|Halloween 1982, Eston, SK|
As a kid, Halloween was second in my estimation only to Christmas, as far as holidays went. Not only was there a mountain of candy and dressing up on the day, but there a season of anticipation of coming up with and preparing an original and creative costume. There was also was a party at school, including a parade through the classrooms. In my school some of the Christian families didn’t allow their children to participate in school Halloween festivities because the holiday was viewed as non-Christian, even anti-Christian. But there are plenty of ways to talk about and prepare for Halloween through a lens of faith.
For starters, Halloween (like so many holidays that have been secularized) began in the church. All Hallows Eve is the evening before All Hallows/All Saints Day, the day to remember those saints who have been witnesses to God’s reign in times past. On this day and on All Souls Day which follows, we have an opportunity to intentionally remember those we have lost and the faithful ‘saints’ who have gone before us.
Who do we remember from the past and what ‘saints’ are still with us? Who are the family members who have been and are faithful witnesses to God’s reign? In our family we sometimes remember and tell the stories of Joe’s grandpa and my own who were conscientious objectors during the 2nd World War. My grandpa served in the Forestry Service in Canada. Joe’s grandpa was a smoke jumper in western Montana. Another of his grandpas went to prison for his resistance to war. In our families, these stories that witness to the way of Jesus – serving the community and eschewing violence – are powerful reminders of how we are still called to follow Christ’s example.
Halloween can also be an opportunity to give thanks for the generosity of neighbors who welcome hordes of children and freely offer gifts of chocolate and candy (which parents can later sneak out of the bucket). It may also be an opportunity to think about how to be generous ourselves, and to encourage generosity in our children. This year I want to at least temper the attitude of mass sugar consumption by offering a parallel treat-or-treat experience that involves giving. We’re going to collect non-perishables for the food bank in addition to the candy and encourage others at the annual Halloween party we attend to do the same.
For a few more reflections on how to celebrate Halloween with a faith lens, check out the bloggers at Practicing Families here and here, Mennonite pastor Joanna Harader's reflections about life in a holiday that celebrates death here and finally a possible book for conversation about what’s scary at Worshiping with Children.