Well, let’s see. . . Is it its pagan origin and links to the occult? There is that. Or, is it that Americans spend nearly an estimated 7 million dollars on Halloween trappings and accoutrements? Yes, I have to admit that definitely bothers me too.
But what boils my blood most (not in the bubble-bubble-toil-and-trouble fashion) is the ubiquitous nature of Halloween. I know this can be said of all holidays, but Halloween seems to cackle in my ears especially loudly. It’s everywhere . . . looming in dusty corners of warehouse shopping aisles laden with costumes . . . filling engorged bins, tubs, crates, and shelves with teeth-rotting candy . . . eerily waving to me from my neighbors’ yards in the shape of fake, plastic jack-o'-lanterns and giant-sized, synthetic, fan-operated, blow-up black cats. Like clockwork every year, the air begins to cool, the days get shorter, and pumpkin-pocked paraphernalia explodes onto the scene, smearing the world in orange and black faster than you can say, “Trick-or-treat!”
The older I get (no, despite the scroogery in my voice, I’m not that old) the more I wonder: Am I just more aware of the surrounding scare-fest? Or, has it always been this way? When I was little, trick-or-treating wasn’t condoned in my family. Instead, we’d get something to eat, putz around the mall until 9:00, and call it a very un-holiday. It was an inconvenience to anyone trying to avoid the ghoulishness in its entirety, but it wasn’t impossible. At least from my elementary-school perspective, it wasn’t. But now . . . it is.
(As an ironic aside, the one year my neighbor convinced my mom it was okay and not completely un-Christian to go pan for artificial tasties, I went as an angel -- a leftover costume from a school pageant in which I played the head cherubim of heaven. My neighbor-friend went as . . . the grim reaper.)
Why does it bother me so much? It’s just one day. As a former high school theater novice, I have no problem dressing up in costume and playing a part. And Diane Singer makes a very good case in her article “The Halloween Question” that, no, we need not be legalistic about Halloween and yes, it is, in fact, okay for your children to go trick-or-treating. It’s a very good case, indeed -- but I’m still not completely convinced I want to join in the celebration; nor is my irritation by its ever-presence lessened.
I agree that dressing up and going on a candy hunt doesn’t have to be labeled as anything more than good fun. I also don’t think it’s good -- or Christlike -- to isolate ourselves from the world around us. And Jesus did say, “Let the little children come to me.” I highly doubt He would go back on His word if said children toddled up to him dressed as bumblebees, baby tigers, or cowboys. Who knows? He might want to take a picture with them too.
Personally though, I still can’t help but see the irony in having school carnivals and church trunk-or-treat events in the name of “not celebrating what Halloween is all about.” And therein lies the internal conflict I face: Is abstaining altogether a hard-nosed overreaction, or is celebrating simply hypocritical? It must be all those years of hiding out in shopping malls. No matter, I just can’t seem to shake the question, and being overwhelmed by ghosts and witches everywhere I look certainly doesn’t help me figure out just what I should do.
But thankfully, He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4), and I can go to Him for answers as to how He desires I live and move throughout this life. Celebrating Halloween, like many other issues, is a “hot topic” that will probably be debated in the church until the Lord returns. But through prayer, the Holy Spirit will guide us as to what He would have us do, and give us peace and confidence to move forward -- if we simply ask. For some, that might mean going trick-or-treating is completely fine. For others, it will continue to be out of the question. What’s important is that we take the time to tune out everything else and listen for the one Spirit whose voice matters most.
However . . . with that said, this writer must confess that it would be a very far stretch to say the Holy Spirit has led me to do what it is I will probably end up doing -- which is hanging out at Barnes & Noble for a few hours before moseying on over to Chipotle for din-din. I do risk running into someone wearing head-to-toe tin foil in hopes of scoring a free burrito, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Admittedly, not so much because the Holy Spirit gives me peace and confidence to move forward in the ordering line -- but just because I really like burritos. No (candy) corn required.
Annie Provencher is a writer living in Virginia.