I do believe we can accidentally desensitize ourselves to the severity of God’s instruction on evil spirits and spirits of the dead. The Bible makes it clear that this is absolutely forbidden. We are not to enter into the realm of the dead or interact in it via spirits. We are not to seek connection or conversation with the dead, have our fortunes told, or read tarot cards. If you’re interested, read Leviticus 20, 1 Samuel 28, or Acts 16 for different angles on the fact that we are not to welcome spirits like this. The Bible is clear here, so I want my life to line up with that—even on Halloween.

For us, it comes down to finding the opportunities to connect with and give to the people around us. Whatever principles you arrive at for this or any other holiday, just mindlessly following culture will tank your faith. Minor decisions matter, so it’s a win just to ask questions and think critically about how our faith should impact our neighborhoods. Oh—and if a jellyfish, a mad scientist, LeBron James, or a bagel rings your doorbell this Halloween—then that could be one of my kids, so give them something good! Happy trick-or-treating. Or not.

Written by Alli Patterson on Oct 29, 2019
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Discussion Questions

  1. What stands out to you most about Alli’s article? Why?

  2. What are your traditions for Halloween? What beliefs are guiding them?

  3. How much have you stopped to consider what and why you’re doing what you do? Take a few minutes now to think through what you do and why. Process it with friends or take time to journal a few responses.

  4. Great parents are constantly training their kids. How could you use Halloween this year to train yours in something like generosity, community, or distinguishing for them that there is a spiritual world and death isn’t what we’re celebrating?

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