Friday, October 17, 2014

Halloween: Take it or Leave it? We Leave it.

Some bloggers that I love have been chatting Halloween again...  I really appreciate these conversations among civilized and gracious women who believe all the same essentials of the Faith and can have an agreeable disagreement about their various takes on non-Church holidays and popular American cultural. 

So, um... can I get in on the dialogue??

I wrote the majority of this post last year after Halloween.  When I finally got around to finishing it, it was sort of a non-issue because by that time everyone had moved on to Christian parents' next favorite topic... Santa.

I'm pretty sure that all sides of this Halloween thing have already been covered and the debate has already been had, but if you haven any thoughts on the topic and want to chat respectfully here, I'd love it!  (Bonus points and gold stars to all of us who can comment and disagree with charity and respect!!) 

So where am I coming from??  My parents were overtly less than enthusiastic for Halloween.  We still got to celebrate Halloween when I was a kid, but with some fairly strict guidelines... only handmade costumes (no money to be spent thrown away on store-bought costumes.  EVER.), no objectionable or scary costumes, no scary movies, no Halloween parties, no haunted houses, no haunted hayrides, no haunted anything, but... you can go trick-or-treating and you can eat whatever candy you get :)  And you always, always say thank you when you get it.  

I recall Halloweens of yore when I dressed up as a Crayola crayon, a bar of Ivory soap, and a Mexican man (??) And I remember heading out on crisp nights with friends and an adult.  Always an adult.  And I recall how bizarre, creepy, and uncomfortable it was to go to neighbors' houses - people that I knew well and liked a lot - and have bloody skeletons greet me or red-eyed ware wolves dare me to take a piece of candy.  What the heck??  They didn't spend any other night of the year pulling out all the stops to scare the innocent little neighborhood kiddies.  I don't necessarily recall being scared.  (I was far too aloof and serious minded to be duped by that stuff... hmmm, sounds like me today...)  But I recall being disturbed.  I recall the feeling in my gut that told me this wasn't right.   

It's my impression that in general, Halloween has become only more gruesome and grotesque as the years have passed.  This is not to say that many people - including many lovely families that I know and admire and that we count as friends - love celebrating Halloween and enjoy the holiday with their children in good-spirited fun while minimizing the weirder aspects that "creep" up. I love kids in creative costumes as much as the next person, and I think it's fun to get candy and treats and to party.  (Oh no, wait, I'm a introvert, remember?  I don't love parties.  But, mmmmm.... candy!)  But I think that it's getting harder and  harder to avoid what's objectionable when you leave your home on Halloween; we can't control other kids' costumes, or the decorations on the neighbor's porch, or the unsettling displays in the stores, but we can control whether or not our kids see it.

We've chosen to skip Halloween.

I intensely dislike the aspects of Halloween that celebrate evil and normalize what is grotesque and unnatural.  I don't feel comfortable exposing my children to mutilated bodies or blood-sucking creatures as entertainment.  (We encountered plenty of this when, in a momentary lapse of judgement, we took the kids to a presumably harmless neighborhood "Trunk-or-Treat" night. Ugh.)  They have plenty of exposure to good vs. evil in the real world, in stories from the Bible, lives of the saints (in which a mutilated body may be unavoidable, but it is in witness to Christ and holds the promise of everlasting glory and is not about wacky fun on an autumn evening) and other stuff we read - classics beyond reproach, like The Chronicles of Narnia, come to mind.  For the most part, especially in Scripture and in the books we read, evil is evil, not entertainment, or something to imitate.  It's not for play-acting, or something to laugh at, or something intended to shock and awe.  It's always a consequence of original or actual sin.  It's not a disguise, or a trick, or role play. It is a real and present danger to body and/or soul that should not be taken lightly.  I cannot abide the aspect of Halloween that treats the unnatural, the gruesome, and the disgusting as something fun, comical, or "just for kicks."  And regardless of what standards of costumes, movies, activities I would hold for my own family, once you're out on Halloween, there truly is no way to anticipate what you may encounter.  A grotesque mask once seen, can't be unseen, and that's wretched for the mind's eye.  (I have an awful one in my head from several years ago...)  But what if it's more than once?  And what if it's celebrated or made light of?  Repeated exposure to what is evil and grotesque presented in that light  (fun, comical, just for kicks, not-a-big-deal-would-you-please-just-lighten-up-Theresa) may, in my mind at least, deaden our natural reactions to things that we know are wrong.

