Have a happy, fun(die) Halloween!

IMG_8972
last year's pumpkins, 50mm

"A Christian celebrating Halloween is like a Jew celebrating Hitler's birthday."

That pretty much sums up my childhood Halloweens.

We shut down our house every Halloween.

And by shut down I mean lock down. Lights? OFF! Shades? PULLED! Voices? WHISPER ONLY!

If we could have disconnected the door-bell, we would have.

It was our way of protesting a pagan, evil holiday.

We didn't even pass out Gospel tracks like normal Christians.

However, by the time my sister and I were teens, we had lots of homework. One Halloween we asked Mom to let us keep a light on in our room.

"Fine," she said. "But turn it off if you hear trick-or-treaters outside."

We agreed.

About an hour later, my sister spotted some little ghosts passing our house. She flipped off the light.

"Hey!" I snapped. "I'm trying to do my homework!"

And I flipped it back on.

"NO!" she hissed, dramatically pointing at the window. And she flipped it off.

"Nobody's out there," I insisted and flipped it back on.

Suddenly, from outside we heard a little kid shout: "Mommy, look! A haunted house!"

I gasped, shut off the light and we both crashed to the floor, laughing hysterically.

"SHHHHH!" my sister hissed.

DING-DONG!

Oh, dude.

We crawled out to the hall, desperately willing those trick-or-treaters to go away.

Thankfully, the trick-or-treaters didn't play a trick. Or, as we called it, persecute us for righteousness' sake.

It's taken a long time for me to overcome my Halloween phobia. I've discovered that my fears about Halloween were 3,000x worse when I cowered in a darkened corner of my house "protesting."

Now, our family celebrates Halloween–albeit minimally. We don't do scary stuff. And when my kids trick-or-treat, we skip the haunted houses. It's actually super fun and astonishingly safe (at least where we live).

Halloween is the one time each year when neighbors are willing to open their doors. It's nice for the adults to say hello, show goodwill, make a personal connection.

And it's a great opportunity for my kids to say thank you. Over and over.

But don't get me wrong. I respect and understand the Christian families who bow out of Halloween. It's cool. I get it.

Just be sure to let me know in advance so my kids don't accidentally ring your doorbell.

We'd hate to persecute you! :-D

  • http://www.suzannebroughton.com Suz Broughton

    We do the same thing. I only do autumn and pumpkiny type decorations and don’t go in for all the blood and guts.
    I agree that it is a friendly holiday in the sense we get to meet some of our neighbors. One even sets up a little bar and give the adult margaritas and the kids candy.

  • http://heart-and-home.net Ashleigh (Heart and Home)

    OH goodness. Right there with you. Both on the THEN part, and the NOW part.

    I, too, am finding that my fears and the anticipation of “terrible-ness” were much worse in that dark house than they are when I’m actually doing the unthinkable and standing in the street talking to neighbors who are passing out candy. GASP.

  • http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/ NCSue

    Hi Elizabeth -

    First off, I am one of those Christians who are conflicted about Halloween. I blogged about it yesterday – see http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/2009/10/what-about-halloween.html.

    Secondly, please also check my blog to see your award! The link to follow is http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/2009/10/lovely-award-from-lovely-lady.html.

    Congratulations!

  • Whitney

    Ack! We totally did that too! Except sometimes we would hang out at Wendy’s FOR HOURS until we thought they would all be gone. Looking back, there weren’t many in my neighborhood to begin with.

    Now? I hate the blood and guts and witches. I don’t think it’s wrong, but it’s SO not appealing to me. I like the costumes and the fall festival stuff, but the gore? I can skip it.

  • Michelle Hart

    Elizabeth, you can’t know how much you are helping me heal.

  • http://papuagirlindallas.blogspot.com/ Kacie

    funny. When I was little my family did halloween, and then somehow my parents became more conservative (thank you, Bible churches), and we would compensate for our lack of candy by going to some crazy place like Chucky Cheese.

    Honestly I think the christian fixation against it is rather funny. ;)

  • http://jenngrant.blogspot.com jenn grant

    LOL!!!!
    ok seriously I am dying here!! !! :)

    the thing is, I know you are not exaggerating because WE DID THE SAME THING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    LOL!!!!!!

    whew!! oh man!!

    we hid, turned off the lights, prayed they would go away.

    i hated when the doorbell rang because, it was the creepiest sound ever!!!!

    it took me some time also.

    so glad to be out of my hiding spot! :)

    (i gotta stop laughing!!!!!!!)

