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Commonsense Christianity

Oops, wrong holiday, but Halloween is, actually, the kickoff to Christmas. Christmas Story, original oil painting and signed limited edition print, by Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Oops, wrong holiday, but Halloween is, actually, the kickoff to Christmas. Christmas Story, original oil painting and signed limited edition print, by Steve Henderson Fine Art.

It’s Holiday kick-off season, and the way I know is the proliferation of, “Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?” articles, blogs, and sermons.

Of course, we all know that the answer is, “No, TRUE Christians don’t celebrate Halloween,” and I was expecting more of the same when I saw BeliefNet’s own Should Christians Celebrate Halloween? by senior editor Rob Kerby. Mercifully, this article is well balanced and reasonable, which is more than I can say for the messages we have received from various religious brethren — distant, distant family ties, I hope — through the years.

You know the argument: the roots of the holiday are pagan; witches and warlocks (what is a warlock, anyway?) and other nasties are involved; and it’s unsafe for kids to walk around in the dark (this is a spiritual concern?)

We Do It Our Way, Not Somebody Else’s

As apostates in just about everything, our family went about our Halloween celebration quietly, joyfully, and with great anticipation: weeks beforehand found the children discussing what they would be that year (Eldest Supreme, every year, was a variation of, “a PRINCESS”), and they scoured the house and secondhand store for costume accessories. Through the years, we’ve had the requisite princesses and princess brides, the Queen of Hearts, an Elegant Business Lady, and a Japanese, well, princess, although I think we called her an empress so we wouldn’t get in a rut.

The Son and Heir, obviously, chose the non-princess route and turned up and out as a dinosaur, a pirate, a swash buckler, a penguin (my favorite), and Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh fame. This latter was infused with pathos since, to the rest of us, he looked pretty much like a little boy in a sweater, but in his mind, he was the mighty and adventurous Christopher.

Freedom is scary, but ruling your life by the dictates of others is worse. Poster based upon Cadence, original and licensed print by Steve Henderson.

Freedom is scary, but ruling your life by the dictates of others is worse. Poster based upon Cadence, original and licensed print by Steve Henderson.

For one magical night — and actually weeks beforehand — our children lived an enchanted dream, and the world of pretend was real. Even without the witches and warlocks and goblins and ghouls thing, this very concept was enough to condemn the holiday in our distant Christian cousins’-three-times-removed minds, but it is the stuff of which memories, and good memories, are made.

Time Together as a Family

For us, Halloween was a family holiday, and as soon as dusk fell, the Norwegian Artist and I packed the car with the princesses and their brother and headed to town. (Nobody, no matter how desperate, drives miles into the country to a lone house to ring the door to ask for candy; so we weren’t disappointing anyone.) We took a flashlight, because we understand the whole thing about darkness and the potential of getting hit by cars, and the evening was definitely a reinforcement of safe and positive street-crossing techniques.

And we all enjoyed ourselves: the kids, because it was their glorious night; the Norwegian Artist and I, because we were proud of all their hard work to make their costumes; and — people forget about this — the generous homeowners who gave out candy and delighted in seeing an assortment of children on their doorstep. Seriously, what’s not to like? Everybody gets involved, and everybody wins.

Yes, there were the groups of unattended children, but there were just as many — or more — young parents holding onto the hands of pink bunnies and poofy bumblebees, building those memories that last.

Use Your Freedom Joyfully

And when we got home, the serious work — of trading candy back and forth — began. All skilled negotiators as adults, our children picked up the nuances of the craft at Halloween. The older ones knew full well that they didn’t take advantage of the innocence of extreme youth, and the younger ones learned that you have to hold your own and watch that you’re not pushed and prodded into a foolish decision — to be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves.

So yes, Halloween’s a dicey holiday, and there are lots of creepy things that you can say about it. But as with any holiday, it can be destroyed by taking it to the extreme, or enjoyed by customizing it to your family and personal needs. As with many issues that involve the freedom of our will, there is no hard and fast rule telling us what to do, although there are plenty of people willing to create one.

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