Halloween is tomorrow. And so, on this Saturday, welcome to my circuitous ramblings on All Hallows’ Eve and my morning blendish choice of accompanying links:
Halloween is Evil
A lot of Christians have problems with Halloween. “It’s a tool of Satan, an evil scheme by the most evil one to entice our children into the occult.” Although I put that sentence in quotes, no one said it — I made it up. But that’s not the point.
This is the point: I don’t think Halloween is bad at all; I think it’s good. Why do we associate death and blood, coffins and bones with the occult? Death is a natural and certain part of life; we all will die. You know what they say… “Only three things are certain — death, taxes, and babies wanting what’s on your plate instead of what’s on theirs.” So why associate death with the occult? Must Halloween be viewed as worshiping death and Satan; is that what we think we’re encouraging? Could it be that we’re simply providing an outlet to process a part of life which our current culture has hidden from us?
Here in Tanzania, death is never as far away as it is in the United States. And when I worked in a nursing home in middle Tennessee, death was also never far away; it was an every week occurrence in our building. And from what I understand, 50 years ago in the U.S, death was never far from everyday life. But now we hide death away, brushing it under whatever rug of happiness and rainbows is nearby, pretending it doesn’t exist and making discussion on the topic taboo. Death has been banished to hospitals, funeral homes, nursing homes, and out-of-the-way cemetaries — so that everyday life can remain both sanitary and happy, and death never be encountered at all.
I believe processing mortality is healthy, and Halloween’s about all we have left. Children are able to deal with death in a way that’s not so scary, depressing, or permanent. I say better at Halloween than at the first passing of a parent, grandparent, or friend.
No one explains this better than Richard Beck, who addresses not only this idea of processing mortality, but also that of dealing with the uncanny and mysterious (ie. witches, monsters, and the like). Check this out: In Defense of Halloween. And this: “I Am But Dust and Ashes.”
Best Jack-O-Lantern ever:
Do people really put poison in Halloween candy?
There is no record (ever in the history of Halloween) of someone giving poisoned candy to random children at Halloween. There was a guy once who tried to poison his own kids. And there have been a few (very few) cases in which people put sharp objects in Halloween candy. But for the most part this is all urban legend, and a bunch of worry over nothing.
However, on Halloween afternoon, I do lick all the candy I intend to give out that evening.
For more on this subject (and my source for above information), see Trick-or-Treat: Is There Poison in Your Pixy Stix?
I’m not a big fan of churches doing this, and I’ll quickly share just a few reasons:
- We’re removing ourselves from the world around us. One more chance to participate in our larger communities, being salt and light in our neighborhoods, squandered away — so we can spend more time in our own little club. Seriously, the one night of the entire year in which it’s culturally appropriate, and even encouraged and expected, to knock on our neighbors’ doors… we Christians are going to refuse? On what grounds? [See #’s 2 and 4.]
- “But,” you explain, “we do this as outreach.” That’s better at least (a little). Though I’m not a fan of outreach in which others must leave their culture and come to ours. For those of you who don’t know, I strongly believe mission should be incarnational rather than attractional (we should live Christ into our communities rather than inviting people to leave their communities and come to us). For more on that subject, I have a series that begins here: attractional or incarnational — part moja.
- Not only are we robbing Christian families of the opportunity to knock doors in their neighborhoods (promoting relationships in their communities — and one of the only times I think “door-knocking evangelism” is appropriate and productive in American culture), but we’re also preventing these families from being home when others knock on their doors. Our Christian families fail to engage their neighbors on Halloween AND are completely unavailable to them. On a night when we know full well people are going to come and visit us at our homes?!
- I’ve heard some say this is a safety issue. Really? How many of our suburbanite church families live in neighborhoods in which it would be dangerous for a parent and child to knock on the doors of their minivan-driving neighbors’ homes? I’m willing to bet that, statistically, there is greater danger in driving a family to a church parking for Trunk-or-Treat than in knocking on the doors of your neighbors’ homes to say hi and receive some candy.
- Do we really want to teach our kids that it’s a good idea to take candy from strangers in cars? Do church Trunk-or-Treat officials disallow participating host candy-givers to give said candy from the back doors of large white vans with no windows? I hope we’ve at least determined to be firm in this.
Just one of the many reasons I think dolls are scary:
For a list of the ten most frightening dolls, visit this essay: 10 Dolls That Will Keep You Awake Tonight.
On this All Hallows Eve, may you and your children process death appropriately and not find razor blades in your candy. May your offspring understand well the difference between taking candy from a stranger’s trunk and getting in his van to look for a lost dog.