All morning I've been reading differing opinions on the fun and innocence of our North American traditions including trick or treating, harvest parties and other traditions of the day. I have to admit, as a parent, i have spent years struggling with this topic.
Like Megan at A Deeper Story, I grew up in a Southern Baptist home. Mom made our costumes, we carved pumpkins and as we got older found that carrying our pillow cases to the neighboring apartment complexes yielded a large haul of treats. In those days we weren't limited to candy. The neighbors we knew would give out popcorn balls and candied apples. As we grew older, we could go to church sponsored Halloween parties. Vampires, mummies or witches were common at our events. We didn't see a problem with any of it.
Then I became a parent in a small rural community while attending a church that not only frowned on all things Halloween. Even having a Harvest Party was a compromise that made us all uncomfortable. We made the decision at that time to go to the house of a friend, turn off most of the lights, watch movies and hide from the world. (Much like Daniela Schwartz describes here at SheLovesMagazine.) We even scheduled a surgery for my youngest daughter one year so we could stay in a hotel out of town, avoiding the ringing doorbell. Much to our chagrin, the pharmacist was dressed as a witch, the anesthesiologist wore scrubs covered with jack-o-lanterns and the hotel restaurant staff donned various costumes to sever our dinner. We could not escape.
When we were asked by well meaning folks why we didn't partake, I replied with a variety of answers. "I can buy her candy, she doesn't need to get it for free" or "She plays dress up all year long" plus a few more cringeworthy answers that I'd rather not recall. I was that mom who had a fit when someone would override my request for no jack-o-lanterns, witches or anything related to this "wicked" day. (gulp)
Through the years we became saddened by what we were doing at the core. We were focusing on the behavior, not on the heart. It stopped being about who we are and became about what we did. Oh I know that our behavior stems from what's going on inside of us but in Romans 14 Paul challenges us on "doubtful things". Is it possible that dressing little children up in cute costumes falls into that category? How about passing out treats to the neighborhood children? Nevermind the origins of the day, what is going on today? Right now?
Over time we have slowly become more comfortable taking part in the festivities. It may have started with passing out candy at a friend's home. Our oldest daughter dressed up as a Trinity from The Matrix. We all remember the little voice coming through the door "Thank you secret agent woman!" as she dropped candy in a little boy's sack. We were being softened and challenged at the same time. This really wasn't so bad. It didn't change who our daughter was to allow her to dress up, go out with friends and enjoy a few laughs.
Since then, we have participated differently every year but one thing is the same, we don't shut ourselves off from the world anymore. Some years when it's warm enough, we sit on our porch in the rocking chairs and greet families as they walk up the driveway. When it's cold and rainy, we sit with the light on in front of the fire, playing games, taking turns answering the door (although we usually all go to the door to admire the costumes).
The Princess on her way to and from the ball. The neighbors were delighted to see this little girl arrive on their porch. Even though she can't eat the candy. She can smile and laugh for the neighbors!
Ray showed her creativity
Mr. and Mrs. Ray showing their dark side
Mickey had to show up somewhere
Just a night of fun!
I really want to be understood. If a family is uncomfortable with Halloween, I don't ever want to question that. I want to choose grace. I choose it for me, my family and those who need it for themselves. For those young parents who feel the pressure one way or another, I encourage you to follow God's voice in your lives, not just for this night but for all nights ahead. There will be much bigger issues as your children grow, learning to tune in now will bless you all along this road.