Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Seasons, Holidays, and Halloween

(First, a sidenote--I'm featured today at Stepping Stones Magazine for Readers, so go check out the letter I wrote you!)

Now that I have a school-age kiddo, I've found that an awful lot of focus in our house in on the season and holidays coming up. Kind of amazing how they go from clueless to completely into celebrating over the course of a few years, isn't it?

I've put a lot of thought into the way we celebrate things, and it inevitably comes up for me this time of year. All the kids' shows (and I mean ALL) are focused on Halloween. I can see why they like to be--to the politically-correct way of thought, this is a safe holiday. There's no religious attachment to worry about ignoring or getting in trouble for not ignoring. It's just costumes and candy, right? And boy do my kids get excited about it!

Then I inevitably come across something that expounds on the evils of Halloween and how it's the most un-Christian holiday you ever could see. I have friends who avoid anything Halloween at all costs. I'm still trying to figure out my own stance, and maybe y'all can help me.

See, here's the thing. The history of it dates back to the days when Christians and pagans were still butting heads in the British isles. Halloween is the night before All Hollow's Day (aka All Saints Day), the day on the Catholic calender that is devoted to honoring all the saints not already honored on their own days. A holy day. Halloween is kind of . . . almost like a Mardi Gras before lent for the pagans. A day of black magic, sorcery, and spells. So yeah, I get the evil thing. But our traditions? Those come from people attempting to stay apart from it. Jack o' lanterns, for example, were first carved into scary faces to frighten away the evil spirits--and those who would bring them to a house. I've heard that trick or treating is a terrible thing, but it actually has similar roots. It can be viewed negatively, but . . .

Well, but so can the Christmas tree. So can the Easter egg. And if we're on that subject, um, hello--"Easter" is named after the Roman goddess for spring, not for the resurrection. If we're taking issue with holidays . . . But seriously. How many of our Christmas traditions, so beloved, are rooted in paganism? A lot.

And you know what? I'm okay with all that--because the whole point is that Christians integrated what was not sacred into their traditions and made it sacred by stripping it of old meaning and giving it new. I don't believe that things, all by themselves, carry particular meaning (generally speaking, of course--there are exceptions)--it's a matter of the meaning we give it.

So I keep coming back to the fact that I can't have a problem with Halloween if I'm not going to have one with Christmas trees, Easter eggs, and who-knows-what-else. Why not have fun with costumes and candy, so long as my kids are taught the difference between good and evil, the dangers people once faced on that day, and the importance of recognizing the saints, like All Hollow's Day is meant to do?

On that theory, I looked up some Catholic Halloween sites, thinking to get a good grounding for ways to make the holiday line up with a moral code. Interestingly, I found their suggestions way scarier than any Halloween party I wanted to go to! (It involved taking your kids through a graveyard to talk about those who have gone before, and having someone jump out from behind a tombstone to frighten them--fright is apparently a crucial part of the sacred holiday, too!)

So anyway. I know people get really upset by Halloween, and I'm happy to hear their points of view. I would, in fact, welcome any corrections, since I know many of these folks have done their homework on the subject better than I have. Or if you do celebrate it, I'd love to hear why. All I know if that if I wanted to keep my kids away from it, I'd have to cut off all TV, Story Time, and keep them out of public for the entire month of October.

All in all, I think my favorite way of someone making this day sacred was my friend Karlene's family, who took her kids out trick-or-treating, yes--and together the family stopped and prayed at each house they visited, covering each and every place they went with the Lord's blessing. Cool, huh? A trick-or-treating prayer walk!


  1. Roseanna, I struggle with where I draw the line as well. I hear ya about the double-standard with Christmas trees and Easter eggs. My problem comes though with not just the ROOTS of the holiday but the present-day themes it celebrates. Death (often murder), evil, demonic activity, witchcraft (dressed as happy-go-lucky sweethearts), those things don't sit well with me and I have never felt okay making light of them.

    My kids dress up and we go trick or treating. We carve pumpkins and you might even find a black cat and a few friendly ghosts around the house (thanks to PartyLite, lol). But witchcraft is out, no matter how you dress it up. And absolutely no costumes involving axes through heads, chainsaws, devils (even cute ones), and the like.

    This year I've had it in mind to review with my kids the origins of Halloween. I will tell them that we enjoy some of the fun things about the day- when else does everyone dress in costume and parade around in public? what fun!- but I want them to do so with a full understanding of the day, and why certain things are off-limits in our home. Keep in mind my kids are older, except for the baby. They are 10, 12, and 14. I haven't yet procured a good video about Halloween from Chuck Smith or the like but that is what I'd like to do.

    So, there you have my not-so-clear take on the holiday. I have a feeling we are similarly inclined.

  2. Very similar indeed, Michelle. I've already had to draw the no-witches line. My daughter sees Minnie Mouse dressed up like a witch and thinks, "Well, how cute!" and I had to sit her down and explain that witches get their power from the enemy of God.

    Growing up, my mom had a rule that we didn't dress up as anything rooted in the evil or gorey side of the holiday, and I like that rule. So clowns, brides, princesses, animals--fine. Witches, goblins, vampires--no way, no how.

    Glad I'm not the only one in this particular spot, LOL.

  3. For whatever reason, I've always loved Halloween. To me the day has always been 100% about dressing crazy and eating junk food. I love getting to see neighborhood kids all dressed up. I love handing out candy. I love having an excuse to buy and eat candy. I love dressing my kids up. And so on.

    I've never done the whole haunted house thing because it's not fun to me. Nor does it sound fun to take McKenna and Connor to a graveyard and have someone scare them - yikes!

    Maybe I'm under thinking the whole thing, but I think the day's fun.

  4. I always underthought it until I met someone after college who despised Halloween so much that it turned into a thing during Bible study (the year it fell on the day of Bible study). She was pregnant and due on Oct 30--and threatened to ask the doctor to stop her labor if it looked like he'd be a Halloween baby. (As it happens, her labor started Nov 1, I believe, LOL.)

    I like it for the fun, too. When else do we get to dress up??

  5. Wow, lol. Next time she should plan her conception a bit better! j/k

    It gets a bit muddy when you have a teenage boy. So far my son's been fine and never wanted to dress up as an axe-wielding murderer or anything, but he dressed up one year as Gene Simmons and that was a tough call for me. But he had fun with all the face paint and I decided not to infuse too much meaning into it. (Gene Simmons is not a regular presence in our home!) Last year, at nearly 14, he went as Link from Zelda. I love that! This year, it's Finn from Adventure Time (some new cartoon they're into these days). I'm soooo glad we haven't had any battles over costumes yet as he gets older.

    Don't get me started on the sleezey costumes they want us to put our little girls in. Homemade costumes are usually the way to go! Have you noticed how skimpy they are getting? Worse every year!

  6. Thus far we've had no problems with costumes, either, given that my girl-o always wants to be something in the princess family. =) (And always needs to have long stuff on under everything anyway, given how chilly it is by Halloween.) Praying now nothing big comes up as they age . . .

    And LOL on planning due dates better. You know, I think there are so many birthday around the end of October/beginning of November because it traces back to Valentine's Day. (Seriously!)

  7. My older son's birthday is November 28th. =)

  8. Your kid would definitely enjoy the treats he'll receive on Halloween but then again, there's nothing ever wrong in teaching him values which he could learn from.