I’m a Halloween flip-flopper.

I spent my entire childhood and teenage years celebrating Halloween. Although, I grew up in an active Christian family, my parents had no qualms about letting their children dress up and trick-or-treat each year. Most of the families at my Christian school and church celebrated the holiday, too. Sometimes, we went to parties or harvest festivals at church. Some years, my dad dressed up and scared the entire neighborhood by blasting spooky sounds and smoke from the front porch. I never felt any tension on the topic, from any of the people in my life.

Somewhere in my early adult years, though, I developed convictions about Halloween. Maybe it was the girls in inappropriate costumes, or the boys’ fascination with all things dark and morbid. I heard a fascinating segment on NPR the other day, about the adult obsession with Halloween. The parties and costumes and grown-up version of the holiday has only become popular in the last fifteen years or so. Maybe that was it… my current perception of the holiday clashed with my life stage. I became a parent in the middle of my “college years,” where Halloween was the biggest holiday of the school year.

All I knew was that as a child of the light, I needed to raise my kids to flee evil and cling to good. I didn’t know how Halloween fit into that. Ames had started walking, and I still hadn’t reached a decision on what to do with him. The big boys have traditionally gone to their mom’s on Halloween, and I was grateful for that. I didn’t want to take something away from them that they enjoy doing with their mom. So I told Chris that I didn’t want to put emphasis on the holiday for the younger ones. I decided that since I didn’t really know how I felt about the whole thing, it’d be easier to let Ames run around the living room in costumes we collected from clearance racks throughout the year. We spent a few years passing out candy, eating pizza on the front porch, and turning off the lights at a decent hour. There! We’d made a little tradition, and it felt like a nice compromise.

And then last night happened. The plan was to walk down to a neighbor’s house and pass out candy with them. We decided to let Ames trick-or-treat his way down to their house, in the robot costume he’d received for his birthday last week. I picked up a pumpkin bucket from my mom’s house, so he’d have something fun in which to put his candy. When the girls awoke from their nap, I couldn’t help myself. I put them each in a costume Ames had handed down. Before I knew it, I was snapping photos and teaching Ames to say “trick or treat!”

We trick-or-treated down one street, played games at a neighborhood harvest festival, and finished the night with waffle bowl ice cream sundaes at our friends’ house. Isaiah Jane did not like being a monkey, but she found joy in crinkling the candy wrappers. I think she spent half the night playing with an unopened package of Smarties. Honor Rose was content to be strolled around in her lion costume, a pacifier in one hand and Trader Joes bar in the other. Ames squealed in ecstasy each time he came upon a house lit up in orange. I think he screamed the words, “Lookah dat punkin!” a million times. He tripped his way up driveways and thanked each host without our prompting. He did his robot dance for almost anyone who requested.

As I tucked him in last night, he said, “Momma, thank you for my candy. I had fun.” This morning, each baby ate a piece of candy with breakfast. When the big boys come home tonight, they’ll be able to share in the excitement of last night. And we’ve already made plans for next Halloween… we’re going to their mom’s house, to party with the whole crew. I’m already brainstorming costume ideas. I’m not very creative in that department. I need plenty of notice.

I can’t really express exactly how I feel about Halloween. But I might not ever be able to take a hard stance on that. Or politics or Harry Potter or yoga or vaccines or organic produce versus conventional. But do I really have to? I can express what it means to be a child of God, a child who learns to live out freedom through redemption. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about controversy and conflict over the last year, it’s this – it’s okay to live in tension. There’s grace in the tension. I’m right there this morning, and I’m soaking it up.

32 thoughts on “I’m a Halloween flip-flopper.”

  1. Thanks for this post, Rachael. I am so living in the tension on Halloween too. I grew up not celebrating, my husband did. We are still working through our thoughts and convictions on how we will proceed as a family. I love your honesty about being “in process.”

  2. I love this post. And, it’s true…life isn’t black and white. (it might be easier sometimes, if it were) There’s always push and pull, compromises, change of heart. That’s the beauty of life. There are no rules to how you should feel or act or believe. :)

  3. As long as you’re not worshiping the devil, I’m pretty sure Jesus will be okay with the kids having a little fun. I’ve never even considered Halloween as evil, and I’ve been a Christian and believed since I was 5 years old that Jesus is my savior. I think a family party sounds wonderful, we live too far away to do anything like that. Actually, many CHURCHES (yes Christian of MANY varieties) do ‘safe’ trick or treats in buildings or parking lots (called TRUNK or treats) in our area. Parents are thrilled that they can have a nice place to take their kids ’round and know that they are ‘safe’. Sometimes I feel like ‘extreme’ Christians are just trying to find everything that seems even remotely fun or ‘normal’ and blast it. Remember how ‘evil’ rock and roll was years ago? .. and yet there is ‘Christian rock’ today. Yes, Halloween started as a pagan festival saying the spirits are coming out.. but as Christians, what do we have to fear from spirits? Christians aligned the celebration of the Savior’s birth to line up with pagan festivals, and yet all Christians celebrate Christmas without a single thought to the fact that years ago Christians camouflaged their most important holiday within another ‘sect’s’ spiritual ‘time’.

