Growing up in the 1980s, we didn’t really ‘do’ Halloween. My parents would have discouraged it anyway, but we didn’t have trick or treaters round, we didn’t carve pumpkins and we certainly wouldn’t have dressed up as witches, ghosts or vampires. We didn’t go to any Halloween parties, and it wasn’t celebrated at school. It was, it seemed, just the Americans who had Halloween.
Now, it’s a very different story. Halloween costumes are available in the shops from early September. We’re encouraged to carve pumpkins, decorate our houses in shades of orange, green and purple, and children do Halloween crafts most of October. British culture – and certainly British supermarkets – has embraced Halloween with gusto.
But should we be concerned about Halloween?
This year, I’ve noticed something that’s a bit more concerning. It was on my Facebook feed at first, but I’ve since noticed the trend in shops as well. The costumes are gorier. Not friendly, funny witches or comedy vampires, but scarily realistic injuries and wounds. Costumes dripping with blood. Face painting which appears to unzip the skin.
Halloween, which is marketed towards children, is becoming frighteningly adult.
Here’s the thing. As a Christian parent, I worry about the effect of exposing our children to evil. I don’t want to celebrate death and evil at any time of the year. I know that God is bigger than the devil, but I don’t want to give the devil any ground in my home. I don’t want my children to be thinking about evil things.
The Bible certainly tells us that the evil things exist, and it’s not all make-believe. The Bible mentions witches, zombies and demons. Yes, the Bible is clear that God is stronger than all of these things, but they are still there.
I also actively avoid things that might frighten my children. Not because I’m over-protective, but because they are children. Small, seemingly inconsequential things give them nightmares, so I don’t want to encourage that. Rather, I want to shield them from it.
But then, I see that it is an opportunity to have some fun in our community. We get to knock on people’s doors that we might only have said hello to before, if that. We live in a very safe neighbourhood, and I’m happy for Ben to dress up in fancy dress and visit some of our neighbours. Where’s the harm in that?
In many ways, it also provides opportunities for us to talk with friends about what we do believe. This year, lots of Christians will carve hearts into their pumpkins to show that they don’t celebrate Halloween but they still are open to trick or treating.
This year, much more so than last year, Ben is aware of Halloween. His friends have been talking about it at school. We went pumpkin picking, and he’s looking forward to carving a face in his pumpkin. He wants to dress up. He wants to go trick or treating.
What should we approve?
But where do we draw the line? How do we sit our children down and say, ‘Actually, you can’t do the fun thing that you want to do because we believe in God?’ How do we stop the ‘dressing up as a cute ghost’ becoming ‘celebrating violence and destruction?’ How can we say that a, b and c are of but x, y and z are not, when they are all part of Halloween?
Last year, we carved a pumpkin. It was a cute owl pumpkin, and Ben really enjoyed that. I like it too, as it wasn’t a scary face. I’d like to do something similar, and I like the idea of carving hearts as well.
We’ll have some treats in, and of course, we’ll give out treats to trick or treaters.
We’ll go to our church’s light party, which is a great alternative to Halloween. At our church, the children are encouraged to dress up, but not in Halloween costumes. So Ben can be a superhero and run around to his heart’s content.
But that’s it. We’ll not be decorating our house. We won’t be dressing up as extras from a horror film. We’ll be trying to remember that we are in the world, not of the world. For me, the devil is real, and Halloween gives prominence to the things that are of the devil. I don’t want a part of that, not for me, and not for my children.
I’m sure it will get harder. I’m sure there will be Halloween party invitations that we’ll feel we should turn down. The light party at church will only be open to them for so many years. There will be a point where we have to get our children to make their own minds up about what they do at Halloween. But until then, it’s our responsibility to protect them and to educate them as best as we see fit.