It’s October, which means that stores have been decorating for the horrible mess that is an American Halloween for about a month already, and still have a month to go before they’ll swap jack-o-lanterns and zombies for snowmen and reindeer. If they don’t leer at one another across the aisle.
I’ve complained about the inescapability of American Halloween on this blog before. Last year, in fact.
My kids are bombarded with it from stores, from friends, from school. And in turn, they bombard us with incessant “why won’t you let us celebrate Halloween?” questions.
Um, you know all those skeleton decorations and zombies and stuff? The ones that creep you out and give you nightmares? That’s why.
“But why won’t you let us celebrate?”
Because it’s nasty and disturbed and tries to make darkness and evil look fun and exciting.
“But I don’t want to do that! I want to dress up like a princess ninja and get candy! Why won’t you let us celebrate?”
Because I’ve got too many dark associations with it to be comfortable with the idea.
And on, and on. No evidence that the explanation has penetrated at all.
Even our church does Halloween. Most American churches seem to, though they’ll cosmeticise it by calling it a “Fall Festival” (echoes of “Winter Holiday” instead of Christmas) or a “Trunk or Treat” or whatever, and then do exactly the same as if it were still called Halloween. It’s baffling. Why is the church doing a festival associated with the glorification of everything scary, dark and evil?
They make a big deal out of it, too. One of our church’s big “outreach events”, despite the fact that no-one that I know of in the church ever joined because of the trick-or-treat. So we get bombarded with Halloween even by our church, and pressured to join the whole American world in “celebrating”. As you can probably tell, I’m not comfortable with this.
This is a sample of conversation between Heather and I and some of our church members from about this time last year:
“Are your kids coming to the Fall Festival?”
<politely> “No, we don’t do Halloween.”
“Oh, that’s such a shame you can’t be there! It’s so fun for the kids! Can you come and help us set up, then?”
<slightly more insistently> “No, we don’t do Halloween.”
“It’s really a fun time! Can you buy some of the candy we need for it?”
<Sigh> “No, we don’t do Halloween.”
What part of ‘we don’t do Halloween’ is sailing right past you? For us this is a dark and evil-glorifying festival. What makes you think we’ll be interested in helping the church participate in it? You can go ahead and celebrate it if you like; that’s between your conscience and the Lord. But you’ll do so without my help.
I tried to go into my objections to Halloween in my blog post last year, and I don’t really want to rehash that old ground, but what it comes down to for me is evil associations. It’s my own personal equivalent of idol food; if your conscience is ok with participating in Halloween I’m not going to stop you, but neither will I allow you to bully me into doing something that I’m really not ok with.
This year, however, we may have found a defence. A way to counterattack the nearly omnipresent seasonal assault on our family and our beliefs, and provide a way for our kids to have fun without participating in something that violates our consciences.
It’s quite similar to what a lot of British churches have done when faced with the increasingly high profile of Halloween over there.
We’re going to resurrect All Saints.
All Saints, on November the first (or the day after Halloween for the calendrically challenged) hasn’t had much of a profile in Protestant-majority parts of the world ever since they became Protestant. In some quarters it gets seen as a slightly weird minor holy day associated with all the Catholic excesses of saint-veneration, perceived as tripping across the line into outright worship of people who may be Godly but are by nature not God.
Still, no-one is forcing us to go all the way over there with it. And a day celebrating the martyrs, missionaries and heroes of the faith who have gone on before us, from Paul and Silas to Columba and Boniface to Hudson Taylor and Mary Slessor, is far and away better than what we have right now.
Heroes of Faith Day. Cloud-of-Witnesses Day. A celebration of what God did through all of those wonderful faithful men and women down the ages.
We can do this. We’re still working out the precise details of how, but we can do this. The kids can stay up a bit later than usual and get candy, but instead of the morbid focus on ghouls and witches and unclean dead things, we move the focus to what is true, right, pure, noble, excellent and praiseworthy.
I’ve got no problem with an occasional late night for my kids. I’ve got no problem most of the time with them dressing up: except on the Eve of All Hallows when it has participatory implications, it’s good clean harmless fun. I’ve not even got much problem with the candy, as long as we can avoid the sanctioned extortion and petty thuggery of Trick or Treat. (Or how else would you characterise letting kids wander around demanding sweeties as protection money in exchange for them not playing nasty “tricks” like egging people’s houses? Let’s just not go there, ok?)
But we can maybe have a family dress-up party, with sweets and late nights and lots of lighted decorations that aren’t necessarily made from carved gourds. We can tell the stories of some of these heroes of faith, maybe even play some of the harmless autumnal games that have become ensnared in the American Halloween and don’t necessarily belong there.
The kids will hopefully have fun. We’ll get a break from the incessant badgering to be allowed to celebrate Halloween. No-one’s conscience will be violated. I think we might be on to a winner.
So this year we won’t be not celebrating this season like we did last year. We’ll be celebrating differently, celebrating the Kingdom of God, not the dark and the demented. Putting the focus back where it ought to be. Reclaiming the season, because October 31st, too, is the Lord’s Day, and I’m done with letting the Devil have it without a fight.