How do we decide what we think about Halloween?
Every year Halloween comes around, and for many of us parents, it brings with it the same questions. What do we think about Halloween and how we want our children to respond? Do we let them trick or treat, or do we say no? Do we answer the door, or just ignore it? Do we let them go to a party, or carve a pumpkin, or not? Many of us have settled on what we feel is right and have explained it to our children, but for those of us who haven’t yet, here are a few suggestions on how to make your mind up.
So much of parenting feels like reacting, but when it comes to situations that we can see coming, we can have the blessing of a little extra time to actually think through how we want to respond.
Throughout Christian history, parents have been experiencing the tricky decisions of how to live in this world while honouring God. The early church had debates on a regular basis about the “hot topics” of their time: eating meat dedicated to idols, circumcision, Gentiles observing that Sabbath and more.
When it comes to Halloween, I find that the apostle Paul is really helpful in Romans 14 on how to find a way forward in the pursuit of the “right” answer. If you have a chance, take a moment to read the chapter. Whilst the early church agreed on many things to avoid, such as injustice, rage, sexual immorality, etc., there appeared to be other areas that they disagreed on. In addressing these issues, Paul encouraged that whatever we personally decide on these “disputable” matters, we are accountable to God for our choice. So, in topics of debate, Paul urged his readers decide on what they felt was the right decision, be fully convinced in their heart, and then go for it. He also encouraged them to know that their approach may look different than other Christians around, because other people’s internal sense of what would be sin for them in this area may be different.
What is God saying to us?
This is why the topic of Halloween can be so confusing for Christians. When you look on the internet and talk to friends, you run into godly people who you respect with often wildly different approaches, who are fully convinced in their own answer. For those of us who want someone to just tell us the “right answer”, it can be frustrating.
In finding your way forward, consider the question “What is God saying to us personally about Halloween?” Some families feel really convinced that Halloween is an opportunity to share God’s love, while other families feel that it is an evil that they are to have nothing to do with. There is a wide spectrum of how Christians think about it. You may already have a sense of what you think, and so are looking to find more people who have done more thinking in the same areas. If you aren’t sure where to start, why not read some parent’s stories of what they decided and why? As you read, you may get a sense of what feels right for your family, in your context, with the personalities of your particular children.
If you look here we have compiled some links to some to get you started.
What matters most, is that you figure it out with God.
Explain it to the children
No matter what you decide, take the time to explain it to your children well. Often we can just tell our children our decision and expect them to comply. But sharing the heart behind what your decision is is where the crucial parenting for faith happens. Take the time to explain how you feel about it, and what you feel God is saying to your family about how to respond to Halloween. Help your children through their emotions about it, and share how you feel. Help them practice the tools they need to fully engage in the next steps: whether it is how to reply when they are invited to a party, or the skills of cooking hot dogs for your middle of the street church BBQ serving trick-or-treaters. The goal is that they can, without fear or worry, grow in the understanding of how to engage with Halloween in the way God has shown you and your family.
Don’t judge others
As we go on our journey of trying to honour God, it can be easy to slip into trying to convince each other that our decision is the right one. And it is the right one… for our family. Paul, in Romans 14, told the early church, “Therefore, let us stop passing judgement on one another.” (vs. 13) He encouraged each person to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification”(vs 19) While we decide what is right for us, we need to know that it may be wrong for others. Let us create a culture of Christian parents, all trying to honour God to the best of our ability, and supporting each other in doing the same.