Happy All Hallowed's Eve! This day we look forward to the celebration of All Saints Day on November 1st: commemorating the lives of our Christian fathers and mothers before us. Every missionary, every pastor, every theologian, martyr, and woman of God we know is part of our spiritual family tree, and All Saints is a day to celebrate that!
Every fall I am inundated with Halloween questions; social media is inundated with angry trolls and defensive, costumed Christians. And I am here as one more perspective, perhaps a bit different (as a minority view), but proffering it nonetheless. Since some of my readers don't follow me on Instagram or Facebook, I'm putting the content of my recent post about Halloween in this week's newsletter, along with some further Q/A and tips for All Saints Day.
How we talk about Halloween to our kids:
Discuss from a place of peace and authority, not fear or legalism.
Our kids are in a covenant home led by Christ. While there is (truly) increased spiritual activity on this day due to how it is used and celebrated in certain circles, those spiritual forces have no authority over us. Nor do we approach it from a standpoint of law and comparison. Speak from peace, confidence and grace. This is our heritage.
2. Our family values uphold what is true, good, and beautiful.
Holidays are celebrations. They teach us what matters most, what defines us culturally, and they become the patterns we take into the future. Our family makes decisions on preferential issues by asking, “Is this good? Is this true? Is this beautiful?” Truth, goodness, and beauty all originate with God. If the thing we are patterning into our family does not meet these three, we don't participate (except redemptively; see point three).
3. Ask: Is it possible to redeem something untrue, not good, and not beautiful?
We believe there are three ways Christians generally navigate cultural issues: passive participation, redemption, and abstention. Passive participation is not the same as “redeeming” something. We also believe passivity is not an option in a city like ours with a strong Wiccan/New Age presence; we have a responsibility to the truth of the gospel and holding out that light in our city's darkness. This leaves redemption and abstention. Redeeming something like Halloween might look like leading/supporting an outreach, creating a great spot for trick or treaters and getting to know your neighbor's names, or hosting an annual party to connect and love others that night.
4. Create truth, goodness and beauty our kids can look forward to.
The term “Halloween” means “All Hallowed's Eve” and is a church holiday looking toward all Saints Day on Nov. 1st. The church calendar is our legacy! And since we don't celebrate in the cultural manner, we offer our kids and community something that aligns with our values and honors our spiritual family legacy. We gather together on All Hallowed's Eve to pray, sing, eat together, play games and go outside before winter sets in.
5. Speak of Halloween (and those who celebrate it culturally) with respect and love.
How we speak about things like Halloween too and in front of our kids shapes their view of people and faith. Choose joy, not fear. Choose grace, not legalism. Choose honor, not comparison. If you choose “true, good and beautiful” but your attitude is none of those things, your holiday is a white washed tomb. We get to be holistic Christians: stand on truth and do so with grace. Even on Halloween.
Fishbowl: This classic party game is so fun, I'm thinking of integrating it into All Saints Day this year… but with a twist. Every phrase in the fishbowl (or fruit bowl, depending on what version you play) has to be related to the Bible. Here is how to play. The final round is played with a sheet over your head (prepare to laugh hysterically).
Zondervan's “All the Genealogies of the Bible” Guide: This massive book is very academic, but if you've ever wanted to know the connections and importance of the genealogies, this is for you!
And the biggest favorite so far… Maple, our new puppy! Maple is a golden retriever puppy. Josh has always wanted one (he grew up raising them) and we waited and prayed for just the right fit. She is well loved, and Perpetua (our cat) is disgusted.
Question: How do you explain to your kids why other families celebrate Halloween in the cultural manner and you do not?
A: “Some families don't know what Halloween is about, and others don't share our family values. We might not agree, but it's not our job to change their minds.”
Question: Do you do trunk or treats or harvest parties?
A: We support our church's trunk or treat outreach event (I was on the committee that started it) but because we celebrate All Saints Day that night, we don't join in. We host our own harvest party (seen on Instagram this week) earlier in the month to celebrate harvest, not to “replace” Halloween.
Question: How do you talk about scary or gory costumes/decor?
A: In the past five years our city has decorated with greater darkness. Many decorations are actually quite frightening: rotting corpses hanging from trees, massive skeletons with flaming eyes, and witches decorate many porches and yards this time of year. Naturally, my kids get frightened at times. We say something like: “I understand that is scary to you. It is not true, good or beautiful. I am so sorry you are scared. Remember that this is not real, it has no power over you, and God is with you always.”
Question: How do you answer people who ask “what are you doing/going as for Halloween?”
A: We let our kids answer if they want. They usually say, “We don't celebrate Halloween, we celebrate All Saints Day.” They are then free to tell the person what their saint day costume is, or what they wore to one of our costume parties earlier in the year.
Question: Aren't you afraid your kids are missing out on a natural part of childhood?
A: No. Like Santa, much of the “magic” (in our personal opinion) is in the parents' mind. If it's just not something a family celebrates - and there is a rich schedule of holidays and hosting and friendship already - there is nothing to miss out on. Our kids don't believe Santa is real but openly joke with us about parents being Santa. Same goes for the tooth fairy. The “magic” of a holiday is in the fun and relationship and curation of rich tradition and good memory. We fear no loss for our kids because we can offer them, in our opinion, something richer, deeper, older, longer-lasting, good, true and beautiful. And as kids who likewise grew up without Halloween and Santa - Josh and I can attest: We felt no loss! The joy of these holidays is time spent with friends, eating and singing and playing and laughing together.
Come as your favorite “saint”: You can be anyone in church history! We like to have people guess. In the past we've had Moses, G.K. Chesterton, St. Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, Mary, John the Baptist, and Gladys Aylward.
Gather for gifts: I have coloring pages for the kids (this year it's Martin Luther) and a little gift bag of candy.
Saint Cupcakes: I make gluten free cupcakes and use Hobby Lobby finger puppets for the most fun assortment of yummy Bible characters.
Potluck for food: We all bring a dish to pass, usually soup or stew with sides.
Hymns and Worship: We gather after the meal to sing a few hymns together. This year we will sing and then pray together for our city before letting the kids go outside to play.