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Holy Halloween

In Holidays on November 3, 2009 at 7:26 am

This past Halloween, I was getting ready to drive over to a church function designed to offset the satanic influences of the trick-or-treat season when it occurred to me that many Christians seem to be in a mode of combating national holidays instead of just celebrating them. There are those who are aggressively obvious about their agenda while others, like my church, take a more friendly and inclusive approach. Regardless of the intensity, in general, there is usually a dual mission of attack and atonement attached to the Christian holiday effort. 

Par example: 

Thanksgiving: We attack poverty by handing out free turkeys at the food bank; which atones for the indulgence of eating our own.

Christmas: We attack secularism by wearing pins declaring Jesus is the reason for the season; which atones for the maxed out credit cards used to purchase our presents.

Easter: We attack pagan influences by sharing a Passover dinner, watching Passion of the Christ or putting tracts in a basket; which atones for the chocolate covered bunnies. 

It’s not that any of these activities are wrong, per se, yet there’s a tinge of penitent artifice that doesn’t feel exactly right either. Like a spiritual splinter you don’t know how to pull, you live with the discomfort even though it threatens to fester. 

For years I struggled with donning a good attitude about Hallowthanksmas and Feaster… as if the irreverent names don’t say it all.

When I first became a Christian, I loved Christmas most, Easter second, Thanksgiving third and Halloween, never. As my theology deepened so did my desire for a more meaningful connection to the holidays yet I wasn’t sure how to have an orthodox practice that didn’t alienate friends and family; most of whom love waiting for Santa Clause, dressing like demons and coloring eggs. A few years of trial and error passed and much frustration ensued. What was once joyful became burdensome to the point that I didn’t want to celebrate anything. Wearing a Jesus pin at Christmas felt more like a political campaign than an expression of loyal love. Having a Passover dinner specifically on Easter just to counter the Ishtar Bunny felt less than authentic as well. 

I’ve had a consistent opinion that declarative statements about Jesus should be bravely made any time of the year and if we’re going to acknowledge our Jewish roots -and believe me I think we should- then why not do it in congruence with the Jewish calendar instead of solely when it’s time for rabbits, baskets and eggs? A similar suggestion with Thanksgiving: why resort to handing out free food only once a year when people are starving the other 364 days as well?

I hear you quite possibly saying, “Yes, fine Cara, but surely you can see that Halloween is a different matter. It’s a satanic day of celebration for crying out loud and it’s our duty to either disparage it or counter it or engage it with an activity that is a combination of the two!” 

Really? Exactly where does it say that in the Bible? Be salt and light, perhaps? Okay, but again, that should be done throughout the year, not just on Halloween, right? Where does it say to seek out the evil holidays and counter them with your own? Scripture doesn’t say any such thing. In fact, Paul pretty much tells us in 1 Corinthians to celebrate whatever we want to celebrate but to do it in such a way as to be mindful of others who carry a different opinion so as not to cause them inner turmoil. In short, have fun but don’t hurt anybody when you do it. 

And that’s the part of scripture that has brought me to where I am today… relaxed. I see any and every holiday as an opportunity for sharing a little bit more of who I am and what I have with those God has placed into my life. I see it as nothing more and nothing less than an excuse to accentuate the fruits of the spirit in a celebratory context. I still like to joke around about the obvious contradictions our holidays bring but no longer do I carry cynical vexation towards them. 

As for parenting, I tell my children to live each day for the glory of God. That includes Halloween. So, they are allowed to enjoy trick-or-treating but my daughter can’t dress like a little Lolita and my son can’t dress in the grotesque. This rule applies for the day after Halloween, and the day after that and the days beyond those. Consistency is what I go for. 

And authenticity? Well, yes that too is important so I’ve made it a point to teach my kids the history behind the holidays we celebrate. For instance, they know that Jesus wasn’t born anywhere near December 25th and that the resurrection has nothing to do with Easter and that Thanksgiving was proclaimed by George Washington, affirmed by Abraham Lincoln and enacted by F.D.R. They know these facts but they also know that there is a deeper spiritual truth far beyond the subcutaneous data-points of life.  That truth rests in God and when you’re anchored in Him, he’ll put the Holy in any holiday.

Honoring our Christian faith during increasingly worldly holidays 

This past weekend, like many other families around the nation, we celebrated Halloween. While personally, Halloween is not a favorite holiday of mine, I do receive joy from seeing the children dressed in costume, and call me crazy, but I am completely amused to see the sugar high (for at least the first hour or two) that kids get. I’m not particularly interested in being frightened and I personally do not enjoy dressing in costume, but I’ve never had a problem with the holiday.

Until recently. 

Like many Christians, I *know* that Halloween originally was a pagan holiday. For many, it still is. It never really bothered me. I also *know* that Christmas didn’t really take place on December 25th. That doesn’t stop me from celebrating (like the other 364 days) the birth of Jesus.  I am strong in my faith and have no concerns in the superstitious teachings that I light a jack-0-lantern to scare away the evil spirits looking for my soul. I carve and light jack-0-lanterns because they look cute. The evil spirits can find my soul any day of the year with or without a lit pumpkin. I am responsible for guarding my soul. My God tells me that I only need to rely on Him. Ghost stories and spooky tales don’t frighten me.

What frightens me more is the increasing commercialization of any holiday, Christian, government or pagan. We are inundated with the advertisements to spend, spend, and spend in order to display an appropriate level of celebration. We are encouraged to eat unhealthy foods in gluttonous amounts to join the festivities.  We are not respecting our simple and healthy gift of life. 

At His birth, the only light shining on Jesus was the Star of the East. He didn’t have moving displays of reindeer, snowmen and Santas lighting His stable. He received three gifts, not 87. He came into this world humbly, and I wonder how He feels about the pomp and circumstance that surround our celebration of His day. I wonder indeed “What Would Jesus Do?”