It is that desensitization to what is evil and unnatural that I fear for myself and for my children.  I do not want to shelter my children from what is evil in the world.  I want to train them to recognize it and react - whether it be fight it, distance themselves from it, seek help, call out in prayer...   When my children, now and in the future, encounter something evil or unnatural, I want them to shudder and know in their gut that "this is wrong," and not to think, "oh, this reminds me of a Halloween mask I once saw."   

This morning (remember I wrote this last year...) I had my first frank conversation about all this with Aaron, who is seven.  He brought it up and kept saying, "I don't understand why people who believe in God think it's fun to dress up as something that's bad."  Me neither, bud.   I don't think I'll ever warm to the idea of emulating that which is disgusting.  Kids dressed as cowboys, princesses, unicorns, and knights?  Super Cute.  Kids learning about and dressing as holy men and women of God?  Awesome!  That's why I'm so grateful to have the best that fall-time candy and costumes have to offer at the All Saint's Day celebration!  (here  are the kiddos costumes from last year)

I reiterate, that my thoughts on Halloween are purely how I approach it for my family and myself.   I'm fairly non-judgemental when it comes to how other families tackle this topic (or enjoy this holiday!)   As I mentioned, I have good friends on both sides of the issue and we've never, ever fought about it :)  My husband is a little less intense about it than I am, but we're in agreement and once we decided together we would "skip" Halloween, his most pressing concern  was where he would procure bite size candy bars if not from the kids' trick-or-treat bags.  (It's called a grocery store, Babe.  I'll take you sometime :) )  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, to hear if you agree  with some (or all) of it, we can chat about how you view it differently, and I welcome you to charitably poke holes in my arguments, question my rationale, and maybe even change my mind!  Because when considering all the big ideas that go into raising a family in today's culture and in the Faith, it doesn't do anyone any favors to be stubborn about all the extras.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  And ultimately, my take on Halloween doesn't change that.


  1. Here in Australia we don't really do Halloween, I'm so grateful. Well it has become a little more 'in' in recent years but only more as a marketing ploy.

    1. The marketing here is crazy. Statistically, it's the holiday people spend the most money on (after Christmas, of course!)

  2. Rob and I had this conversation last night. He loves Halloween and I have never been a big fan. He loves dressing up and being goofy, but there really is no way to avoid all the gross/evil stuff. He asked me last night if I still dislike the "holiday". For me it isn't about not wanting to dress up and get yummy treats, its about inviting evil into my life. I already struggle with temptation and sin, why would I literally open my door to evil?! Like you said, a grotesque mask once seen can't be unseen. I truly believe this " holiday" is Satan's favorite. This year I'm hoping to get a few cute photos of Miles in an adorable costume or hat, but don't plan on raising him in the traditional sense when it comes to Halloween.

    1. Amen, sista! (no, I mean really. You're my sister...)
      I'm all about adorable costumes! Can't wait to see him gussied up :)

  3. My kids don't like to be scared, have never enjoyed creepy or gross things and don't like being out and about very late so opting out of Halloween is a no brainer for is. I wrote this last year about why.

    1. Thanks for the link, Charlotte! I hadn't seen that post last year. Here's the comment I left over there:
      "it is what it is now." I like this line the best, because it's a reminder that regardless of how it started or what it used to signify or what the practices used to be, we're all free to choose our views on it based on what it IS today. Times change, customs change, and if Halloween changes enough, it's very possible my views many change also :)

  4. "his most pressing concern was where he would procure bite size candy bars if not from the kids' trick-or-treat bags"
    Haha, that's about my biggest concern too. I've never been much of a fan of Halloween, except for the candy.

    I haven't given much thought to this yet, as Maria has a couple years before she'd be interested in Halloween. You make a really good point, though. I'll have to remember to check back here to see what other commenters think :)

  5. I couldn't have articulated this any better myself, Theresa! You hit on every one of my concerns regarding this "holiday". We grew up the same - no Halloween as little kids although we passed out candy to trick-or-treaters. (and tracts - yep, my parents were *those* people! lol) After a certain point in the night, the kids would get older and the costumes grosser, and my parents would do the passing out. I can't remember ever feeling jealous, slighted, or like I was missing out. We dressed up all the time for play, had plenty of candy, and made candy corn. We enjoyed fall without halloween, kind of like how my kids enjoy Christmas *gasp* without santa. (as if the Savior isn't magical, exciting, or enough of a party all on His own) As we got older, we dressed up at school and some mild parties, with specific costume restrictions - nothing occult.

