The land of Halloween – and pretend and make-believe
When the clock struck midnight, Cinderella’s chariot turned back into a pumpkin. The white horses became mice again and her lovely dress diminished into rags. In the land of fairy tales, good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people – and the lovers live happily ever after. We know it’s just pretend, but we still enjoy the magic in the land of make-believe.
For many people, the celebration of Halloween is just a fun time of dressing up and visiting neighbors and friends. It’s a time when parents get involved, helping their kids choose costumes. For some, it’s a family event. Grandparents make costumes or help re-assemble previously used outfits.
I recognize that many people (especially those who grew up observing Halloween) never pause to consider the origin of this celebration, or a different perspective. To them, it’s a fun time for families and holds pleasant memories of their own childhood.
I realize that I can’t identify with that, for I grew up in a community where Halloween was not observed. I knew Santa Claus wasn’t real and I knew fairy tales were just pretend. While we were allowed to play and pretend to our heart’s content, we knew that magic wasn’t real and that in real life the characters don’t really live happily ever after.
Halloween was an event we didn’t celebrate because its foundation is based on darkness and evil. Years after we’d put away our dress-up and pretend clothes, I researched the basis for this October 31 celebration on my own.
The Truth about Halloween
What I learned was sobering and shocking.
There is another side to this celebration, and one I think we would do well to consider.
When our kids were small, many folks looked at us askance when they learned we didn’t celebrate – or observe – Halloween.
October is always a beautiful time of the year, yet I was glad when the community and school festivities about Halloween were behind us. One teacher in our schools told me that she was always relieved when the season was over. Children were so wound up about this event, and the excess of candy made them hyper. No wonder she breathed a sigh of relief when November was ushered in.
We encountered the spirit of Halloween during our kids’ regular school routine, as they were receiving instruction in Art, crafts, and music. Each year we asked ourselves how we (our family) could best respond to the observance of Halloween, and we have never regretted the decision we made to withhold participation from our kids.
We said “No” to Halloween because we took our cue from what God’s word says about our adversary Satan and the necessity of avoiding the evil he represents. We wanted to embrace what is is godly and good, and we couldn’t find any way to do that with this celebration.
What Halloween Is
Halloween is a pagan holiday. For the Wiccan community, it’s the largest holiday of their year.
On this holiday, children are sacrificed. Really.
Satan is worshiped.
Séances are conducted.
Spells are cast. It really happens.
Research it for yourself. You might be surprised at what you will learn. I certainly was!
Because of its pagan origin and because of what happens on this holiday, we made a decision to not align ourselves with the Halloween holiday or those activities. We didn’t (and don’t) support it with our time, our talent, or our treasure.
Alternatives to Halloween
Since Dave and I believe that all of these (our time, our talent, our treasure) belong to God, that really affects what we do with each of these. As Christians, we are called to be faithful with everything God has provided us.
How can we allocate those gifts of God to celebrate something that is so opposite of Who He is?
God does not do magic. He does miracles.
He doesn’t do tricks. He gives power.
He doesn’t give treats. He blesses.
We need to help our children learn to think through what they do and why. It’s called discernment. Children (and adults alike) need to learn to evaluate the activities of a culture and determine if participation in an activity or event is consistent for a believer who declares that God alone is God.
Halloween seems to be geared toward young children. That is probably because the young are the ones who enjoy pretending, dressing up, and getting treats. Who doesn’t wish to be able to wave a magic wand and make wonderful things happen?!
For a Christian family, this holiday is an opportunity to help even young children understand and see the conflict in values that Halloween presents. Children need to learn that following Christ may cause them to be in the minority.
While it’s much easier to do something because everybody else is doing it, the majority’s decision is not necessarily the right decision. Never is everybody is doing it or we always did it a basis for choosing to participate in activities, no matter which occasion is being celebrated.
We felt that merely being selective in our kid’s costumes while still mingling with others who were masquerading as evil characters was not effective in whitewashing the celebration and its real meaning. We were not against dressing up, being in costume, pretending or playing a part. We were against the evil themes and the devil behind them.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Sometimes Halloween is used as an excuse to be unkind: trashing someone’s place, throwing pumpkins into a yard, or deliberately doing something to others’ property. It happens.
