First, let’s get this one out of the way for parents. Parents, if you grew up in the United States and so did your parents, maybe even your grandparents, then if you celebrate Halloween as the American traditional holiday it was when you or your parents or your grandparents were kids, you’ve got it covered. You can have a traditional down-home American Halloween, even today.
Now, along with that, the focus on how everyone else chooses to celebrate Halloween is going to be whatever is the craziest, most provocative, most extreme stuff out there. What sizzles sells. This is why what the media and social media chooses to cover this Halloween season won’t be you out trick or treating with your cute little Ninja Turtle.
Second, if you are a parent who is a Christian, here is a disclaimer. I am a biblical scholar, as are my colleagues. We can make 10 cases of why Halloween is not helpful,10 why it is not harmful, and 10 more why it is a great opportunity to spread joy and love your neighbors.
I am also a historian, as are many of my colleagues, and so we have already studied all the varied background information about the “origins” of Halloween and such. I personally don’t find origin stories all that helpful when making decisions about present reality, and I notice that when we do make origin stories a huge deal, we tend to simply grab on to the origin stories that serve our point of view. When we pastor-types hang out together, we can argue all of these points and then see who the loudest, the most aggressive person is, as he or she will probably go away thinking they are the Bible Answer Guy/ Origin Historian Extraordinaire. Come to think of it, if that’s the case, then we do have a problem and will need to do some work on an overestimation of self and humility. That’s not good…
Where does this lead us?
I will give my opinion as a Christian/parent/grandparent/
Do whatever you want with common sense. If you don’t want to do anything? Don’t.
Really? That’s all you got?
OK, but what is common sense?
Here are a few nuggets.
According to the latest brain science, God designed us so that the emotional well-being of children has already been wired in by age one. So parents, whatever you decide about Halloween is not going to ‘scar them for life”.
“Hospitality toward your neighbor is a big deal for Jesus, and an important model for your children to witness. A friend of mine said it this way: “Halloween is the only day of the year when many of our neighbors come to our homes. Don’t miss this great opportunity to be at home when they stop by. Let’s be hospitable!”
Hospitality toward your neighbor might include trick -or -treating in your own neighborhood, as there are many homes that still have a warm remembrance of the down-home Halloween of days gone by, And your kids will increase the joy level of their evening, some in a significant way. What about costumes?”
What about costumes? Appropriate costumes? For your children? Not too dark; not over-sexualized.
Appropriate costumes for neighbors kids? That’s their business. But, what do you do if they come to your door as a gory zombie for a sexy nun?
Give them candy without an editorial.
If you are already done trick or treating with your own kid and they see the gory or over-sexualized, at the end of the night, you can have a meaningful conversation about their experiences in general, and then you can talk about costumes.
Personally, as a pastor of a church where we celebrate Holy Communion every Sunday, whenever I see gory monsters, zombies, and vampires, I am sensitive to how I respond. I remember that if these same kids choose to worship with us some day and they are not familiar with Holy Communion, it will be very interesting when I start talking about eating the body of Jesus and drinking his blood…
Oh, well, Happy Halloween! Or not…
What does “neurotheology” mean? Dr. Andrew Newberg wrote Principles of Neurotheology and was interviewed by NPR in 2010. He called neurotheology “the relationship between the