Since Greg and are in ministry in October we often get asked a lot of questions about Halloween. Do you celebrate Halloween?" "Do you let your kids go trick-or-treating?" "Should we give out candy to trick-or-treaters?" "Isn't the history of Halloween wicked? Should we let our kids be involved in something with evil origins?" "Is Halloween Satan's holiday?"
An idea that is very important to our family is the idea of redeeming our culture - shinning as lights in our communities, not running away from them! "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16
Holidays are very important in our culture and as Christians Greg and I feel it is imperative that we don't reject holidays or blindly receive holidays, rather we have chosen to redeem holidays. In the spring I wrote about Redeeming Easter and last winter I wrote about Redeeming Santa Claus, and today I would like to share with you how the Vruggink family has chosen to Redeem Halloween! From pumpkin carving to handing out candy - our desire is to share the gospel with our children and shine as lights in our community!
Every year our family reads My Happy Pumpkin together before we carve our pumpkins. This story/poem is a beautiful analogy of the story of redemption. In this book, the farmer selects a pumpkin, cleans the yuck from the inside, carves a happy face, and puts a light inside the jack-o-lantern. In the same way God chose us, cleaned the sin out from inside us, gave us His joy, and wants us to shine as lights for Him!
As we select our pumpkins we talk to our children about how God chose us to be His followers.
As we clean out the slime, pulp, and seeds inside the pumpkins and wash off the dirt on the outside of the pumpkin, we talk about how God desires to cleanse each of us from our sins.
As we carve a happy face, fun design, or Christian symbol onto the pumpkin, we talk about how God has made us a new creation designed to share His love, joy, and peace with others.
As we place a light in the pumpkin on Halloween we talk about how God wants us to shine as lights in our dark world.
We use pumpkin carving as an outlet to create a vivid gospel analogy for our children.
Every year we hand out candy to trick-or-treaters who come knocking on our door. In fact - we give out full size candy bars! Why? We want to be known as the most generous house on the block!
Hopefully each of us is shinning as lights in our neighborhoods and our neighbors know that we are followers of Jesus. We should use every opportunity (including Halloween) to show that we are loving and generous people!
What does more good? Giving generously to our neighbors when their children come to our door asking for candy. -OR- Turning off our lights and refusing to give candy, in essence sending the message that we either think our neighbors are wicked for letting their children collect candy or that we're too selfish to spend a few dollars on candy. The choice to us is obvious - we want to be known for being people of grace and generosity.
We know some of our Christian friends also choose to give out tracts on Halloween along with candy (please don't ever just give a tract - this does not send a good message). This can be good or bad depending on the tract and your neighbors. We have chosen not to give out tracts because we don't want to be seen as "Bible shovers," but neither do we think this practice is a bad idea.
We also encourage the trick-or-treaters who come to our door! "Wow - that costumes looks fabulous!" "Cool - it's Superman!" "Oh my goodness what a beautiful princess!" We want to be neighbors who build others up with our words.
On cold Halloween nights we also plan to have hot cider on the stove, and offer to fill a travel cup up as a treat for parents taking their little ones from door-to-door. Parents like yummy treats too! :)
Every year we allow our children to participate in trick-or-treating. We considered Halloween a day to celebrate the imagination, to become for a short time something wonderful or funny! We love reading stories to our children! We've read the C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, the Wizard of Oz, The BFG , The Little Princess, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and more. We want our children to use their creative minds and enjoy the idea of imaginative characters.
We teach our children discretion when choosing costumes. We do not allow them to be extremely dark characters (such as demons, vampires, scary people, etc.) rather we encourage our children to be positive characters (such a heroes, princesses, heroes, animals, etc.).
The original origins of Halloween are pagan (please see the below Halloween History), but this does not mean that today the practice of children trick-or-treating is wicked. Just as we do not associate with things that had good origins but are now corrupt, so we do not necessarily disassociate with things that had bad origins but can now be celebrated in a positive way.
(From Is Halloween a Witches' Brew? by Christianity Today)
Halloween's beginnings preceded Christ's birth when the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to the old pagan rites and superstitions.
But the church from its earliest history has invited people to celebrate the season differently. Chrysostom tells us that as early as the fourth century, the Eastern church celebrated a festival in honor of all saints. In the seventh and eighth centuries, Christians celebrated "All Saints' Day" in May in the rededicated Pantheon. Eventually the All Saints' festival was moved to November 1. Called All Hallows Day, it became the custom to call the evening before "All-Hallow E'en."
Some people question the whole idea of co-opting pagan festivals and injecting them with biblical values. Did moving the celebration to November to coincide with the druidic practices of the recently conquered Scandinavians simply lay a thin Christian veneer over a pagan celebration? Have we really succeeded in co-opting Christmas and Easter, or have neopagans taken them back with Easter bunnies and reindeer? In a sense, it's always been the same debate: do we ignore a pagan romp, merge with it, attack it, or cover it up with seasonal fun?
History would indicate that there has been much value in the church's Christianizing the calendar, introducing rich traditions of celebration and spiritual disciplines. Its success could be debated, but when the neighbors are fearfully sacrificing to a lord of death and dodging witches' tricks, it would seem an apt time to celebrate the Lord of life and resurrection.
Jesus Christ is big enough to redeem not only individuals but also the holidays celebrated in their cultures! So enjoy Halloween - use pumpkin carving to share the gospel with your children, encourage your children to use their imaginations, and shine as gracious and generous neighbors!