  • http://terrysoapbox.blogspot.com terry @ breathing grace

    I really do read your blog in stunned fascination- though I thoroughly enjoy your writing and I’d read it probably no matter what you wrote. You’re wonderful!

    I grew up going to church every Sunday (twice in fact), and every Halloween, we grabbed our goodie bags and went door to door collecting candy.

    Our take on Halloween is this: the ugly, dark, and decidedly adult turn it has taken in recent years has prompted us to bow out. Our kids don’t go out. Well, there is a church down the street that gives out candy and hay rides that night so we take them to that sometimes. If we stay at home, we give out candy. It gives us a chance to meet neighbors we wouldn’t have otherwise and show some hospitality, even if for but a few minutes.

    We figure that there is a happy medium. We’re not on board with the folks who believe Halloween alternatives are evil because they are a tacit acknowledgment of the holiday. Nor do we believe that those believers who celebrate Halloween are less spiritual than we are.

    Our position is based solely on our personal belief that as representatives of Him whose life was the light of men, it may not be the best witness to participate in a celebration that largely springs from and glorifies darkness and death.

    But just like Christmas had pagan roots and has been transformed, for those believers interested in that path with regards to Halloween, more power to them.

  • http://www.elizabethesther.com Elizabeth Esther

    Terry: I always appreciate your moderate, well-balanced approach. Thank you! And I can totally respect your decision to bow out. You always seem to make your decisions based on good critical thought–and not just fear-based reaction. I admire that!

    Jenn: Yay for not being in hiding anymore! YAY! ((hugs))

  • SaraJ

    Yes, Halloween was Evil during my growing-up years also, but since we lived two miles out of town trick-or-treaters weren’t a problem. But I never trick-or-treated until my children were old enough to (and my husband shocked me by saying he LIKED Halloween and didn’t mind our children doing it). We live in a friendly neighborhood and I couldn’t believe how much FUN it was going from house to house and visiting and enjoying the night.

    However, it is important to us that we acknowledge WHY Halloween has been “transformed,” so we throw an All Saints’ Day party every year. It’s a bit funny how it gives us and our other Protestant friends a buzz to celebrate saints. :)

    (We also don’t allow the kids to dress up as anything yucky, scary, or spiritually unhealthy — meaning I vetoed the incredibly easy “ghost” costume that my son suggested this year.)

    – SJ

  • http://andi-horton.livejournal.com Andrea

    We used to celebrate Hallowe’en when I was little, but my mum put a veto on it when we started going to a Baptist church when I turned 12. Some people in the church still celebrated it, but others (very vocal others) did not. We became one of the families that didn’t.

    The thing is, evem when we did celebrate it we never used to go all out on anything gross. We did the dressing up, the decorations, the parties– my mum can throw a fantastic party, and our Hallowe’en ones were always a must-attend in our tiny rural fishing village when I grew up. They were never obscene, gory, or anything like that; they were full of grade school kids bobbing for apples, pinning the stem on the jack o’lantern, painting one another’s faces . . . it was FUN. Yet Mum became convinced, through lectures given at the church and at other churches affiliated with ours, that this was a satanic practice and so we were sort of hauled out of that all through middle and high school.

    That was why my first Hallowe’en at university was spent in pious isolation. I locked my dorm room door and refused to poke my nose beyond the hinges. Then a friend of mine, a really sweet, good-head-on-her-shoulders Christian girl I met in one of my classes, came home from a Hallowe’en get-together (still in her Wicked Witch of the West regalia) plunked me down and asked me what exactly I thought I was proving. I found, on trying to answer her, that I didn’t really know. Then one conversation led to another, I cracked the spine on my Bible a few times, and I finally realised that very few of my convictions were my own. I didn’t know what beliefs I really OWNED, and which had simply been handed to me to keep hold of for a while by other people. I went right to God with all of that, and with His help have been sorting through what is mine and what is Mum’s (and what is the property of the people who got hold of Mum and passed their convictions on to her) for some time, now.

    Know what I found? Among many, many other discoveries I made, it turns out that wearing a June Cleaver costume to hand out treats to the little ones in my neighbourhood isn’t against my convictions after all! The neighbourhood kids, I might add, have been mightily pleased to learn it :P

    (my grandmother sits in the dark with locked doors on Hallowe’en, but her reasons are not spiritual; she thinks people showing up with pillowcases for candy is digusting and refuses to honour such greed, so she pretends she is not home. Hallowe’en at her house is not fearful, it is just plain funny)

  • http://www.stjohnsmoncton.ca Aaron

    You make a good point about seasons and holidays when people *do* open their doors to each other. It’s worth it just for that. And I like the idea that Halloween is a time to embrace that which makes us afraid (to at least think about it) and a time for some old-fashioned fun.