As a culture, we focus on material displays of celebration. We buy, spend, and consume at alarming rates in the name of whatever holiday we are marking. The wastefulness is appalling. The disrespect for our bodies, our temples created in God’s image, is frightening. Our very choices of celebration are an anathema to what we are celebrating, no matter what the origins.

As Christians, we are expected to live humbly. We are asked to live in this world and not of it. Yet, we join the chorus of the world and flash our conspicuous consumption with very little substance. How can we express joy without wasteful consumption? 

What are your plans for the next few months to celebrate and still remember your faith?

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  1. Here goes! Am I the first commenter? Halloween is all about remembering the dead, I thought. A day of worshipping one’s ancestors. Plus, it’s the only thing Pagans have left in the year, although now lots more people are starting to celebrate the solstices. In England, we have parties around Stonehenge and Avebury. I’m not religious and find worshipping a little embarrassing, but if I were forced to worship something, it would be my ancestors. I had no idea it offended Christians.

  2. J.N., everything offends my tribe. It’s part of our charm.

    (Great site and great posts. Love it!)

    Sourjourner’s just had a dandy little article about All Hallow’s Eve and this bit sums it up perfectly for me: “Give Halloween a break. Turn off the television. Rake some leaves. Take a walk and enjoy the last few balmy days, the final rays of warm sunshine. And think for a bit about how to fight the truly ugly realities of our world, not just those dressed up like them on October 31.” Amen! (Link to the article: http://blog.sojo.net/2009/11/02/hark-halloween-haters-and-holiday-hype/)

    I tend not to get worked up over Pagan (ah, that all-encompassing but hardly descriptive title) holidays, as many of my faith’s celebrations and rituals were yanked from various pagan paths. Many roads, one journey and all (I’m so liberal, you can smell it, can’tcha?!). That, and I think every religious and non-religious path has a right to do its thang. I’m here to help, not to control.

    However, I do get worked up over Christians having a fit about a plastic witch’s mask but not batting an eye as they open their new Sony Playstations come Christmas, oblivious to the gang rapes and mass murders of women and girls in the Congo, all so we can have the materials needed to make our shiny new electronic toys.

    I would go a bit further than Kim’s offense at commercialization, in that the product hype around all holidays is, quite literally, killing us. For the poor, it’s a brutal, horrific, physical death. For the rich, it’s a death of conscious and morality. That’s the true evil of the commercialization of holidays (and, arguably, our entire lives), and I can’t for the life of me figure out why we continue to choose to remain oblivious to what the world’s poor must suffer at the hands of our insatiable need for more pointless crap.

  3. Yay! I’m so happy to see the launch of this blog!

    My family doesn’t really celebrate Halloween. Well, I should qualify that. We do hand out candy. We do dress up if we have the occasion to do so (I love being in costume). We’d even carve a pumpkin if we had a decent place to put it. But that’s where it stops. For us, it’s more about celebrating the season in general. We adore fall with the cooling temperatures and warm colors. It’s a time of reflection and thanks for God’s blessings, hayrides and corn mazes, & preparation for the Winter.

    The church celebrations with alternative trick-or-treating are fine, but something about them rubs me the wrong way. It seems a bit odd to say trick-or-treating is wrong, UNLESS you’re dressed like a Bible character and in your church parking lot. But perhaps it works for some folks. 🙂

    And don’t EVEN get me started on the Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas thing. We Christians get worked up over some of the weirdest things. 🙂

  4. I very much appreciate the candor here! I am enjoying the idea of friendly conversation with differing viewpoints. It is stimulating and refreshing. Thanks for blogging ladies!

    While I agree with much of what is being said about how hypocritical it may seem when we celebrate holidays on the days that have little to do with the actual holidays themselves, we like to teach our 3 children (ages 12, 9 & 7) about the true spirit of each holiday. Of course they know that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but what better way to celebrate His coming than to mark an actual day with gifts representing the greatest gift of all to mankind. I love how even before we open any presents that “Santa” has bestowed upon us, we sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus with a small cake and candles and then bow our heads and hold hands to thank Him for all that we have and for blessing us by His coming! (And, by the way, Santa will neither bring XBox, Wii or whatever may be the expensive flavor of the season! Ha ha. We are blessed, be it ever so humbly, at our home).

    Now Easter bunnies, we don’t even go there. . .:) They also know what it is that we celebrate on this day: His gracious gift of the ultimate atoning work of the cross! (And yes, we are guilty of hosting at our church a Messianic Rabbi as he teaches us about Jesus’ fulfillment of Passover symbolism through a Seder dinner! 😉

    Now, as far as Halloween is concerned, I have conflicting opinions. I have fond memories growing up celebrating by “Trick or Treating” but as I neared my teen years, my parents became involved with a very charismatic group. Their convictions became our own and thus ended the “fun”. I still hold to these convictions but with a twist. Although we do not dress in costume, we enjoy handing out candy to our neighbors. I don’t exactly like the idea of forming another “Alternative” so our children may still have their own fun but choose to bless others as we did at our church function. We felt opening up our yard to our community to get to know them was a much better use of our time. Also, we have a great children’s book that describes the true meaning of “All Hallow’s Eve” and that it should be a time to remember those “Saints” that have gone on before us. My kids do not like the “scary” stuff that goes along with the holiday, so they choose not to celebrate it in the way others do. It makes me proud that even at such young ages, they have formed their own strong convictions on these topics.

    I like what Col. 3:12-17 says, “as the elect of God. . .put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. . .but above all put on love…let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…teaching and admonishing one another…And WHATEVER you do in word or deed, do ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Amen!

    Thanks for being patient with my “preaching”. 😉

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