In addition, part of the Halloween custom of going door-to-door gives children the “right” to do a trick if someone doesn’t give them a treat. For the Christian, we don’t have a “right” to demand a treat; nor do we have the right to return evil for not getting what we want.
God’s word says that we should return good for evil. Therefore, we could not encourage our kids to do tricks on someone they didn’t like, on someone who had wronged them, or who refused to give them candy for a treat. Many parents wouldn’t allow their kids to do this either, even though they allow them to go trick-or-treating.
Allowing our kids to demand a treat is not something we wanted them to practice, even if it was in fun. This idea is also counter to scripture which says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. How many children are taught to practice this principle of giving rather than demanding what they want?! I realize that many people view the children’s activities associated with Halloween as mere games, and most parents wouldn’t allow their kids to actually do something unkind to folks. At the same time, the sentiment of evil activity is part of the season, and our kids can pick up attitudes and meanings without us even being aware.
In many communities (including ours), churches provide a safe place for children to come and “trunk or treat”. While that certainly is a safer place and environment for the observance of Halloween, it doesn’t address the conflict of the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.
What We Did
We allowed our children to participate in school activities that did not celebrate Halloween. They could color autumn leaves, but we asked the Art teachers to not give them black cats, witches, or spiders to color during this season. Our kids’ teachers were supportive and never tried to push our kids to do something we aasked thatthey not do.
We participated in our school’s Harvest Celebration because we could support the way it was done. Our kids got to participate in games and activities that were harmless. They especially enjoyed the cake walk, and I often contributed in this activity by providing something home- baked. Our elementary school did not focus on Halloween at this celebration. Sure, some kids came in costumes, but our school had guidelines for their costumes. The focus was on an autumn/harvest celebration, and that’s why we attended. It was something we could support as a fundraiser for our school.
At a school one of our kids attended in another county, the third grade teachers dressed up as witches. Our child was in kindergarten, but he stayed home from school that day. We explained to the administration why he was going to be absent. Some parents told us later that their children came home frightened due to the costumes of the teachers. the next year we were living in another county, but we were told that the teachers were not allowed to dress as witches anymore. We were not the only parents who had kept their children out of school that year, and the administrators got the message.
Because of where we live, we don’t get a lot of Halloween traffic. When a few stragglers have come to our door, we have given a snack, but it’s usually fruit instead of candy.
We recognize that other children won’t understand that we don’t celebrate Halloween, and we don’t have a problem sharing a snack with kids who come to our door. It’s an opportunity to be a gentle spirit to children who are bombarded with conflict and strife in the world around them.
During the month of October, and often in the last week of the month, our church has a special evening where we dressed up as Bible characters in order to celebrate Heroes of Faith instead of villains and evil. It gives children an opportunity to have fun dressing up – but it puts the focus on something positive instead of negative. We talk about the Bible character and what he/she did right and what they did wrong. Each October we repeat our Heroes of Faith celebration. It’s a time for children – and adults – to learn more about the characters in the Bible.
What You Can Choose To Do:
Study the history of Halloween and decide whether or not this is something you can support.
“But we’ve always done it” is not a reason to participate in any event unless you have a biblical reason to do so.
“My kids won’t understand” isn’t a good reason, either.
As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children the principles that guide what we believe and practice. As parents, we have the responsibility to do what we feel God wants us to do, including choosing the celebrations our children observe, whether they understand or agree with us or not.
A two-year-old doesn’t understand why he can’t play in the road, but we certainly don’t allow him to play in the road because he just doesn’t understand. Nor do we allow him to play in the road because all the other kids are playing there or because a car rarely comes down that road.
Helping our children go to God’s Word and find reasons to do or not do something is much more valuable than having them learn that we do things because everybody else is doing it. Your kids will respect you if you can show them from God’s Word why you do or don’t allow them to participate in activities, whether it’s something to do with Halloween or any other celebration.
Whether you choose to participate in this holiday or not, you should be able to give an explanation for your choice. As disciples of Christ, we need to take our cues from the Bible rather than merely following the crowd.
You may come out at a different place than we did. I simply suggest that you consider the why and not just the what in any celebration. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with it?” maybe it would be better to ask, “What’s right about this?”
When the clock strikes midnight, we won’t answer to each other. We will answer to God.