    OK so anyway, we've avoided Halloween too. I'm not giving the occult one tiny little foothold in my home. I don't care how cute the green witch is, or how chubby and smiley the ghost is. Check it at the door. Pumpkins? Fall leaves? Apples? Cider? Candy? Bring it on. Even bats. Bats are real animals. (well, not dead ones from the garbage lol...) Evil will not worm it's way into our home in the guise of cute, the guise of fun, the guise of entertainment.

    I'll never forget Anna's first halloween, she was 9 months old. We passed a gruesome display at Tops, a man standing all bloody and black, holding his own head in his hand. Pretty gross. Anna freaked out, before I even noticed it, pointing and yelling, "Mommy ow! Broken! Broken! Oh no, oh no!" I felt so bad, she had to carry that image in her 9-month old brain. Yuck. Really, Tops? How about a pumpkin and a black cat? You need a headless bloody man in the bulk section to feel festive? (not to single out Tops - every store is gross it seems this time of year)

    My kids' natural reaction to evil is to back away, to be repulsed, to fight it. And that's GOOD. I didn't teach that to them, the Holy Spirit has given them discernment. And I'm not about to get them "used to it". They don't need to be afraid, because they have Jesus, but they absolutely can be wary. I'm not going to normalize evil.

    One thing I love about halloween, is going out Nov. 1st and picking up fabulous deals on dress-up clothes for Christmas presents. :)

    Geee... this might be a hot-button topic for me... :)

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Liz! I look forward to chatting about it more :)
      I am anti-bat, however!
      But I've never thought about the dress-up clothes on sale before! Hmm...

  6. I'm not a fan of Halloween, for a variety of reasons--not the least of which are the horrid lawn displays of serial killers and their mutilated victims . . . or other such displays. I have to pass one of them to get to the grocery store, and I don't like it. I'll probably go the long way around when I go shopping tomorrow morning. I tried to get into the silly spirit of dressing up and having fun with my kids when they were little, but things too quickly got out of hand with too much candy, too many scary costumes, too much danger from kids who felt "safe" enough hidden behind masks to hurt others. We stick with our church Fall Festival (chili cook off and homemade games in the gym) with a trunk-or-treat activity in the church parking lot afterward.

    1. I.'m not a fan of the gruesome lawn displays either. On a more practical note though, I can hardly believe people even spend money on that stuff!!
      I love fall festivals and sure do like the sound of a chili cook-off!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  7. I'll admit that until this year, I didn't really give Halloween a second thought. My kids are still young, but have already trick-or-treated a few times, and I plan to send them out again this year (with my husband).

    I agree with the commenter above that the gruesome serial-killer sort of stuff you see involved with Halloween these days is disturbing, and not something I want my kids exposed to. And I always think it's weird and a little off-putting when you meet those people who say that Halloween is their favorite holiday ever.

    But if it's just a chance to dress up in a fun costume and get candy, I'm fine with it.

    Is there a problem with thinking it's a little fun to be scared? I don't know. I always liked haunted houses, because you *know* it's fake, but you still can't help being nervous. The thrill of the adrenaline rish, without the risk of actual harm....hmm, I don't know.

    We'll see if I notice that it's really something more - and objectionable - going on with Halloween....I'll continue to pay attention to the way this day is celebrated, and consider the meaning of it, and perhaps next year you'll find me agreeing with you!

    1. I've been thinking about the idea of "being scared." Interesting. When I think of adrenaline rushes and subjecting myself to healthy fear I'm more on board with roller coasters and high ropes challenge courses :)
      Thanks for your thoughts!
      (Hope we'll get to see pics of your little ones' costumes!)

  8. We leave it... and I enjoyed reading your explanation of your family's practices! As a blogger, I have tackled this before and it is... um... how do I say this? A hot button issue. lol. I almost didn't write again this year but I changed my mind last week after reading the newest articles in defense of a dark Halloween. I have a number of reasons for leaving Halloween but this year I wrote about why Halloween is a failed catechesis on holy death.

    1. Thanks, Melody.
      I found your post truly interesting and it definitely had some unique perspectives I hadn't considered before. For me, this line you wrote sums it: "We do not need to enter into sin to overcome sin."
      Thanks for sharing your personal thoughts on it so well.

