There is a lot of controversy in some Christian circles over Halloween. Should it be acknowledged, let alone celebrated? If so, how? Thomas Blevins addressed this topic last week on Elevate Dads, and Addie Zierman (author of the beautiful memoir When We Were One Fire) shared this post from 2012 with her fans online. I think Rachel Held Evans (author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood) has the best take on the subject. She posted this on her Facebook timeline today.
“I was a God-fearing Christian until I went trick-or-treating when I was eight and converted to paganism,” said no one ever.
So calm down. It’s a fun holiday. Focus on the positives and enjoy it. My wife and I always celebrated it as kids and we turned out okay. Plus, it’s not like we have a choice. Halloween is Anna’s favorite holiday. Why?
She loves Halloween because she loves dressing up.
Anna’s first two Halloween outfits were our idea. Who doesn’t want to show off their cute kid in a cute costume. So at nine months, she was Winnie the Pooh in a bee outfit. She had a matching Winnie the Pooh plush toy in his own bee outfit, which she carried as we carried her. You can’t get much cuter than that.
Her costume at 20 months was a monkey, complete with a banana from her play food set. This time, she got into the swing of trick-or-treating around the complex, walking up to the doors, holding out her bucket, and signing thank you.
Since then, she’s chosen her own costume. At two, she was Elmo. At three, Princess Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty). At four and five, she was Super Girl (her only two-year costume to date). At six, she was Merida from the movie Brave, and this year, she’s Snow White.
Halloween has become a dress-up holiday for her, and since she loves dressing up, it’s the holiday she looks forward to the most. The candy is secondary, and the darker aspects of the day don’t even register for her. Why?
Dressing up for Halloween is no different than dressing any other day.
A lot of the concern centers on costume choices. Will your kid pick something sinister or just inappropriate. The former concern is understandable, but I think that a lot of parents forget that some kids try to dress up as something that scares them in order to deal with their own fears.
Anna loves Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones series, and we just finished reading Boo and I Mean It. In the book, Junie B. is scared of Halloween and dresses up as the scariest thing she can think of to try and conquer her fears. Her choice? Not a witch or a vampire or a werewolf. She dresses up as a clown. A lot of times, it’s the things we barely notice that scare our kids. A dark closet, a vague shadow, or a strange, spooky clown.
As for inappropriate costumes, dressing for Halloween is no different than dressing for any other day. This goes especially for parents of girls. Would you buy hip-huggers for your pre-schooler? Of course not, but you can find them in any department store. You raise your child to know what’s appropriate and you let them be a kid. Then when the time comes to pick their own clothes or their own costume, they will choose well.
So the costume is set, and it’s something you and your child both like. What’s next?
Focus on wholesome activities.
Harvest parties. Fall festivals. Even churches that refuse to say “Halloween” out loud for fear of corrupting themselves somehow (really?) find ways to celebrate this time of year. We’ve found some great all-ages welcome parties at various churches in our area each year and Anna has always enjoyed them.
We also do trick-or-treating each year at our local mall. It’s a safe, secure, and well-lit area where kids can show off their costumes to one another while collecting a big bucket of treats. No worries about navigating dark neighborhoods or crossing streets. Afterwards, you can stash the candy in a snack bowl or drawer, depending on whether your child can self-regulate treats. Anna has always been very responsible. Not all kids are.
And where does that responsibility come from? You. So …
Guide don’t Hide.
Here’s the truth. You can try to build a bubble around your child, but sooner or later the bubble will burst. Or you can raise your child to separate the wheat from the chaff in all things, including secular and secularized holidays. What do you do?
Simple. You raise your child in a Christian home. We pray with or daughter every night. We’ve enrolled her in religious education at our parish. She strictly monitor what she watches on TV—almost all of it on PBS Kids, because she likes fun, educational shows—and shield her from things we feel she’s not mature enough to process yet.
And we let her know that she’s safe and that she’s loved. By us and by God. That’s the most important thing to teach your child—on Halloween and every other day.