A dozen or so years ago, my husband and I attended a church that taught against the celebration of Halloween. The pastor said it was the devil’s holiday, and that by acknowledging its presence on the calendar, we were turning our backs on God. I wasn’t sure if I agreed, but I was mortally afraid of being wrong.
In retrospect, I don’t know why we stayed so long in a church where we found ourselves frequently questioning our pastor’s beliefs. I suppose it was because the congregation treated us like family from the day we first met, and when you’re a young military couple in an unknown city, you crave those kinds of connections.
But a few years and another move later, we became parents. And continuing to skip Halloween made me feel like the Grinch.
When I was growing up, Halloween ranked just behind Christmas as my favorite holiday. It was even better than my birthday. I loved creating costumes and transforming myself into something I feared, or something I always wanted to be. My dad worked 60 to 80 hours a week, but Halloween was the one night he always came home early in time to drive his daughters around the neighborhood to trick-or-treat.
It felt so deliciously wicked to be allowed to walk around outside at night—something we were never allowed to do otherwise. Each front door was approached with excitement to discover what goodies awaited us.
We never seemed to tire on those cold October nights. My overworked Dad would be ready to head back home, but we’d always beg for just one more neighborhood, just one more street. And my sweet, stubborn Dad, whose mind isn’t easily changed, rarely refused his girls.
When we went shopping during our anti-Halloween phase of life, my husband and I felt pangs of nostalgia when we saw the pumpkins, candy and costumes. We knew that we had to research the holiday for ourselves and decide what we were going to teach our kids.
The Halloween that we grew up celebrating always centered around creativity, imagination, and playing pretend. It provided virtually unlimited access to treats we didn’t get the rest of the year. It had nothing to do with demons or witchcraft or summoning spirits of the dead. It was just good, clean fun.
The more I studied about the holiday—and the shared pagan roots of other holidays most Christians observe, such as Christmas and Easter—the more it struck me that October 31st is what we make it.
I’m not going to dance naked around a pentagram, slaughter black cats and sell my soul to the devil. I will kick back and laugh my way through “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” for a gazillionth time. I’ll rekindle my childhood love of costume design as I help my kids decide what to wear, and sneak Reese’s peanut butter cups and Dots gumdrops out of their bags after they go to sleep.
I like to think that Halloween is one of the most neighborly days of the year. In this era where people are often unacquainted with their very own neighbors, how wonderful to have such an easy opportunity to knock on their doors and introduce ourselves.
I always feel torn on Halloween because I love walking my kids around the neighborhood, but I also love answering the door and seeing all the wonderful costumed children. I know they must bring huge smiles to the faces of the elderly, shut-ins, or others who receive few visitors.
I’m not one to buy into the popular opinion that there is no absolute truth. But I think Halloween is one of those issues where we—Christians in particular—need to respect people’s right to form their own convictions about the holiday. I don’t have time to delve into all the commentaries that led me back to Halloween, but if you’re interested, just shoot me an email and I’ll send you some links.
Legend says that spirits are more open on All Hallows Eve. I can’t wait to fill mine with the joy that abounds this magical October night.
Kari Apted is a writer and speaker residing in Georgia with her husband, three sons, and an ever-changing menagerie of pets. She writes a humorous weekly parenting column for The Covington News and freelances for various publications.more»