In my typical big sister fashion, I was all set to write an authoritarian post on the subject of Halloween, but the more I turned over the words in my head, the more I realized that I am conflicted about this issue, that there is merit on both sides, and that the answer may be different by family or neighborhood. So, let me lay out some of the pros and cons that I see about celebrating Halloween, and I hope that you will answer them. Tell us whether you participate and why (or why not). Give me counter arguments for the concerns that I may have, or introduce concerns that I may not have noticed.
Please remember to use a name for your comments, even if it is something silly, so that others can respond to what you have said, and please keep it kind, we are all doing the best we can here.
First of all, as you can see above, we do celebrate Halloween at our house. Here is how I see it:
1. When it is kept positive, Halloween builds community. Last Halloween I met my neighbors, spent time with my children's friends, my kids practiced being polite to strangers, and we all wound up at one house where the children and adults got to know each other better.
2. Halloween is universal. Secular holidays give us a chance to share something with those in our community who are not Christian. The kids get just as excited about what their friends are doing as what they are going to wear themselves, and asking "what are you going to be for Halloween?" is an easy way to make friends with any child in your life. We are already telling our children some of the important, moral ways in which they must be different from their peers, but sometimes it is really nice to fit in, too.
3. Halloween is fun. Christ was part of his community and celebrated meals and traditions, and I think that it is a mistake for Christians to be killjoys all the time. Also, Halloween is cute. Really, see above. It is a nice chance for you and your children to get creative, to see what interests and excites them. I think it is especially fun for boys to have an excuse to dress up, as creative play can be more limited for boys. In our house, Halloween costumes are recycled into dress ups for the rest of the year, and both boys and girls love having costume parades.
1. Halloween can be a celebration of the occult. This is the strongest argument against, as far as I'm concerned. I don't like scary window displays, and I don't think that there is anything funny about dressing up as the grim reaper, the devil, or anything evil. Witches, superstition, calling out ghosts, these things may seem innocent but we tread a very fine line. Is it dangerous to assume that we can innocently participate in Halloween when it has pagan undertones?
2. Halloween is overly commercial. This is a close second, for me. I have a real problem with the culture of consumption and the way that it ruins what would otherwise be a lot of fun. You could spend tons of money on costumes and treats for Halloween. There are several Halloween stores opening up in my town, many of which emphasize the very worst of Halloween. People have huge displays of blow up ghosts and pumpkins on their lawns. It is all a bit odd, frankly.
Many of the costumes are of licensed, media created characters.
Along with this, there can be the temptation to live life "from one party to the next." In our house, we have just caught our breath from September birthdays, and others have had the big excitement (and shopping) for "back to school." When we really do up Halloween and Thanksgiving, I'm exhausted and broke by the time we get to Christmas!
3. Halloween is slutty. In addition to the occult costumes, there are the sex/prostitute costumes. Halloween becomes an excuse for older people to dress and act the way they might not act at any other time. Unfortunately, while this can be liberating in a fun and silly way, instead we see the very worst of human nature. It reminds me a bit of the pagan festivals in Ancient Rome, or the disturbing concept "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." A day, or a place, in which morality and ethics do not apply is seriously disturbing.
4. Celebrating secular holidays distracts us from celebrating the liturgical year. There are the feasts of All Souls and All Saints. I think that learning about a saint, or offering mass for family members who have died, are important ways that we can celebrate these feasts.
In some communities they have kids dressing up as saints in lieu of Halloween. I have never gotten the sense that this can be done without it being forced and odd, even for the kids, but if it goes over well in your community, please tell us about it.
As you can see, in this, as in many areas, including homeschooling, I am torn between my desire to protect my children from the worst of secular culture and the real need to be a part of a community, for the sake of friendship and apostolic work. I think of the children's book "Benedict and Scholastica" in which St. Benedict realizes that Rome is a dangerous place for his soul and decides to become a hermit, and eventually founds a community. His sister, Scholastica, stays at home rather than going away for a formal education, and she, too, decides to give her life over to cloistered prayer.
Some friends use the phrase "in the world, but not of it." Is this possible? How much should we be withdrawing from the world? Is the world really worse or different then it was when we were kids, or are we just over thinking everything, or being overly pessimistic? Is it overly optimistic to think that we, and our children, can use something like Halloween for good? Just because something is not "bad", might we be missing out on something more important, something truly Godly? And, what about friends and extended family? We have to lay down moral lines and not participate in evil, but is it sort of a Christian snobbishness to be "too holy" for Halloween?
All right, let's hear what you have to say! I'm really asking for it here...