Re-Post: Redeeming Halloween

It’s a lazy, rainy day and I have  a lot to do around the house this morning, so I am recycling one of my post’s from last year.  With Halloween approaching, I figured it was a good time for this re-post.  This was origianlly posted on October 28, 2008.

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 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 and legalistic.  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 I didn’t see how that was a reasonable alternative to Trick or Treating.

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!

Comments

  1. This is a great post and I look forward to reading that book. I grew up celebrating Halloween and my husband did not, so we have differing views here, but he has always let us do trick or treating.

  2. Thanks for this post. I too never really saw the harm in letting the kids walk around the neighborhood looking for candy. It has actually helped us to get to know our neighbors better.

  3. Thank you for sharing!! I am going to post a link for others to check this out!!

  4. http://Kelli says

    I’m glad you all enjoyed and thanks for your support! I understand that everyone has to do what they feel is right for their families, but I also think there are some misconceptions out there. Happy Halloween to you all.

  5. I commented on Nicole’s post about why we don’t trick or treat. The girls do dress up and we go to Halloween parties, but I don’t like trick or treating. If you want to know why, check out my comment on her post.

    Also, I read somewhere awhile back – don’t remember where – that the origins of Halloween are Celtic and that the Celts thought that the day before All Saints Day that the spirits of the dead come out of their tombs. So the Celts would dress up in a scary way and decorate their houses with scary stuff to scare the spirits away. I actually remember reading it in several different places – so does the book just not include this (People – even Christians – tend to distort or leave out things to make something “fit” with their opinion) or is everything I read not true? I guess I will have to do a little research.

    Again, my kids do dress up and we talk about why certain costumes are not okay but we don’t trick or treat for various reasons.

  6. I can’t remember if the book included that info or not. I will have to read it again. But even if that is the case, the fact of the matter is that HAlloween was never meant to be for evil – not originally and not now. You have to do what you feel is right for your family, of course, but personally I do not find the holiday to be an evil one. Anyone can distort something for evil – but we can also make HAlloween a time for good. IT’s an amazing time to fellowship with non-believeing neighbors in a non threatening setting and can be used as a witness for Christ. This book actually gives suggestions on how to do just that.

    MY whole issue is the fact that I never really understood how to not celebrate Halloween without it seeming weird. I had friends whose parents wouldn’t let them dress up or trick or treat, but instead they handed out candy to others. And they all felt like it meant that trick or treating was bad. But trick or treating is not the issue. So I feel like you either celebrate it completely or you don’t at all. How do you have a middle ground? Even church Harvest Festivals are still a celebration of Halloween. They’re just in a more controlled setting, which I totally respect. But I don’t think you can attend a church Harvest Fest and claim that you don’t celebrate Halloween. Does that make sense?

    Ultimately, yes, research is key and doing what you feel is right for your family is important. That’s the best thing you can do for your kids!

  7. Thanks, Kelli, for the response! Funny that I even posted what I did, since I don’t really have an issue with Halloween itself – just the trick or treating part like I mentioned on Nicole’s blog. My kids dressed up and got candy at their parties! I was more curious to know if you had heard the stuff about the Celts or if it was in the book!!

    Glad your kiddos had fun – they looked cute!! They are seriously getting so big – I think Jack Henry’s 1st birthday was the last time we saw you!!

  8. I got your Blog from http://heresthediehl.wordpress.com/. I really enjoyed this blog. I have told my son from the very beginning the reason behind Halloween which your explanation is much better than mine. My explanation really fits for a four year old! I tell him: We have Halloween to scare the demons away so the saints can come in! Simple. Thank you for blogging about this! I enjoyed reading it

  9. http://Kelli says

    Thanks Tina. I’m glad you enjoed it and I think your explanation is a great one for a young child. Hope you all had fun!

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