The Battle of Halloween
is second only to the War on Christmas, at least in terms of passionate tweets and boycotts. It seems that Christians get a bad rap for being "against" a lot of things surrounding this holiday. I've already lost count of the number of "Fall Festivals" and "Halloween Alternatives" at local churches on Halloween night. There are certainly negative and dangerous traditions that go along with Halloween, but it's also the single greatest evangelism holiday in America. When else will your neighbors, friends, and total strangers willingly walk up to your door to talk with you? Halloween night is opportunity unlike any other night to share the Gospel and show others what Jesus is like.
Assuming that you're not boycotting Halloween altogether (again, think of the Kingdom impact your could have!), you've probably wrestled with how to participate without getting sucked into all the negativity. Here are a few common questions about Halloween, and how you can Celebrate the good, Avoid the bad, and Redeem the traditions in light of the Gospel.
How Can I Help My Kids Pick An Appropriate Costume?
- Celebrate Creativity. Halloween costumes are a prime opportunity to help our kids think outside the box and get creative. We can encourage our kids to make their own costumes instead of buying one off the rack.
- Avoid Halloween Stores. These stores are bad news for a few reasons. 1) They are incredibly expensive and overpriced. Halloween stores are only around for 1-2 months a year, and therefore they mark up their products to astronomical levels in order to make it worthwhile. 2) They celebrate and normalize violence, occultic practices, and sexualization of adults and kids. The vast majority of the products at these pop-up Halloween stores are either explicitly inappropriate or send the wrong message about what is acceptable. ProtectYoungMinds.org has an insightful and helpful article on how sexualized Halloween costumes affect young girls and boys.
- Redeem Costumes of Postive Role Models. A lot of Halloween costumes represent negative (or at least neutral) role models. Kids and adults dress up as villains, specters, and otherwise bad people. We can encourage our kids to dress up as someone they admire and reinforce their positive influence. A role model can be real or fictional, but it should be someone who stands for justice and morality.
Should My Family Go Trick-or-Treating?
- Celebrate Community. Trick-or-Treating is more fun with friends and family. Instead of going alone, ask your kids to invite a friend from school (maybe you could even invite their whole family along too!). Welcome trick-or-treaters to your door with a smile and a compliment on their costume. You can't change how other people celebrate on Halloween night, but you can make your home inviting!
- Avoid Gluttony & Greed. ALL. OF. THE. CANDY. When the kids burst through the door with a bag full of sweets, we can teach them a valuable lesson about self-control by limiting their indulgence. It's ok to enjoy the loot, but we shouldn't get carried away into gluttony and greedy attitudes. Let's teach our kids to share what they have and enjoy it with others.
- Redeem Your Neighborhood Relationships. Like I said before, there is no other night of the year when everyone in your neighborhood willingly walks up to your door to talk with you. We need to find a way to meaningfully connect with the people that come to our door - have the best candy on the block, set up a photo booth for families, or invite the neighbors over for a Halloween party. We can start a conversation on Halloween that will turn into a chance to share the Gospel later.
Are Scary Movies OK for My Kids?
- Celebrate Empathy and Good Defeating Evil. Every channel on TV runs a Halloween special at some point around the 31st. Some of these are outright bad choices (read more below), but some movies give us a chance to teach our kids positive lessons. 1) Feeling empathy for a character who is scared is a good thing. We should encourage our kids to identify how they feel after being frightened and how they can recognize fear in others. Empathy helps us to show compassion to those who are hurt, scared, or alone. 2) When Good defeats Evil, the Gospel is on display. Every human story ultimately reflects the story of God. Sometimes you have to dig, but art almost always portrays a longing for God. When the bad guy is defeated and the hero triumphs, we are reminded in some small way that Jesus has defeated death and evil for good.
- Avoid Glorifying Slasher Violence & Occultic Practices. Violence and evil are a part of our broken world. There's no sense in completely sheltering our kids from negativity. If we're able to guide them through negative experiences with a firm faith and a critical mind, we can prepare our kids to face whatever life throws at them. However, there's not a lot of redemptive qualities in celebrating serial killers, summoning the dead, and glorifying sin. We should avoid these things altogether.
- Redeem Acts of True Bravery. Fear reveals character. Some run from fear and cower. Others face fear head on. During a holiday that celebrates fear, we should celebrate true bravery. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch explains bravery to his son like this: "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." We can share stories of when we were afraid and the decisions we made. Whether we acted courageously or cowardly, we can still point to Christ. Jesus knew he was licked before he began, but he climbed up the hill, took the nails, and died in our place. That's true bravery.
Let's take advantage of this amazing chance to live like Jesus and turn Halloween into a Gospel-centered experience.