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You can live a faith-filled life and still celebrate Halloween
I’m not a “good ole days” kind of person. I rather like these days. But for a few moments last night, I sat quietly by the fire to think back on my own Halloween experiences and those of my children. Images of sweet anticipation, energy, laughter and innocent fun danced through my mind.
The Klope kids celebrated this year. The girls, now living away from home, sent text messages telling me about dress-up parties they both attended. My teenage son carved pumpkins and created edible mummies using Crescent rolls and hot dogs. I dressed up our house with Halloween lights and candles, then added to the frightfully fun meal by creating vampire garlic bites, crusty mummy fingers with sweet potatoes and frightful brew that was appropriately green and foamy.
Halloween has always been about skipping down darkened streets, admiring clever costumes and chewing sweets we carefully avoided purchasing most of the year. It also has been a family activity. Just like our parents, my husband and I accompanied our children and whoever else wanted to join the trick-or-treating fun. We taught our kids to say, “Thank you!” loud enough to be appreciated and took the opportunity to wave at neighbors and greet casual passersby. Costumes were not morbid or particularly scary. The focus was primarily fall and fun.
Upon our return home the sweetest of our rituals began. After claiming a spot on the rug the kids dumped their candy out to sort their treats: gum here, Tootsie Rolls over there, Milky Way bars in one spot, Three Musketeers in another. Then the real fun — the trading — began.
“I’ll trade you two Pixie Sticks for those malted milk balls!”
“How come you got a popcorn ball and I got licorice?”
That was it. No more and no less. We took pictures and brushed our teeth carefully before going to bed. We did not celebrate paganism or violence. We were not irreligious or hedonistic. We carved pumpkins, hung a fake spider web or two and stayed up later than usual.
The seasonal debate for most deep-thinking citizens of the Christian community is how we are to live in this world but not blindly accept all that goes on in it. Halloween trips up a lot of us. The reason? A longing to live with purity and devotion in the ways we think God calls us to live.
As a society we talk of love and understanding, respect and tolerance. But everyone seems to have his or her own rules, leaving many to ponder which to follow and which to discard. People of faith occasionally worry that faithful living may be diluted by joining an activity like Halloween. They want their children to see that faithfulness will often set them apart. After all, faith calls us to live a different life.
They worry, with particular angst, that an activity such as Halloween, having evolved from many traditions spanning 2,000 years, may misalign them with opposing philosophies and activities.
As a family we have chosen to save our energies for greater battles.
We choose to live as Christians by creating a Halloween celebration that incorporates our own traditions and interpretations.
We set the tone in our household and pass by images inconsistent with our views of fun. We decorate cupcakes, choose nonviolent costumes and drink hot cider with friends. We doll out love and attention to people who love their kids and hope for a fun-filled family experience.
We believe God is blessed when we take time out from our busy schedules to play as a family. We go on hayrides and tell the kids that God is creating something special in each one of them. As they grow and learn about themselves and God’s will, their place in society will become ever clearer.
This year I didn’t tuck in a cheerleader, Dorothy (who thinks there is no place like home) and a computer nerd like I did a couple of years ago.
But my heart cheered at the thought of all the kids who turned on flashlights and ate candy under their covers after promising to go right to sleep.
And that is A-OK with me.
Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.