Is it a trick or is it a treat? Rachel Pearce explores whether the opportunities Halloween presents outweigh the fears many Christians have about celebrating this contentious festival
Growing up, Halloween was almost as taboo for my family as talking about poo over dinner when our church leaders were over. We either sat in the dark on 31 October so the trick or treaters would think we were out, or my mum would get her evangelistic (not at all witchy) hat on and hand out ‘Jesus loves you’ stickers to callers – many of whom were my schoolfriends – refusing even to sweeten the deal with delicious treats. Of the two options, I vastly preferred sitting in the dark.
Let’s try to remain relevant
As an adult, I have often bemoaned the overegged affair Halloween has become. The wildly inappropriate and often sexualised children’s costumes. The commercialisation that has elevated it almost to Christmas status. The fascination with bats and spiders and blood, none of which have ever floated my boat. The idea of children knocking on strangers’ doors to ask for sweets – which we would never let them do at any other time of year – and threatening to do something nasty to poor Malcolm and Aggy at number 17 if they refuse. No thanks!
Having said that, my approach to Halloween has changed over the years. While at one time I would have firmly shut the door on all things macabre, I am beginning to see the opportunities this contentious festival presents. After all, aren’t Christians frequently bemoaning the way our viewpoints are never taken into consideration; the fact that we are often seen as dull and fanatical…or worse still, completely irrelevant?
Let’s start conversations
Halloween presents the perfect opportunity for us to engage with those around us in a meaningful way. No, I’m not suggesting that we start worshipping Satan, reintroducing cauldrons or teaching our children that darkness is the new light. But we can talk about the origins of Halloween as a celebration of life after death. We can have a pumpkin carve-off without our consciences taking a terrifying turn.
We can dialogue with supermarkets about the way they approach Halloween, and offer suggestions of what we feel would be more fun and appropriate. We could even go trick or treating and give the people whose doors we knock on a treat rather than asking for one, inviting them to church or just engaging them as friends and equals as we hand over home-baked skeleton cookies or pumpkin pie.
Let’s embrace the opportunities
I love the way my local church uses Halloween as an opportunity to collect donations for food banks. Our town has totally got on board with this, and it has been an amazing conversation-starter. Other churches host apologetics sessions where Christians and non-Christians can gather to discuss otherworldly things like ghosts, death and Satan while sipping pumpkin spice lattes.
Preschool teacher and mum of two Shaneen Darroux-Beaupierre sees Halloween as a “doorway into darkness”, but her church has opted to host a viable alternative. “Through the years we have celebrated by having light parties, where we provide a safe place for children to do the opposite of a lot of Halloween traditions,” she explains. “We dress up as brightly as possible, play fun games, celebrate the hope of heaven we have through Jesus, and of course eat lots of sweets.”
There are plenty of opportunities if we’re willing to look for them. So let’s not sit in the dark this Halloween. Let’s get out there and be the light in the darkness.