Monday, October 13, 2014

Die, Halloween, Die.

In a strange turn of events, Abigail has an interest in all things Halloween that just deepens every year. Growing up, my family handed out candy and trick or treated, and I remember carving maybe 2 pumpkins. There were no outdoor or indoor decorations beyond pumpkins; we just didn't celebrate evil or death. Of course, the best part to most kids is trick-or-treating and the candy loot, and most of my Halloween memories involve running house to house as late as possible. Nick's family put up some decor and his costumes were more elaborate and violent. But neither of us really talks about Halloween with our kids; it's not a big deal to us. How could our preschooler have this fascination?

At ages 18 months, 2.5, and 3.5 years we played Halloween Bingo (DIY printable found online) that had most vocabulary that she'd run into: bat, skeleton, mummy, witch, cauldron, vampire, frankenstein, etc. The only reason we played this game was I didn't want her to be frightened by strange masks or costumes worn by other kids or adults. Let's face it: Halloween stuff is out of the ordinary! We'd go down the aisles in stores just so she'd at least seen it once while still and not seemingly life-like. But now it borders on obsession -- her neck cranes or she cannot help going over to the aisles.

The way Nick and I think about Halloween as Christ-following adults is mostly as an opportunity to meet our neighbors! Our kids going door to door is a perfect excuse to exchange names and see where conversation goes from there. This year we're adding more library book learning about Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, even though it crosses many indigenous religious traditions with Christian understanding of eternal life.

Mexican Dia de los Muertos altar

We'd rather use positive rhetoric than list everything 'wrong' with Halloween. That sounds something like this:

Halloween isn't the whole story. Halloween is simply the night before All Saints' Day -- the day when we celebrate and remember all who have died before us and who are now living with God. Christians call those who believe 'saints'. We'd like to remember these people (name the people) and how they loved God while they lived on earth. Sometimes people put up the last flowers to bloom in fall as a reminder of life before the cold stillness of winter and that God gives us eternal life after we die. So we let you trick-or-treat to say "Hi" to neighbors, but our family celebrates All Saints' Day. Because death doesn't win, God's gift of life does.

Have you noticed the slipping foothold and desperate grasping of Halloween? Although falsely claimed to be the second biggest grossing holiday in terms of spending (after Christmas), I'd love to see a break down so that it's clear whether that spending is on candy (a reigning #1 spot to Halloween), costumes, decor, etc. It seems just from walking in the stores that the decor is grasping at any foothold... they have begun marketing what Nick and I jokingly call "Hallo-Christmas-ween." Maybe death and violence don't really sell after all?

What is "Hallo-Christmas-ween", you ask? You'll know it by:

None of these decor items is particularly "Christian" and do historically stem from pagan solstice celebrations. It seems odd to me that retailers and marketers are blending symbols of light, life, and community with a celebration of evil, darkness, and death. Does it strike you as odd??

Chrysanthemums, flowers, and graves

We'll be keeping our home decor harvest-focused on apples, pumpkins, wheat, and shared bountiful LIFE this fall. And our chrysanthemums will remain outdoors... since the seasonal flowers are traditionally placed on graves in Europe on All Saints' Day. Our stories will be about how friends and family lived for Christ and still live with him after death.

How about your family? How do you talk about these fall holidays, like Halloween and Harvest festivals?

photo credit: Appalachian Primitive Sign Shop, etsy


  1. I never thought about the crossover between Halloween and Christmas marketing like that. Interesting and a little sad. I really like how you explain to your kits about Halloween and why you let them trick or treat. I LOVE fall, and pumpkins and orchards and anything harvest or Thanksgiving related but not so much the undead and scary Halloween imagery. I guess if I had to sum up what it seems to me that the secular world celebrates at Halloween, it's fear. Fear made laughable or entertaining. It's a reminder to me coming right before the Christmas season that the secular world just tries to dress up fear and make it manageable, but can't make it completely go away. We as Christians know the one who totally casts out fear and we don't have to be afraid - not of death or of anything else.

  2. Good point about fear, Molly! What would you as a Spanish teacher have to say about the emotions in a Dia de los Muertos celebration? My impression is that death is accepted as something that happens to all, and it interests me that there's a large amount of laughing and revelry... is it just remembering the dead in a happy way? Or is it laughing in death's face?