  9. I really don't like Halloween, either. I like dress-up and pretend, but not the creepy/evil/gross/horrible things. I need to be stronger about the costumes for our in, should we avoid witches? I don't mind Harry Potter dress-up, but a witch in general? I don't know. Why can't parenting be easy?

  10. I don't really see what putting a costume on and walking around to the neighbors really has to do with anything evil or gruesome.

    I also don't think that gruesome is the equivalent of evil. There are many things that would appear gruesome to us that are actually wholesome activities like butchering animals for food. Being queasy about something isn't the same as it being morally wrong. And it can be good to desensitized to some degree to things that could make you queasy like caring for the sick and elderly .

    Maybe my neighborhood hasn't gotten heavily into the gruesome stuff. I think the worst we have are tombstones and I love reading the sayings on the tombstones! And there are some skeletons but then we talk about how we all have skeletons and about our bones and they seem more educational than scary.

    If I told my kids they couldn't 'do' Halloween, they'd be missing out on a lot. They wouldn't get to be in the parade to senior residential home, or to go to the Halloween party that is the first party my son as been invited to at his new school or run around laughing with the neighborhood kids about how silly they all look. To forbid Halloween seems kind of random and I don't think I would be able to do a good job explaining it to the kids so they would understand why the couldn't dress up and get candy. But my kids are still young and innocent and haven't shown interest in anything gruesome at all. Except Monster Golf. Once was enough there. That was shocking and disturbing.

    1. Hi Theresa! Thanks for your comment! Here are some of my thoughts… It’s like a whole other blog post. (Readers with tips on brevity can shoot me an email and apply for the job of editor. I pay in soup.)
      I'm not opposed to "gruesome," just gruesome for the sake of entertainment or when mocking/devaluing "wholesome," worthwhile things, like butchering (as you mentioned), dissection, or surgery, as well as holy death (something Melody, who commented above, wrote about). What a good point you made, that there is virtue in being able to withstand the discomfort and unpleasantness that comes for caring for human beings in general! Certainly not everything that makes us “queasy” is wrong - some particularly awful diaper changes come to mind ;). I think kids exposed to diapers and vomit and rotting onions (not in MY pantry, gasp!) are well on their way to being able to stomach dissection for the sake of science, and hopefully eventually caring for the wounded, infirm, and elderly for the sake of love.
      Sort of a different take on it – sometimes it IS a deeper knowledge of what is evil (or gruesome) that can lead to an understanding of how sinful a particular thing is. I’m thinking of abortion in this case. I wouldn’t perpetually hide the truth of abortion from my children just b/c it’s ugly. The awful truth needs to be “known” so that it can be combated for what it is – evil. In my mind, it’s related to Halloween because it’s hard to witness a dismembered body as a funny decoration knowing that it’s a violent reality for the most helpless of our society.
      I love it when my kids dress up. And they love it when they get candy! I’m even moderately OK with skeletons, bats, and spiders (kind of science-y) but I can’t get it out of my head when one year my kids saw a person wearing a mask that made it look like hundreds of pins (nails?) were stuck into the face and neck. It wasn’t a kid dressing up as a hero, or princess, or unicorn, or tube of toothpaste for laughs. Probably the child wearing it intended to shock and disgust. (it worked) But for me, it was an attack on the integrity, goodness, and even holiness of the body. It was wretched. And that’s what I object to – intentional or flippant disregard for either what is good OR what is evil. And again, even if that’s not what MY kids would be wearing, for as long as I can, I will try to prevent them from witnessing it anywhere else. (I’m not just speaking about witnessing the SIGHT of it, but the SIGHT of it meant for entertainment or shock and awe.)
      I totally agree that I can take issues (like Halloween) too seriously sometimes  I’m always trying to determine what the right balance is for our family – the balance between “this is not for our family” and “lighten up, mom” is a tricky one for me. I’m not against costumes and treats. I love letting my kids dress up and celebrate All Saint’s Day (a perfect “solution” for our no-Halloween preference!) And I COMPLETELY agree that most families with small children do not fall into the scary-grotesque-disturbing evilness that I’m speaking about here. Most families that I know that celebrate Halloween do it in an admirable way. We’re just not among them.

      (longest comment in the history of the universe. sorry.)


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