Friday, November 03, 2006

A Halloween-Loving Christian? That's So Halloweird

My Favorite Hallowday

An essay by Holly, age 32

I love Halloween. I am a Christian, and Halloween has long been my absolute favorite holiday.

I know, my favorite should be Christmas or Easter, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the reason for our salvation. Or even Thanksgiving, when we're thankful for the gifts God's given us. At the very least, I could pick some patriotic holiday, like the 4th of July, or Cinco de Mayo, or St. Patrick's Day.

Yet I choose Halloween. The "Devil's holiday."

My love for Halloween began long before the major marketing of all things ghoulish that we see today. I can't remember a single year of my life when I haven't worn a costume. As a toddler, I was a pink bunny in footed pajamas. My mom sewed fabric ears and inserted a wire hanger inside to make them stand up. She drew whiskers on my face with her eyeliner. My brother, Mike, was a hobo--another Mom-made costume. No store-bought garb for us! Mom painstakingly stuck individual coffee grounds to my brother's face with honey to create a stubbly beard on his hairless, 8-year-old chin. I still get a kick when I look at the picture of us, me proudly showing off my bunny suit, Mike scowling about the strong smell of coffee.

Dad gave us clean pillowcases to hold our loot. Each year, at least one parent took us door to door collecting treats--sometimes one parent stayed home to give out candy. Every house on our block had their porch light on, and all adults in the neighborhood were prepared with pounds and pounds of candy to satiate the sugar appetites of the costumed kids. Since my parents knew everyone in the neighborhood, they let us eat the candy (and homemade popcorn balls, cookies and cupcakes) without even glancing at it. We pranced around on a sugar high, laughed like hyenas, and stayed out way past our bedtime--even past Mom and Dad's. It felt like we walked for 100 miles collecting candy. (It was two street blocks!) When our sacks became too heavy for our little arms to lift, Dad slung them over his shoulder. Exhausted yet exuberant, we trudged home together.

My parents let us stay up a little later so we could sort and count our candy. My brother and I would then trade some treats so we'd both get the most of our favorites. He was the better negotiator; he could convince me his one Snickers bar was worth three of my Pixie Stix. Then we'd let Mom and Dad have the first pick of our candy. Dad didn't like candy, so it was a safe bet to offer him the best of our best. Mom, on the other hand, loved dipping into our loot. I always winced when she reached out her hand, afraid she'd want my one and only Chick-O-Stick. But Mom never took the good stuff. She'd always go for the ones I didn't want, like the Raisinettes and Junior Mints and black licorice. Yuck! Back then, I thought it was because my mom only liked gross candy. Now, I know she picked the gross candy because she loved me.

Crazy folks ruined Halloween for us--and for future generations of children--when they poisoned candy and stuck razor blades into fruit. But all was not lost. My childhood church jumped in to save the day by creating a Harvest Festival: a fall carnival which just "happened" to coincide with Halloween. Here, kids could still wear costumes. We could collect and eat candy. We still got all the benefits of hanging out with our parents, even that then-unknown influence of seeing adults serve and care for us. That annual church event took the sting out of not being able to trick-or-treat on the streets, and it gave us kids something to look forward to at church.

This year, I wore a costume, as usual. But instead of being the eager kid reaching for candy and popping chocolate bars into my mouth, I was the adult passing out treats at my church's Harvest Festival. I smiled, watching kids and adults play together. Destiny, a teen, plunged her head into a basin filled with water and apples. Trevor, an adult who was running the clothespin drop booth, gave everyone a little side show by clamping clothespins all over his face. And little girls and boys lined up to get their faces painted by ... me!

I didn't get to play the games at this Harvest Festival. I was too busy to eat a piece of pumpkin pie or even grab a chocolate bar. But I did get to appreciate the feeling of community. Now I understand, as an adult, that Halloween--at its best--can remind us it takes a village to raise a child. That might sound cheesy, but I believe most childless adults rarely experience this feeling. Though I don't have any children yet, serving at the Harvest Festival made me understand how important it is for every adult to serve and care for every child. I looked at all the adult volunteers serving the children, and all the children playing with the adults. I saw adults playing the carnival games, having some much needed fun. I saw kids who felt loved and appreciated. No other holiday feels this child-adult interactive to me, or this mutually beneficial to grown folk and kids. (When else do both 4-year-olds and 40-year-olds put on goofy outfits, play silly games, and eat handfuls of candy together?) Even the adults who weren't volunteering were offering a mighty example to the children just by playing the games: They proved that fun and joy can be lifelong experiences. And I knew this joy, from our little church Harvest Festival, was exactly what God intended for us to experience.

I am a Christian, and I love Halloween. I've read many an editorial instructing Christians to shun this "night of evil." I well know the history of the date, I've heard the reasons some Christians avoid any Halloween-related event. I know how the church-at-large has oft tried to redeem Halloween from its pagan origins, but unlike Christmas and Easter, it hasn't succeeded in Christianizing it. With all the terrifying costumes in stores and bloody horror flicks released this time of year, am I being too idealistic about Halloween? Maybe. Truth is, if God asked me to stop all observation of Halloween, I would. He hasn't. I think he won't.

Maybe we don't need to Christianize Halloween--to make it a religious holiday--in order to enjoy it. I think of how my mom used to eat the gross candies, knowing I'd probably eat them just because they were there. And that I wouldn't enjoy them a bit--they'd potentially even ruin the candy-eating experience for me (a yummy apple Jolly Rancher followed by black licorice--gross!). In my mind, God has picked all the grossness out of Halloween for me--its dark past, the evil ideas it still contains, the scary images. He's reminded me he makes pumpkins. That he created creativity and imagination. That he loves when I show love to others as a volunteer at my church's fall carnival. That he's God, and he can use even Halloween to love on his kids--of all ages.

And that's why Halloween is still my favorite.

To ponder:
What are some things we attempt to Christianize? When is this a good thing? When is it a bad thing?

2) Do you believe God can give you good things from sources like secular holidays, mainstream music/movies/books, and stuff that's not "Christian"? Think of a blessing you know came from God that was delivered via one of these sources.

3) Check out Luke 10:30-35. Jesus uses a Samaritan (Samaritans weren't part of the Jewish people--in fact, they were pretty indifferent to the Jews) for his illustration. Why do you think Jesus chose to use a Samaritan in particular? Consider the people in your life who aren't Christians. What are some contributions they've made to your happiness and well-being? This week, you might even let them know you're thankful they're in your life.

4) Consider something that isn't "Christian" that you really like: maybe it's Top 40 music, action movies, or even Halloween. What are some of the "yucky candies" that come along with this treat you enjoy? Pray for discernment: Ask God whether he can remove the bad candy, give you an alternative, or whether he's leading you away from this thing. Be honest in telling God the aspects you love, and the ones that are spoiling it for you.

No comments: