Part of this is my upbringing. Halloween is a touchy day for many Christians who fear the taint of the occult - or perhaps the more insidious grasp of the commercial marketers (you know, the same marketers who've turned Christmas into an orgy of materialism sponsored by the ACLU's "a creche on the lawn of city hall = mandated worship at the church of America" division.) My parents were sensitive to this, and that trait has passed on to me.
Part of this, too, is the reality of the occult and paganism - two items often associated with Halloween. I have a general distrust of being associated, even through perception, with anything on the wrong side of truth and goodness.
So I have some general concerns. But over time, I've come to see that Halloween is an opportunity. I'm not talking about an opportunity to dress up and beg for candy. I'm talking about an opportunity to interact with neighbors for the purposes of the Kingdom. Regardless of the origins of Halloween (pagan or no, doesn't matter) our culture celebrates the day by going door to door, giving and receiving gifts. People come to our door asking for good things - and we have the best thing in the world to offer. We shouldn't shy away from taking the time to offer them something more lasting than chocolate.
Yes, we should be careful about the trappings and crossing over to occultish things. But it is possible, and even beneficial, to reject the anti-Christian aspects of the day but use the cultural aspects of the day for reaching our neighbors to offer hope. Many churches now do this, and I applaud them. We took our girls, for instance, to a local church which uses games, treats and entertainment to provide a safe alternative to trick-or-treating - but more importantly to bring neighborhood families into the church. It's a practical way to reach the unchurched.
Our church offered magnets we could pass out which had a cookie recipe, an encouraging verse and information about the church. Even better, the team that came up with the idea suggested that as children trick-or-treat, they could offer the magnets to the people handing out the candy. So, not only is the church giving out information, but they are doing so in a way sure to stick out and make an impression. People are used to giving at Halloween, but having a child hand you something in return? Awesome thinks I.
I know there are folks who don't like Halloween, and I can certainly sympathize. If this is an area where you just can't in good conscience partake, I have no qualms about that. However, our neighbors are coming to our doors in search of something. I think it's a good thing to take advantage and start using the visits to engage the culture for Christ. Avoid the evil overtones - that should be done. But a few seconds here and there can add up to a lot of hope for a neighborhood - especially when enveloped in prayer.
As you can imagine, I'm not the only one on this topic in the past few days. Here are some excellent discussions vis a vis Halloween. Hope these help you plan for next year's.
- JollyBlogger offers a lengthly discussion about the origins of Halloween.
- Joe Carter talks about the notorious Chick Tracks.
- Tim Challies echoes my thoughts, pretty much. It is a mixed bag, and not an easy holiday with which to deal, but it's a shame to miss the opportunity presented us.
- Cross Blogging's symposium last week was on the question of whether Christians should celebrate Halloween.