Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rethinking Halloween

A colleague/new friend of mine asked me to join her and her family doing a "Halloween" themed booth at a local park for kids to do a kind of trick-or-treating along a trail of booths put on by other local community businesses.  It would involve dressing up in a costume and exposing my children to the Halloween holiday (more than walking into a Wal Mart and seeing all the costumes and decorations).

Our family hasn't "done Halloween" for a very long time.  I don't know if the older kids even remember ever celebrating it.  For me, it was one of those things that seemed to be a "no brainer".  Christians and Halloween were diametrically incompatible.  Halloween means "dark creatures", candy, doing mean things to people... right?  I'm not into those things.  Yet, is that what Halloween is all about?

My mother's absolute favorite holiday was Halloween.  She would decorate the house in orange and black, cute little decorations that sat on the TV, icky spider webs in the windows, and she herself had the most hideous hunchback mask and costume she'd greet the kids at the door in - scaring the pee out of unsuspecting little children who'd come to the door to trick-or-treat.  Most Halloween evenings she'd go out after we children were all home safely to go to some party with her friends.  My mom loved practical jokes, and one of her favorite was to leave recycled manikin body parts that her Red Cross friend, Wanda, gave her in unusual places to shock her friends.  I have great memories of wider family members finding "someone" (pillows, a wig, hands and feet sticking out of their blankets) sleeping in their beds and getting creeped out about it.

I too enjoyed Halloween until I became an adult.  Trick or treating was great to get all that junk in a pillowcase, canvasing the entire town of Towanda, Kansas in a single night.  We knew where to go for most the likely score of big candies, who had the best decorations, etc.  We knew the rules about "porch lights" and strangers, and it seemed to us a time of fun.

When I was a young mother, I lived in north central Illinois and was a part of a community of Mennonites.  They didn't do Halloween.  They had another set of traditions called "Lantern Festival" in which the children and adults made lanterns out of cans and candles, sang songs in the meadow in front of the common building, had a small bonfire, came in for hot chocolate and popcorn treats, remembered the dead who had influenced them in life.  We shared with one another and our fellowship was sweet.  The children went home with a bag of treats for their parents to distribute to them appropriately.  This was usually done on October 31, so there really was no room in our lives for Halloween.

Around that same time, I think I put myself "above Halloween".  Sure, it was okay for other people, but we don't do Halloween.  It was the first of many changes in our choices of lifestyle that separated us from our friends and neighbors.  The next was Christmas, the food choices we made, Easter, and the list goes on and on. 

Last year, I realized that not celebrating Christmas separated us unnaturally in our culture from our families and some of our friends.  It cut out a season of lights, songs, sharing of meals, giving gifts, and so forth.  It left a distinct black hole in our lives.  Celebrating the Biblical holidays is nice, but it doesn't fit in our culture, and I'm not sure God is asking us to give up our gentile culture and to separate ourselves from our friends - Christians and unbelievers alike  - at this time or (maybe ever?) until He comes back. 

Maybe when He returns, all things will be put as it should be.  Everyone will celebrate Sabbath in a beautiful way that includes fellowshipping together - not hiding out from society.  Everyone will live in huts for 8 days in the fall celebrating Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), remembering the children of Israel and how Yeshua came and "tabernacled among us".  It sounds wonderful.  Yet, today in 2013, it doesn't work out quite so nicely.

This year we are going to put up a Christmas tree, wrap presents, eat a special Christmas dinner and hang out with our family playing games.  We don't believe that Jesus was born on Christmas day, or that Santa Claus is going to come to every house and magically enter through chimneys bringing toys and gifts for the good children.  We do believe in family and gift giving, Jesus coming to the earth as a gift to us and that He is the light of the world, giving to the poor, and getting together with friends.  Christmas is a wonderful gift, and maybe, just maybe, God doesn't intend for us Gentiles to give it up quite yet.

But what about Halloween?  I've never seen any redeeming qualities of it until now.  Yesterday I pondered my friend's invitation to join her, her family, and other coworker friends at the booth and asked the Lord to lead me in this.  What did He think about it?  I came across a blog on the topic that has me thinking.  If I can overlook the origins of Christmas for the redeeming qualities it possesses, perhaps there is some good in Halloween that we can open ourselves to:  opening our doors to our neighbors, sharing our friendship and time to get to know one another and find a common ground.  It doesn't mean that I need to decorate our home in orange and black or a have witch's pot sitting on my television (and really, I think there are a lot of cute Halloween decorations which have these themes, and I am not offended if you do it).  This year, we just might find that for the sake of finding a common reason to hang out with new friends, that donning costumes (that any other day of the year we find appropriate to play in), standing in a booth passing out toys to children of our community and building memories is worth overlooking the origins and history of yet another extraBiblical holiday.  Honestly, I thought I'd have anything to do with Halloween again, but hey, I think it's going to be fun!


Becky O'Hearn said...

Sister, This made me cry. Your description of your new perspective shows that you are opening your heart to the heart of others in a new way. I have always respected your decisions to live out your values and I love you dearly as you are 100%. I wish you were coming home for Christmas so we could enjoy the beautiful holiday together. As for Halloween, how can we get through Oct 31st without remembering mom. She taught us how to have fun in life and never intended to confuse our relationship with our Creator. I never understood her fascination with scaring people but she sure made a lot of people laugh, even me. I hope your Halloween event makes you laugh and brings new people into your life!

Carol G said...

Becky, I didn't mean to imply that Mom's prospective was wrong or misleading, just that she loved it. I was being introspective, and didn't mean anything negative about her because of her love of the holiday. I too got a lot of laughs and learned to love a good joke from her...

JoAnn said...

It's so great to hear you listening to Lord in these areas of your life. It truly is such a personal decision for each person and family. I pray that your holiday season will be a blessed one. :)

Becky O'Hearn said...

Sis, I cried because I was remembering mom and her antics. She loved to scare us and she was good at it. I understand where your heart is on this and I support you as you make these personal decisions. God will be honored because you are putting Him above all else.

Carol G said...

Becky, I wish we were getting together for Christmas too. Maybe we can look forward to doing it next year? This year I have three kids getting their tonsils out over Christmas break! We will definitely have to connect via phone and maybe pull off Skype!

dialaprayer said...

Well, I am going to have to humbly and respectfully disagree. I wouldn't normally jump into this conversation but since you referred to this blog at church this morning without going into detail, I'm thinking you are asking for the input and that if I didn't input it would mean I was condoning this message,. I'm not completely sure though if that was your intention so I won't go any further than voicing that I am not in agreement unless specifically invited to. I love your family!

Carol G said...

Janine, of course you are always welcome to comment and share your opinion!

Carol G said...

I have to say that now that I did do the activity I mentioned above, it wasn't quite what I had in mind. There wasn't really much sharing of memories or friendship building going on. I felt pretty out of place saying "Happy Halloween" and I don't really foresee allowing my children to trick or treat door to door. I don't see any real reason to spend the time or money to let them get a bag of candy that I don't really want them to consume. Our neighbors don't really trick or treat, and so I guess I'll have to find a better way to meet and get to know them... the idea had merit, but I guess it isn't really what I was hoping for.

Illinois Lori said...

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
(Matthew 5:14-16)