It’s pretty obvious that Halloween is a bigger deal than it used to be.
I’m going to risk sounding like an old lady but [insert creaking old voice here] when I were a lass, things were different! There was the odd Halloween party with home made costumes and I was unusual in not attending amongst my friends. People would trick or treat in our village but the commercial side of Halloween, the aisles of plastic pumpkin paraphernalia, scary costumes and seasonally-themed sweet packs are definitely more recent.
Although people will rail against the Americanisation of our culture, Halloween in the States is actually far less focused on evil with people dressing up as pretty much anything from Storm Troopers to scarecrows. Our version is, at least superficially, more sinister and closer to Haloween’s ancient roots.
The savvy parent will immediately see that it’s mostly supermarket bosses trying to make a bob or two and the same thing is happening around Easter (albeit with no mention of the real Easter story!) but is Halloween simply “a bit of good clean fun” as one Mum at school put it?
We haven’t had to tackle it before so I’m figuring it out on the fly but this year Pigwig is asking a lot of questions and, above all, it looks fun! She wants to dress up, she wants to have fun and she is really keen on any opportunity to eat a lot of sweets! I get that.
So what approach to take?
My first reminder is the verse in Philippians 8: 4. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (NIV). Focusing an occasion on the complete opposite seems counter-intuitive to me with that verse in mind.
But can there be aspects of Halloween which are redeemable? Is there anything inherently wrong with pumpkins, for instance? And can a 5 and 3 year old cope with shades of nuance? All these questions are going round in my head. So, here’s what we’re going for this year.
We’ll carve a pumpkin. We always have and we love pumpkin soup. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried this one here. But rather than a scary, fear-inducing face, we’ll either carve a friendly face or another symbol that represents light. Or maybe we’ll do a cat or a tiger as we’ve done some years. Light in the darkness? We say yes. And pumpkin is so healthy so I’ll buy a few the day after Halloween for cooking with. Last year they were 10p!
We won’t be going trick or treating or dressing up as scary things. Just no. I don’t like the thought of demanding stuff of strangers anyway. I’m considering putting out a sign on our door saying we’ve run out of sweets to discourage trick or treaters but my braver husband says we should suggest we’ll exchange sweets for listening to us talk about Jesus. I think the effect will be similar around here as the trick or treaters are usually 6 year olds with their parents.
We’ll be going to parties. We’re into celebrating. There are two options for Pigwig this year – a Light party at our church and a pumpkin party earlier in the day to include toddlers at another local church. I’m not having my kids say the Halloween camp get all the fun! Plus there’s Guy Fawkes the following week and Thanksgiving a couple of weeks after that which our kids are finally old enough for.Time to develop some traditions around that!
We’ll be eating sweets! This is ironic since I’m currently avoiding sugar myself (and many would argue that sugar is “evil”!!!) but we read about a sweet autumn festival in India which celebrates brothers and sisters. They exchange small presents, usually a type of friendship bracelet, and eat lots of sweets. What a lovely idea! We might try our own version over half-term. Pigwig also likes henna painting on hands which she learnt about at school when they studied Diwali so we could include that.
We’ll go on being counter-cultural. At the end of the day, if my children are going to make it to an adulthood of faith, they’re going to have to get used to going against the flow. It won’t always be so easy to make it fun or sweet. Thankfully my daughter has that personality which would rather be individual than compromise to the will of the crowd but she’s starting to realise – sometimes we will do things differently.
So, what’s your take on Halloween. Love it? Hate it? Dodge it? I’d love your thoughts.
And for more excellent ideas on Halloween, try the Vicar’s Wife. She’s been handling it a few more years than me and has some great, meaningful ideas to try. She also has an awesome gallery of alternative pumpkin deisgns.