The 1980’s were a tough time for Halloween. Slasher films with Roman numerals were everywhere, and there were rumors of poison and razor blades in Halloween candy. Parents became TSA agents, checking every piece of candy before their kids were allowed to eat anything.
I don’t blame my mom and dad for just opting out.
That’s pretty much how I remember it. In 1982, I was trick-or-treating while dressed like Luke Skywalker, and in 1983 Halloween was forbidden and evil. On the last day of October, we started going to “harvest parties” at churches. This makes it sound like we hand-shucked corn and gathered bushels of apples, but all we actually did was dress up and walk around gathering candy. It was exactly like Halloween, only less spooky and at a church.
Now I’m a Christian parent, and Halloween remains controversial in my world. So I’m faced with the decision — should I trick-or-treat with my kids? I’ve decided it’s okay. Here are my reasons why.
1. Halloween’s origins are blurry
Halloween’s meaning has evolved through the years, and its origins are a mixed bag. Some of its history is linked to the Christian holiday of All Saints Day. Other origins are part of a Celtic tradition of wearing masks to scare off spirits during the harvest. Today, Halloween is mostly an excuse for candy companies to make lots of money and a chance for abandoned stores in strip malls to transform into a costume shops for a couple of months.
Halloween isn’t alone in its blurry origins. Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25, and the date of his resurrection didn’t rotate based on the March equinox. It feels disingenuous to be so militant about one holiday’s origins while ignoring the origins of other holidays.
2. We connect with our neighbors
It’s easy to be disconnected from your neighbors when you live in the suburbs. Every night you open your garage and disappear, and in the morning you reopen it just long enough to drive away to work. I meet more neighbors during Halloween than the other 364 days of the year combined. We go house to house, and I get to see the people who live inside. They compliment our kids. We learn each other’s names. One neighbor has a fire pit at the edge of his driveway where families gather around and make s’mores.
Our little community is more alive on October 31 than any other day of the year. Christmas and Easter are closed-off holidays where the select few are invited, but on Halloween everyone is welcome. The thought of flicking off the lights and pretending we’re not home while the rest of my neighbors celebrate seems cold and antisocial.
3. You have to earn your treats
On holidays, my kids unwrap presents they didn’t pay for, eat pumpkin pie they didn’t make, and watch fireworks they didn’t light. Now comes a holiday where they have to earn what they consume. You want another piece of candy? We have walk to another house, smile, act cute, and say the magic words.
This actually becomes a deal with my younger ones after a couple of blocks when their legs get tired. They love candy, but they know there is a price to getting a piece. And once they do, it’s theirs. They’ve “earned” it. That’s why Halloween candy is the best tasting kind there is.
4. The centerpiece is a vegetable
I told this to a friend and he said this reason is a stretch. Fine. But it’s near-impossible to get my kids excited about any vegetable, and for some reason they act like pumpkins are made out of chocolate milk. We always get ours from a local farm or pumpkin patch, and for just a few minutes, my kids realize that food comes from somewhere other than the grocery store. Going to a local farm with my kids and picking out a pumpkin is one of my favorite parts of fall.
5. My kids can be anything they want
My kids think for months about what costume they want for Halloween. It’s a vibrant discussion around our house as they change into mermaids, princesses, cowboys, and superheroes. I love the message: you can become whatever you want. They are little dreamers in their costumes.
For Christmas and Easter, kids have to wear adorable plaid and pastels. Those are for parents. But Halloween is their time, when they can imagine and dream and transform themselves into something they love.
6. We control the way we celebrate
I celebrate Christmas, but I don’t make my front yard look like Times Square with baby Jesus in the middle of it. I celebrate the Fourth of July, but I don’t illegally light fireworks in dry grassy fields. Just because I participate in a holiday doesn’t mean I condone every form of celebration.
Yes, we take part in Halloween festivities, but we control the way we celebrate it. We don’t dress up our kids like psychopaths or scantily clad medical workers. I don’t expose my kids to horror and zombies at our house or let them go to parties that do. My wife and I are the parents, so we take responsibility for what’s okay and what isn’t.
And, I use Halloween as a teaching example with my kids. When they get older, I want them to understand that just because you participate in some things doesn’t mean you have to participate in everything. If something is wrong, you can turn around and walk away.
I’m not saying you have to celebrate. But we do, and that doesn’t mean we’re Satanists. We’re God-fearing people who happen to like candy.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.