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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Celebrating Halloween as a Christian

I was recently posed the question from another blogger of how could I, as a Christian, not only celebrate Halloween, but in some ways promote it. 

This is not a new topic of conversation. For many years the Christian community has struggled with the innocent and fun merrymaking against the ghoulish undertones of this holiday.

I myself grew up in a farming community where the harvest was celebrated. My elementary school’s biggest fund raiser was the school carnival held every October.

Even my childhood church held “Happy Harvest” festivals. I can still remember getting completely soaked while bobbing for apples.

Our school also had a costume parade. Every year we couldn’t wait to see what Mr. Lovell the principal and Miss Pat the school secretary would wear. My favorite was the year he was a spider and she was of course Miss Muffet. I so wish I had a picture of that, but this one is almost as cute.

It was not until I was in my early 20’s, while taking a theology class, that I learned the origins of Halloween. While the Romans celebrated the feast of Pomona, who was the goddess of fruits and seeds, it is thought Halloween is more closely linked to the Celtic festival of Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in) which translates to “summer's end".

One school of thought is that the early religious leaders knew they would have a tough time getting people to give up their merrymaking when accepting Jesus Christ. Several of the Christian holidays we now celebrate were began during the times of the year that other non religious festivals once occurred. It was the idea of providing an acceptable replacement of sorts. Brace yourselves, because yes, Christmas is included on that list. 

I had to make a decision. Was I going to continue to celebrate All Hallows Eve, which quite possibly had been a Pagan pacifier?  Well, I knew that I would never give up Christmas and Jesus literally went to His death so that I could have Easter everyday.

So as for me and mine, I decided to choose the good.  Just as I try to everyday. This means you won’t find any devils or witches (Hush it Mr. Décor!) in my home. It’s more about scarecrows and jack o lanterns.

I also allow hobo’s, gypsies and most of all, pirates to grace our interiors with their presence. 

Lil’ Kim, The Duchess of Décor, and her bff Sweet “T” circa 1978

For me to give up Halloween would be akin to wiping out an entire childhood of wonderful memories. On Halloween I will no doubt call/text  Sweet “T”, who 35 years later still puts the gypsy in my heart. We will laugh as we recall the Halloween in 7th grade when we trick or treated for so long that our pillowcases were filled to the top. (We won’t mention that I got grounded for staying out so late or that we ate candy through Easter.) We’ll then talk about what our kids are doing for Halloween and how much of their candy we hope to consume…

For Halloween is a chance to engage in childhood flights of fancy, make believe and fun. Even if you are 43.

Elton 006

The Uptown Girl with her Big Shot dressed as Billy Joel fans. 

Tomorrow I will begin a weeklong series on how we are celebrating Halloween in our home. My children and I have spent several days creating crafts, food and other delights. Our joyous time together has brought happiness to all of our hearts, and we hope it will do the same for yours. 

Laura

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

13 comments :

Jeannine said...

Great post! We've discussed this in our household s well. When the kids were very little we stopped allowing trick or treating, opting to just buy them their favorite candy. Our church also had a Harvest Festival. When they were in youth group, they began working with "judgement house", a scared straight type of program that presented the Gospel in an in your face way for youth. All storylines and acting by our youth group. Now the kids are adults and can choose to do as they please. We gave them a solid foundation. Of course my favorite thing is sewing costumes! I would love to throw a huge costume party sometime other than Halloween. Maybe November? Thanks for sharing

Bonnie said...

Awesome post. We, too, have struggled with the evil undertones of Halloween and like you have left out any of the ghoulish, dark, sinister & evil parts of Halloween - no skulls, demons, ghosts, etc. With my fear of spiders they, too, are banished from the home. Halloween has been and will continue to be nothing more than a day to indulge imagination and to cheer the kids in the neighborhood on with their creativity.

mpainter said...

wow-what a great post, pics, memories, thoughts. I wholeheartedly agree! We were raised Catholic so we have All Souls Day on the 31st and All Saints Day on the first of Nov. Just covering all the bases!
I really enjoyed this post. Thank you and have a great week with your family. mary

Michel said...

Thanks for a thoughtful post. And yes, October 31 is the eve of the feast of All Saints. All Saints Day is November 1. All Soul's Day is November 2. Days in which we recall those that have gone before.

Cote de Texas said...

i've been reading about this topic this year - it was talked about in the Jewish Herald Voice that we take in Houston. food for thought.

i wanted to thank you so much for your kind words on the Giannetti giveaway post!!! It really made my day to read it.

thanks again, (I hope you win!! I'm getting ready to pick the winning number !!!!)

Lorrie said...

Great post, Laura. I missed the whole debate so I'll go back and read the comments. I can't imagine that people would criticize your blog because you don't think the way they do. I've thought this through as well, and prefer to keep the lightheartedness of the holiday, too.