  • http://lunaofthesorrows.blogspot.com/ hillary@dark :: light

    This is hysterical!!! I can so see it because it is so familiar!!! :-))

  • Cyndy

    I am enjoying reading your blog so much…it is reminding me frequently to make sure I’m not going off the deep end in my convictions and, as Andrea pointed out, that my convictions are my own and found in scripture.

    I don’t really care for Halloween too much and for a few years we just shut all the lights off and went to the back bedroom to watch movies. Now we hand out candy and stickers with Bible verses on them. One year it was my pleasure to let a mom desperate for a bathroom use ours!

    Our kids don’t trick-or-treat but they do manage to get plenty of candy at church functions…we also let them dress up…nothing gross or scary though (they aren’t really drawn to that anyway).

    We are surrounded by friends who have varying views on what the church should be doing with the holiday…I’m not sure what I think about that…I think a lot depends on motivation and the leading of the Lord….He is, after all, not willing that any should perish.

    So, in sum, Halloween seems to at least promote discussion in the Body…prayerfully we will keep it civil and gracious just like it has been here.

    Blessings to you!

  • http://www.elizabethesther.com Elizabeth Esther

    Andrea: Wow, what you wrote was a huge epiphany for me! Thank you! I totally agree that there are “inherited convictions.” And sometimes they turn out to be “inherited grudges.” I think you are so wise to examine and figure out which practices you will own and which you will not.

    The sad truth is a lot of Christians don’t want to search these things out for themselves. They want to be told what to do and how to do it. I think there is definitely a place for that in regards to foundational doctrines, adhering to certain irrefutable tenets of the faith, but when it comes to things that aren’t explicitly spelled out–I think we ought to extend understanding.

    I can’t tell you all how appreciative I am of the kind, civil, gracious discussion here. You folks are awesome!

    Thank you!
    EE

  • Dee

    My husband and I both grew up in a strict church, but, both did Halloween.

    Now we do not, as adult parents? Why? We just don’t. It’s just not really something we feel is important to celebrate. It doesn’t honor Jesus. We don’t judge others that do it, but, we sure get a lot of judgement – for not doing it.

    We get a lot of judgement for home-schooling too. We feel God has called us to do it. No one else in our church home-schools.

  • Lou Ann

    I have often thought of things I would write on your blog as a comment, but have not. This post makes me think of how as a mom of young kids and a pastor’s wife we needed to tread lightly on this holiday, one of the biggest it seems here in Cleveland. We have participated in our old neighborhood where I had even made stegasaurus outfits for my two older boys while the twins sat in their infant seats. These outfits lasted at least ten years giving much enjoyment to all out children, even our daughter, and to others we shared them with. Such a nice memory. When we were first in our new neighborhood and church I meet people on extreme sides of this issue. One other family in our school spoke about how terrible the holiday was and told me her church makes their members not participate (this was new to me). Though I do recall one family in our first neighborhood who would gather in the basement with all the lights out and tell the kids how evil it all was. I must add that the other neighbors did not view them as a light or as a witness, but a family who withdrew. But when face with so many who were on either side and not wanting to be an offense to either side, my husband and I came up with a creative alternative. I used the day as field trip holiday. The first year I took all 5 to Washington DC to visit friends and the museums. The next year we went to the Carnegie Science Museum in Pittsburgh and stayed overnight in a hotel. That way we were out of town and not just merely darkening our house. When the kids were middle school and high school age we handed out treats and welcomed our neighbors. A few years ago I began a new tradition. I make pumpkin muffins, cookies, hot apple cider and hot coffee and invite the parents to partake in the goodies, as well as, have treats for the kids. It is our connection with our neighborhood, especially now with an empty nest. In all our decisions I wanted to not be an offense or sit as a judge but to love, even the weaker brother, who prompted or mini vacations to wonderful museums. And to not, since the schools are usually busy with halloween parties the museums are pretty much empty and the children received much individual attention from the docents! Sorry this is so long.

  • http://jasminlovescoffee.blogspot.com Jasmin

    Halloween actually has Christian roots (Catholic, more specifically). I blogged about this today, actually, if you’d like to read on it:

    http://jasminlovescoffee.blogspot.com/2009/10/i-blame-school-for-my-lack-of.html

    Have a safe Halloween with your family!