When I was five, mom dressed me in a homemade sheep costume with donkey-like pink ears and hauled me off to my first—and only—Halloween Party. I remember walking into a big red barn with hay-covered floors, and while the adults sat on hay bales playing games, I inhaled a bag of tootsie rolls and snickers bars. But most of my Halloweens were very un-party-like—at dusk we flipped the house lights off and hid in the den with a movie and popcorn. My parents told me Halloween was Satan’s day and people worshipped him by doing all sorts of evil acts. “Christians shouldn’t participate in such things,” they said. I didn’t question them—all those ghosts and ghouls scared me anyway.
After our kiddos were born, we didn’t celebrate Halloween because that’s how I grew up and my hubby didn’t care one way or the other. Then one October afternoon I hustled our three boys into the local grocery store and Darth Vader greeted us at the door with “Happy Halloween! Would you like to decorate a candy bag?” My boys giggled as they decorated paper bags with googley eyes, and ran from the bakery, to the photo lab, to the pharmacy collecting candy. As we walked out of the store, they asked: “Can we do this again next year and dress up? Can we please?!!”
So I asked my hubby: Should we ‘do’ Halloween?
We knew the debate surrounding the origin of the holiday—pagan? Christian? Both? We knew the name Halloween, which means “The Eve of all Saints Day,” honored Christian saints and martyrs. And we knew that centuries ago on Oct. 31, Martin Luther nailed up his 95 theses against a corrupt church.
We knew that ever since the Garden we humans have corrupted what God declared “very good.”
But Jesus redeems what we corrupt.
So Jon and I replaced our original question: Should we “do” Halloween? with How does Jesus redeem our Halloween?
Or—How does Jesus sanctify the heart of our Halloween?
How do we put off self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitudes? How do we put off fear? How do we put off selfish, me-centered candy hoarding? How do we put off stinginess, laziness, and hiding?
How do we put on Jesus?
How do we put on generosity, kindness, neighborly love, and boldness in the face of the darkness?
Suddenly hiding in the basement wasn’t an option anymore. We asked Jesus to help us live a redeemed Halloween. We began by letting the kids dress up in fun, non-devilish costumes and go to the nursing home or the grocery store. We bought candy and kept it on hand for the two or three trick-or-treaters that might show up at our door, and this year we’re hosting a neighborhood get-together with games, costumes, and conversation, all a means of pushing back the darkness with the light of the gospel.
And next year? Next year will look different because Jesus keeps painting the story of our days into a clearer picture of the Light pressing back the Dark.
So, how is Jesus redeeming your Halloween? I’d love to listen and learn from your redemption story!
How did you celebrate Halloween as a child? How do you celebrate it as an adult and why? How might Jesus redeem the heart of your Halloween?