WOL said...

In their wisdom, the early church fathers elected to keep the "pagan" festivals which, in agrarian, rural Europe, were set at the times of year when important agricultural events took place. They just changed the reason for the festival, from a pagan reason to a Christian reason, from gods to God. Lambing time in early February (feast of St. Bridget), the time for preparing the fields and planting the crops (the food from last year's harvest is running out. Lent -a time of fasting and preparation), the celebration of the coming of spring (Easter -- the time when the vegetation killed by winter is "resurrected" just as Christ was), midsummer (when the days begin to grow shorter again, preparing for the harvest), the first harvest (starting in August, grain and cereal crops), the second harvest (starting in September, fruits, berries, nuts), the culling of livestock (why there is a "feast" at Samhain -- the only animals that were kept were the ones that could be fed over winter. The rest were killed and the meat preserved or eaten. Likewise, any parts of the harvest that could not be preserved over winter were eaten. Halloween -- All Hallows' eve -- the day before the celebration of all those hallowed by Christ, i.e., saints.), the winter solstice -- the longest night of the year -- when light triumphs over darkness and the days begin to grow longer (what better time to celebrate the birth of Christ?). I choose to follow the example of the early church fathers and keep the celebration, only change the reason for it. I have no problem with skeletons as Halloween symbols. They remind us of those loved ones we have lost during the year (which was an important part of the pagan festival),and those martyrs who died for their faith, and to reflect on our own mortality and how Christ's coming has changed the meaning of death. It is interesting that during the pagan feast of Samhain, it was the custom that no one was turned away from the feast. All were welcomed, even strangers. It is a good thing to remember: Our celebrations should not be exclusive, but inclusive, welcoming all to the table including the nonbelievers and "sinners," even as Christ did.

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

When my kids were in grade school, one mother went on a campaign to get Halloween out of the schools. She had power and she made a lot of noise. From that time on, our kids had a fall festival instead of a Halloween party. My own opinion (I am also a Christian)is that it was a sad thing to do to our kids. Small kids in costumes aren't going to do anything sinful. They aren't acting "devilish" even if they wear a devil costume. Halloween has always been a favorite of mine because my birthday falls 2 days before and I had many Halloween parties. I think kids should get to be kids...they have plenty of time for worries, stress and opinions later on.

Deanna said...

as a child i had the best fun dressing up and trick or treat. When my children were young, we did the same even after I became super spiritual! ha.

I decided to reclaim this holiday and celebrate the good. In the past I got to where I didn't even want a jack o latern...because of it's past creation. Then I thought I'd reclaim that because God made the pumpkin in the first place and it is just plain fun to crave one and put a candle in it!!!

God bless,
d

fairfieldhousenj.com said...

Laura,

I have just recovered from being sick and just read this post. A perfectly written response for the posed question. I grew up in Toms River where Halloween was and continues to be a three day event -- two days prior is "Mischief Night", one day prior is Trick or Treating and Halloween Night is one of the biggest Halloween Parades in the country. Halloween is the stuff childhood memories are made of!

Your Friend,
Deborah

Linda said...

How did I ever miss this post? I feel the same way as you do. We do celebrate Halloween and I wrote a post a year or two ago about how we shine our light, God's light, even on Halloween. :)

Bobbi Elizabeth said...

How about even promoting our religious roots by dressing up as biblical characters? Shepherds, lambs, Gabrielle or Michael the arch angels, Moses. A small child could be baby Jesus, you could have the wise men, angels or even a talking donkey,Caesar and ponteus Pilate, Peter and Judas. If people ask you have a chance to tell them a brief bible story and/or share about Jesus's. When you pass out candy you could attach notes with an invitation and address to your local church. Our pastor suggested passing out the best candy on the block to earn a reputation for being the good candy house to go to. Lots of ways to not only be non offensive but to educate others and maybe even share your faith and make it fun at the same time.

Decor To Adore said...

Hi Bobbie Elizabeth I wish that you would have provided a way for me to privately contact you. For one to throw verbal darts while hiding seems a bit unfair. I am assuming that you must be a new reader of Decor To Adore because almost each and every Sunday I share my faith with my lovely readers. Over on the sidebar I proudly proclaim Jesus as my Lord and Savior. When I went to your blog I found nothing. This is so sad. Just think of the wonderful platform you could use to share His grace, mercy and love. Since you are fairly new here I want to let you know that over the years our family has indeed dressed up as biblical characters. This year we are portraying the wholesome Ingalls family from Little House on the Prairie. I am saddened that you chose not to research facts before writing such stinging words. This is not what my loving Jesus would do. Please know that you are still most welcome here. It is a place of love, understanding and acceptance. Matthew 7:1-6