Adult-sized Ghost Busters and Pirates pass out hot chocolate to the rhythm of Lacrae, while neighborhood princesses, and dragons stand in line for the ring toss and hopscotch. Down the street from the mini carnival, local business owners give away more candy than most parents are comfortable with and my little kids can hardly bear the excitement.
On a typical year, this is where my local church finds herself on October 31st. With all the free sugar and fun, it’s hard to even call it volunteering.
Halloween is met with a myriad of opinions, traditions and celebrations by North American Christians. Some chose to avoid it, some rename their October celebrations and sidestep it, and some dive right in with various involvement in spooky traditions.
The controversy for Jesus people surrounding this holiday goes back decades. LifeWay, a respected Christian research and resource ministry, reports that around half of the Christian population in America fully celebrates Halloween, while roughly 1/4 of us try to avoid the “pagan” elements and the last 1/4 avoid celebrating it all together for various reasons. (See article here.)
Halloween, formerly known as All Hallows (Saints) Eve, is one more topic that can bring division to the Church.
But I think we have all had enough of disagreements for the year and I am suggesting another angle this month.
There is one important idea that every Christian can get behind and celebrate this month. It is an idea that every kid in our homes and in our pews benefits from knowing. It has the power to change the way kids see Halloween and the rest of their lives.
A few years ago, around this time of year, in a neighborhood doused in reds, oranges, and stretchy cobwebs, our van drove past an especially graphic house. The skeletons hanging from the trees looked authentic enough that I slowed down to get a closer look and make sure we hadn’t just stumbled upon a crime scene. My smallest kids were wide-eyed. That moment opened up some great conversations about Halloween in our house.
“Why do people have skeletons in their trees?”
“Why do people like blood and creepy things?”
“Are there really dead people buried in people’s front yards?”
To which the adults responded with some questions of our own.
“What makes skeletons creepy?”
“What are you really afraid of?”
And “Why do you think people like blood and creepy things?”
The most important thing we can address around this holiday is that we don’t need to fear death.
Over the years, especially in the month of October, our family has had talks about this fear. We discuss the preference to see death as entertaining instead of terrifying. We consider that perhaps people dress up as zombies because putting our own flesh and blood into the costume takes the edge off the unknown. All of us are attempting to understand death and the afterlife in our own ways. Choosing fun over crippling fear makes sense in this context. It’s important that we as parents are honest about our own questions and even uneasiness about dying. After all, none of us had ever done it before.
Of course in October we also discuss Elsa, Black Panther, wearing two costumes at one time, how to brush a wig, book character day, throwing stars, and how much chocolate is appropriate for one sitting.
But what my kids need to know at the end of the day, and yours probably do too, is that they don’t need to fear death.
Because of Jesus, death is so much more than skeletons and tombstones. Because of Jesus, death is the gateway to another (brighter) reality.
Because of Jesus, our kids will enjoy a never-ending carnival of joy and peace and pleasure as they experience the presence of God like never before.
Skeletons? No sweat. Coffins and zombies? Whatever.
As people of the resurrection, we see things differently.
We have hope.
We are fearless.
The whole lot of us.
Whether you and your kids sit around the table this month ingesting your colorful sugar in costumes or just jeans, may you and yours be confident in the hope and the future Jesus offers.