I’m surprised this is such a big deal. Does anybody actually “do” Halloween on Halloween anymore? I’ve been waiting for about a week now to catch a neighbor outside and ask when they trick or treat in the area. Sure enough, Sunday night is a no-go (I think mainly because it’s a school night, not out of respect for the Lord). She assumes it will be on Saturday, but final decisions are forthcoming (town-wide). Personally, I think it’s silly to move the event, but having moved around enough, I have come to expect that each area does it differently.
The nice next-door neighbor with the inside scoop on local customs was also apologetic about her yard decorations and warned that she wasn’t done yet. She dubbed herself the ‘Ween Queen and invited us to her party, which would include a viewing of the Georgia – Florida game. I’m guessing that’s a big deal? Who needs the Superbowl? (When in Rome…)
While we talked, I realized that her hand-wringing, in part, was concern over our feelings. Everywhere we have lived since we moved from our little community in New Jersey, the new neighbors have suspected that perhaps we were one of those families that didn’t participate in Halloween. Have a bunch of kids, go to church every Sunday, and people assume you think putting on masks and demanding candy from your neighbors is evil.
I once went to an adult-only dinner party when I was pregnant with Mary. Very pregnant, like due any day. As I requested something benign like water to drink, another guest was questioning my selection and trying to find out what I might have ordered had I not been ominously with child. I felt the need to assure him that I did not have a moral problem with alcohol, lest he think I was one of those crazy people.
The Halloween question that comes up in every new town is much the same. And actually, I appreciate that neighbors try to be sensitive to the customs of others. I imagine it must be difficult to raise children next door to your local ‘Ween Queen if you felt that Halloween was wrong. I imagine it must be difficult to be friendly and personable when you attend a party where alcohol is served if you think drinking is immoral (or I suppose you don’t go and are labeled “stand-offish”).
Fortunately for our neighbors, now and in the future, I am married to a ‘Ween King wanna-be. Bill loves Halloween, so the question of “To Treat or Not To Treat” was never up for discussion. But of course we celebrate Halloween. And we drink. And dance, too. Following that wide, well-worn path…
I think once I conceived my 4th child, I crossed the line from mainstream to “other.” And it wasn’t that I was mainstream before, it just became obvious to the world that I wasn’t like everybody else. So I have spent more than 7 years as a flashing neon sign for Christ. Whether I like it or not, people notice me, count little heads and make assumptions. They watch me interact with my children and with people around me. Am I smiling and joyful? Am I impatient? Are my children polite? What’s in my grocery cart: fresh fruits and veggies or Lucky Charms? Does my shirt have today’s lunch on the sleeve? Are my children in torn or stained clothing? Do we wave at the neighbors when we walk around the block? Are there weeds in the flower beds?
Little things that mean nothing for most people are for us taken as signs of something greater. We are proven every day to be either devout lovers of Christ or hypocrites. And we can be that witness in a pleasant manner or in an offensive manner. We can inspire people to be like us, or we can make them so uncomfortable that they want nothing to do with us.
Last year we went trick or treating in my friend’s neighborhood at a military installation. Generally, the chaplains’ offices on posts will throw a Fall Festival type alternative to Halloween festivities. Homes that are not handing out candy leave the lights off, and most kids know to not ring those bells. There were several homes with the lights on, but nobody home. There was simply a note posted saying, basically, that Halloween was the work of the Devil and that we should go home and put on sackcloth and ashes and repent. Um…
I’m not saying there is a right way or a wrong way to celebrate Halloween. But I do think there are right ways and wrong ways to evangelize…and this way falls in the latter category.
For us, trick or treating (and drinking and dancing) is a harmless way to be in the world. Not every action has moral weight. Serving your children Lucky Charms is not sinful. The cleanliness of your shirt is not a refelction of the cleanliness of your soul. Dressing up as Snow White or a Power Ranger or even a witch or ghost and blackmailing your willing neighbors for candy is not worshipping the Devil. Really.
Riding roller coasters. Eating cotton candy. Riding in a car with the windows down and the music blaring. Trick or treating. Some things are just simply fun.