My History with Halloween
Growing up in a nominally Christian home, I never gave any thought to boycotting Halloween or attending an alternate church festival. Instead, I looked at it as everyone else did - as a unique “holiday” where folks gave away candy in large amounts, we got to stay up late, my friends and I were allowed to roam the neighborhood without interference from our parents, we made cool costumes to wear and scare girls, and then - after the big candy exchange - we were allowed to binge on sugar-laced food for days on end.
What was there not to like about Halloween? The only negative connected to it was the oft-repeated advice not to eat a donated apple, because there might be a razor blade placed inside. Since the odds that I would grab fruit from the goodie bowl were zero, even that caution did not impact my enjoyment of this neighborhood party each year.
But in my thirties, as I began to walk with the Lord, I heard churches say participating in Halloween was an endorsement of Satan-worship, since “All Hallows' Eve” was like Christmas for the underworld. Although I understood the basic history of Halloween and how it might be corrupted for an evil purpose, that idea struck me as odd, given my experience with it.
Inviting the World In
When my wife and I had three sons, we saw Halloween as something fun to do as a family with our community group - and an easy way to get to know our neighbors and neighborhood. So the idea of skipping Halloween actually seemed counter to what Christ was calling us to do.
What I mean by that is that we, as believers, are to be the “light of the world." Oftentimes, that means heading out into the world or inviting it into your home (or front yard at least), so relationships can be started and conversations can be initiated. That does not mean participating in Halloween in a way that is inconsistent with a how a Christ follower should live. (Dress, food, drink, special effects in the yard, etc., should not be inconsistent with your faith.)
But maybe it means doing some “Trojan Horse” evangelism, where folks come to your home for candy and fun... but leave with a step towards a relationship with you, which could eventually lead to an understanding of the gospel.
Hosting Your Neighbors at Halloween
So how can a Christian participate in Halloween with this purpose in mind? Well, as with so many of the things Christ called us to, it will require a change of perspective. "Redeeming" Halloween means making it about others, not us (Mark 10:43-45).
With that in mind, here are some ideas that Watermark folks and other believers have used to make Halloween an engagement and outreach opportunity:
- Before it gets dark, host a pre-Trick-or-Treating hotdog party at your house for the folks on your block.
- Rent or buy a bounce house for your front yard, and play a song list of appropriate music that lasts 5-7 minutes. This will attract people to stop by and stay long enough for a conversation while kids play in the bounce house.
- Set up a sheet or video screen in the front yard and show either 15-20 minute cartoons or a movie for the kids. Also set up a space for adults to sit and talk while the movie is showing.
- Use/borrow a truck, set up hay in the back or on an attached trailer, and pull kids and parents around for 10 minutes.
- If it's warm, hand out something cool like popsicles so folks will stay and eat at your house.
- Pass out full candy bars, not just the treat size. That will guarantee a lot of people show up at your house!
What's the pattern you see in this handful of examples? Be creative! Come up with your own idea that will get folks to show up and STAY for awhile at your house. This will give you and your family the chance to get the conversation started, or continue a conversation from the past.
That’s how you redeem Halloween - and keep from being a Grinch.