“So, next week is Halloween,” I said to my Bible study girls. They all nodded as I told them we wouldn’t meet so they could do whatever it is that they normally do on said day.
“Oh, we don’t celebrate Halloween,” one of the girls said. This isn’t a new response. I’ve been in the homeschooling realm for a few years and we are good friends with folks who bake Jesus a birthday cake at Christmas, throwing aside the whole Santa hoopla. I am well-versed in Resurrection Eggs and Harvest Festivals and they can produce an equal amount of smiles and fun.
But I couldn’t get that word out of my head. Does anyone really celebrate Halloween?
The day came and I hesitantly dressed my son in an orange velour onesie – thank you, Grandmother – with “Trick or Treat” stitched onto the lapel, all the while hauling around the guilt that I am not living a set apart life if I play along with this whole Halloween thing. Because I am aware of the pagan implications of this spooky tradition, but I am also aware that Protestant Christians are now in the minority and almost 20% of Americans have no religious affiliation whatsoever. In short, Americans aren’t turning to witchcraft, they are turning to themselves.
And last night I learned that Halloween isn’t about declaring devotion, nor is it about torturing someone if they don’t hand over their sugar-laden goods. We joined our neighbors and set up one big table for our whole street – a sort of one stop shop for Trick-or-Treaters. We all sat in our folding chairs and visited as a pathetic number of dressed-up kiddos filed along on a school night. And somewhere between the third Athena and a brilliantly revived Luigi costume, it hit me. Culturally, we need Halloween. Just like we need the Super Bowl and Santa and the Easter Bunny, we need several annual reasons to get excited.
Sure, Americans may have spent an alarming $2.87 billion on Halloween this year, with a frightful percentage of that on pet costumes, but I think we are mostly bored. And we look for any excuse or occasion to distract us from how bored we are. And we are bored because we are not captivated. So, in the end, it’s not about celebrating Halloween’s dark roots or putting your child in a pumpkin costume rather than a vampire one, it’s about focus and purpose. And, at the end of the day, I believe I can take my dressed up child on a free candy shopping trip through the neighborhood and still keep my eyes on Jesus.