As a child growing up in a Roman Catholic family during the 1960s, we celebrated Halloween. That is to say, on October 31, we cobbled together homemade costumes of sad hobos, friendly ghosts, and fierce pirates so we could run from one house to another shouting “Trick or Treat!” as we gathered lots of candy.
I remember trading the less desirable pieces (peanut butter chews wrapped in orange or black waxed paper, homemade popcorn balls, and boring plain suckers) for something more exciting, like Smarties or Peanut Butter Logs or Tootsie Rolls with my trusting younger brothers. I always spent hours sorting my candy that night and always saved the best for last . . . some years my sweets stash lasted until the next autumn, hidden away on the top shelf of my closet. It was just a fun and innocent day in October, and I remember being sad when as a 7th grader, I deemed myself “too old” to go trick or treating anymore.
After I came to faith, after Bob and I were married and began having babies in the 1980s, I saw things differently. Now I could see that, perhaps, there was a darker side to Halloween—an evil aspect, even satanic overtones and influences. We decided that we would not celebrate this day. That our children would not go door to door. That if we happened to be home, we would turn off all the lights “that night,” and stay busy in the back of the house. We went to many “Hallelujah Fests,” Fall Family Fun nights, and Reformation celebrations—all of which were very much enjoyed by our game-playing, candy-eating, Bible-costumed children.
Tonight at dinner, we said to our youngest, David, “Do you wish you'd been allowed to go trick or treating as a child?” He responded that it didn't bother him at the time, but looking back, he thinks it might have been fun. (This child of ours likes to create costumes and craves candy, even at the age of 16.) I haven't asked, but I imagine our other children would agree with him. (Not that I'm suggesting that children set the standards for the family.)
And now I wonder . . . would we do things differently, if we had it to do over? Maybe. Our children do have fond memories of our October 31 family outings, but could we have—should we have—not for the sake of our children, necessarily, done something to engage those who knocked at the door of our well-lit house? Should we have handed out winsomely written gospel tracts with our candy? Could we have served hot cider for the adults as they supervised their children's fun? Maybe it would have been wise to walk the neighborhood with our kids in order to interact with those who live nearby?
So, what do you think? What will your family do this October 31st? Many Christians see Halloween as an evening of harmless fun for their children--a day for make believe and candy and a “Romans 14” issue. Others have strong personal convictions that it is wrong to acknowledge Halloween in any way. There is a very real, unseen evil presence in our world, and their view is that we should have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (Eph. 5:11).
What you choose to do is a decision for moms and dads to prayerfully consider. And whatever you decide, be humble, charitable and gracious with sisters and brothers who come to a different conclusion than yours. By God's grace, we're all learning, processing, and growing, in many different ways--including this area of costumes and candy.