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10.30.2012

Why I Celebrate Halloween

Halloween is one of those things that, if you've grown up in the church, you might feel conflicted about celebrating. It's kind of like homeschooling - people feel very strongly about their views on it. If you have a different opinion, in some places, it's uncomfortable to voice it.

When I was young I didn't know any different. I liked getting candy and dressing up. Except for that one time that I didn't have a costume and ended up being Mary the mother of Jesus with a blue towel over my head. Other than my embarrassment of that last minute costume, Halloween was pretty fun.

When I was an adult I met people who refused to celebrate, or in some cases acknowledge, Halloween. They had really good, really holy reasons. Feeling convicted, we would avoid being at home on Halloween night so that we didn't have to be bothered to hand out candy, and by so doing, align ourselves with the darkness of the night. I was even convinced I shouldn't carve jack-o-lanterns because it had a dark connotation. I had issues with legalism, not wanting to make God unhappy. I didn't quite understand that He is more concerned about my heart than whether I carve a pumpkin and place a candle in it.

But then one Halloween evening as we were avoiding trick-or-treaters by driving around town, I had a change of heart. I saw homes with their porch lights glowing in the dark night, inviting children to ring their doorbells. I knew that someone inside was waiting. And as soon as the door bell would ring I knew that they would get up from their seat to open the door. They would probably smile at the kids and kindly admire the costumes, even if it was a blue towel draped at the last minute over a little head. Then they would hand out treats that they'd gone out and bought just for this purpose.

I thought to myself,

"What a wonderful little tradition this is. 
What other night of the year can you knock on someone's door 
- even a complete stranger 's -
 and expect to get a smile and a treat from them
Maybe even have a little conversation with them. 
What a great way to interact with your neighbors!"


I realized that night that, although there are some yucky things about Halloween that I really do not like, there are some pretty good things too. Things like imagination, generosity, and neighborliness. Maybe there is balance. Dressing up and handing out the candy is not the same as all that other yucky stuff. 

The first year we lived in Ohio we rented a home in a neighborhood that did Halloween on steroids. Every house was decked out in spiderwebs and black lights. People from all over town would come to our neighborhood to trick-or-treat there. I wasn't thrilled about this. I wasn't anti-Halloween, but I didn't want to celebrate it either. I tolerated it.

One of the homes in the neighborhood had carnival games in the front yard with a sign saying that the games and treats were sponsored by a church down the street. It occurred to me that this church was going to where the kids and their parents were. The kids were in the neighborhoods, not parking lots. This church was handing out free hot dogs and candy to everyone, regardless of whether they were little witches or little Winnie-the-Poohs. It struck me that they were, in a small but engaging way, showing the love of Jesus to children and their parents. Anyone who trick-or-treated in that neighborhood was invited to that church to meet Jesus. They redeemed Halloween. A chance for redemption is a cause for celebration. I decided then to embrace this redemption celebration at Halloween each year.

A couple years later, now in a different neighborhood, I went trick-or-treating with Spiderman, Princess Jasmine, and a tiny little lion. As we went through the neighborhood, I noticed that almost all of the homes whose cars went to church on Sundays had their porch lights off. It made me a little bit sad that they were missing out on the neighborliness and generosity - the redemption - of the night.

Since then I've made a point to have someone at home on Halloween night, to be neighborly. It's a great opportunity to talk to my neighbors who come by with their kids. I like to dress up to give the kids - and the parents with them - a smile along with their treat. I play Halloween songs and fire up the fog machine. I hope they leave our doorstep knowing that the people in this house are friendly. I hope that as I open the door for each kid, it's one step closer to opening a door towards a relationship with my neighbors. I want them to know that we are engaging, not stand-offish. Especially if they see our car going to church on Sunday mornings. 

I want to celebrate Halloween with neighborliness and generosity, and by doing so, redeem it.


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