As the Halloween season approaches I thought I’d pass on the name of a great book that I think is important for parents to read – particularly those who struggle with the concept of Halloween.
It seems that Halloween has gotten a little bit of a bad wrap over the years. What can be, and should be, a fun, innocent holiday for children has been mired by slasher movies and horror tales of cult-like sacrifices. This, in my opinion, is unfortunate because Halloween is really a fun time for both children and parents.
The idea of Halloween being a pagan holiday is particularly prevalent among christian circles. I understand where this is coming from. In fact, Lee and I really debated whether or not we would celebrate Halloween with our kids. Both of us just assumed that Halloween was a holiday that opened the door to evil and wondered if we should just scrap it. But, when Sloan was born, it broke my heart to think of not dressing him up and parading him around the neighborhood, showing off his cute, fat cheeks and racking up a little sugary delight.
I also couldn’t figure out how to not celebrate the holiday without it seeming weird. Did we hand out candy to trick or treaters, but just not take our kids Trick or Treating? That didn’t seem right because it just makes the practice of Trick or Treating seem wrong.
Did we turn off all the lights and hide in a dark corner all night, ignoring the Trick or Treaters on our front step? That didn’t seem like a good conclusion either because how would we explain that to our kids?
And, while I love fall festivals that church’s put on and have no problem attending them, the fact is, they are still a celebration of the holiday called Halloween. So before Lee and I made a decision, I decided it was time to research Halloween. And I am glad I did!
I came across a book called Redeeming Halloween: Celebrating Without Selling Out. This book was published by Focus on the Family, a reputable christian organization whose focus is, oddly enough, on issues that affect families. I learned a lot from this book.
Perhaps the thing that most surprised me was the fact the Halloween, the original holiday, is not pagan but rather a Christian holiday. It stands for All Hallow ‘een or “the eve of the holy ones“.
Under the reign of Nero, a tyrannous and horrible Roman leader, christian’s were brutally murdered in public places. Literally thrown before the lions, christians in early Rome were martyred for no other reason than that Nero felt threatened by them. In A.D. 610, as the church gained more honor, these martyrs were officially recognized and given their own holiday, All Saints’ Day or All Hallows Day. This holiday eventually landed on the calendar on November 1. It was meant to be a day for the church to remember and recognize the believers who died for their faith.
(Incidentally, if you’re looking for an excellent read on the early Christian martyrs, I highly recommend the book Quo Vadis. It’s a novel, but it’s so historically factual that it barely passes as fiction. It is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time.)
Now, there is no denying that this meaning of Halloween has been wildly distorted over the centuries. But the fact remains that Halloween is not pagan, and this book gives great suggestions of ways to celebrate Halloween by merging the traditions that we have today, trick or treating, with the true meaning of the holiday. After all, isn’t that what we try to do at Christmas as well? If you think about it, Christmas has also been dreadfully distorted and paganized.
So where did the costumes and trick or treating come into play? The authors state that there is no real conclusive evidence as to where this tradition began but there is some historical evidence that in the mid-1800’s, masquaraders would go from door to door performing plays in exchange for food or drink.
Around this time, a large population of Irish immigrants came to America bringing with them a tradition known as “mischeif night” where they would canvas neighborhoods playing harmless tricks on their neighbors. By the 1920’s, however, this tradition had gotten out of hand leading to true vandalism, so a small town mayor instituted a night where “good” children could go to neighbor’s homes and shops, crying “Trick or Treat!” The idea was that the shop owners should give them a treat so they wouldn’t be “tricked.” Placing this tradition on the eve of All Hallow’s Day was merely a way to designate it as a once a year occasion.
So, for those of you who may be unsure of whether or not to celebrate Halloween, I highly recommend this book. You still have to do what you feel is right for your family, but you owe it to yourself to be educated about the decision you are making.
For those of you who celebrate Halloween but feel guilty about doing so – Don’t! You don’t have to skulk around on Halloween hoping no one from church see’s you taking your kids out. Bottom line is that there are ways to enjoy the innocence and the fun of Halloween without partaking of the evil that pervades.
So, in closing, Happy Halloween!