Let’s start from the start:
Halloween has no place in Australia.
It has no historic meaning or significance unless you work for Cadbury’s, Nestle or Allen’s.
Come on. We were all thinking it.
But now that we have that out of the way, let’s face reality.
Halloween has become an easily marketable, attractive day for young people for a bunch of reasons that should be pretty obvious: free candy, dressing up, staying up late, hanging out with mates, independence and of course, flirting.
As a result of all this, most parents I know have had to start looking seriously at the question of whether they should let their kids go trick-or-treating.
As a youth pastor I look at this through two different ‘windows’:
1) Is this helpful and healthy for teenagers?
2) Is this helpful and healthy for Christians?
In 2014, the idea of unsupervised children going from home-to-home, asking strangers for candy, ticks just about every box on a list of ‘how to give a parent a heart attack.’ Our fears of the ‘other’, people that we don’t know, have grown greater with every sensationalised media story that has been brought to us. To be fair, they are not all sensationalised – children and teenagers have been tragically torn from their families by predators looking for vulnerable young people.
This mindset has affected the way we treat almost all our interactions with strangers. What do you do when you make eye contact with a stranger now? Give a nod and a smile? More than likely, you jerk your eyes away – just in case. How well do you know your neighbour? The rest of your street? How likely are you to engage in conversation with people serving you in stores?
This is not the full picture of how we engage with people we don’t know and of course there are other affecting factors. But my experience is that Australians today are afraid of the potential of strangers, and they accept that, while despising it. Australian culture has moved from an instinctive culture of mateship, to a place of paranoia and fear of the unknown.
THEN we get to your KIDS
Your teenage children are craving independence and excitement at this time of life. How can you give it to them, while still feeling that you’re fulfilling your role as a good parent?
Couldn’t some simple guidelines – never travel in less than pairs, keep to well-lit areas, never knock on that creepy-looking house, carry garlic and silver bullets with you – couldn’t these not only let your young people experience independence and enjoy their nights, but grow them as young women and men who will be better equipped to make similar decisions as adults?
I’ll say it again:
Your children are craving independence and excitement at this time of life.
Why not give it to them?
Halloween is a chance for you to empower your kids not to fear the stranger, the other, the unknown, but to engage with them safely on their own terms.
The standard rhetoric for Christians around Halloween has usually been one of fear and disapproval – I was once officially reprimanded for running a lunchtime pumpkin carving competition due to its alignment with Halloween. Witchcraft, monsters and violence are not exactly in line with Christian beliefs, after all. It seems more aligned with dark and demonic forces than with God and goodness
But what is in line with Christian belief is redemption. Redemption is at the heart of Christian faith and needs to be at the heart of how we engage with the world and culture around us.
Here’s one example of how to redeem Halloween:
Halloween has a rich history as a Christian holiday.
A long time ago, it was the precursor to All Hallow’s/All Saints Day. All Hallow’s Eve was the night to remember the dead, those who had died for the cause of Christ – those martyrs who were to be revered in our memories. Over the years, the Christian holiday has been bastardised and commercialised (sound familiar?).
And of course now it’s not associated with Christianity at all. We instead associate it with dark powers and forces.
Forces that, if we are believers, we believe were crucified with Christ, overcome in his death and fully defeated by his resurrection into life – a resurrection that we participate in.
How much power do you really want to give death and darkness in your life?
Ultimately, the choice needs to come down to how you trust your kids.
The love and wisdom you have shown in raising them as young, passionate Christians in a world full of easy alternatives is what will show on a night like Halloween.
This is a great opportunity for you to express trust in them as they grow in independence.
Listen – I don’t want to play down the potential dangers of Halloween, whether spiritual or physical.
What I DO want to do is raise smart, thoughtful, passionate young Christians, who can think independently and make intelligent life decisions based on their faith and their belief in a Christ who redeems the broken things of the world and re-forms them as renewed creations.
Just like us.
SIMPLE TIPS FOR HALLOWEEN SAFETY
- Go out as a group, never by yourself
- Stick to streets you know well and provide your parents with an indication of which areas you’ll be in
- Don’t give out any personal information to people you meet
- Show a dress sense that is creative and fun and that isn’t violent or trashy.
- Stick to a curfew