  4. Rachael, this is so well spoken. I, too, have learned that living in the tension isn’t something to be feared. Sometimes, when we fight too hard for the clear, black-and-white answer, we end up alienating our Christian brothers and sisters as well as the lost we want to reach. When I have deep conviction based on Scripture, that’s one thing. But so often, it’s just not that clear.

    1. Preach it! Another thing I’m learning that is HARD to swallow after decades of faith… Christianity and the Church are for the outsiders just as much as insiders. I’ve gotta learn to be in and not of!

  5. Really enjoyed reading your thoughts. I’ve always felt a little tension about it. I grew up celebrating it, but we were never really crazy about celebrating it…always last minute put together costumes and a little trick-or-treating. I think we’ll probably raise our kids going to church Fall Festivals with a little bit of trick-or-treating throw in…I think the balance is key.


  6. I think you are whacking the nail right on the head with this.

    I think it’s because I never really got wrapped up in Halloween as a college student or adult that to me, it still seems like such an innocent pleasure for children. I don’t do slutty costumes or Halloween parties or haunted houses.

    Harry was SO excited about candy & I had a blast wearing a little mask & putting fake spider web on our front door. I think when Halloween is done with pure intentions, there is so much light in the holiday – about family fun, playing pretend, even grace in the treats given by strangers.

  7. I’ve never celebrated Halloween but it’s hard having to explain to the kids why because I don’t want to be the bad guy. I would never judge anyone who decides too, and thankfully my husband could care less about the holiday or I’d be a really bad guy in the home! haha. Thank goodness it’s only once a year!!

  8. I think my parents had the same issue and always insisted on staying far away from “dark costumes”. I was always something simple like a bee or a angel. I am passing that down to my daughters. I don’t think there is any harm in being joyful during Halloween as long as your costumes are something to be morally proud about.

  9. I am not a big fan of Halloween, but I’m fine with my kids celebrating. This might sound odd, but I feel pretty much the same about Halloween as I do about Christian/Catholic schools: I want my kids to learn to have, keep, and grow their faith in the whole, big world, not in a tiny, sheltered world where everybody thinks and acts the same way. Keeping the kids from Halloween is keeping them from an opportunity to learn how to keep their faith in the midst of people who look, act and believe differently. But it’s not like the kids will always be separate from those people. And it’s important to learn to live peacefully with those who are different in all ways. I know this sounds kind of extreme, but I think it’s an example of how Halloween can be a benefit in growing up.

  10. Thank you for this post – it exactly sums up everything I feel about the holiday. I was not allowed to trick or treat as a child but my mother did hand out candy and I usually helped her with it. When people hear me say that now they tell me how much of an injustice that must have been! I don’t think it was that my mother was opposed to me dressing up and getting candy (as she allowed me to participate in school parties and the like), but she hated the fact that so many people incorporate demonic/evil/pagan things into the holiday. There’s always that house with someone dressed up like a serial killer who intentionally tries to scare children. She didn’t want us to encounter that. She felt like that was bad medicine for our spirit and I totally respect her for those convictions.

    I’m allowing my son to participate in some benign festivities. I want him to treasure the experience as a family and have cute and goofy photos to look back on when he gets older. We go trick or treating and just avoid those houses with things that we oppose in our worldview. I totally agree with others who commented in that these are the times we can use to teach our children how to love and grow in their faith.

  11. “Or politics or Harry Potter or yoga or vaccines or organic produce versus conventional.”

    Yoga? How is that related to any of the above? <---honest question from a yoga-practicing non-believer, asked with only curiosity, but no judgement!

    1. I welcome the curiosity! Each pose and chant in yoga stems from another religion. Christians have begun practicing a form of “holy yoga,” where they learn verses and meditate on the Lord instead of the other parts. I’ve always felt a little off about it, quite possibly unnecessarily… although I’m interested in its health benefits for sure!

      Side note: Nish Wieseth’s latest post about the leaked Mormon temple videos? Totally added a new twist to topics like these! Go check it out.

    2. Interesting – thanks for responding! I’ve always considered yoga more cultural than religious, but I understand how others could feel differently. My teachers use the Sanskrit words, but otherwise there is no religion mentioned at all. I will be checking out that other post right now. Religion fascinates me.

      PS – the twerps looked adorable in their costumes!!

    3. just to interject for a moment – Rachael, i too feel sort of funny about the “holy yoga.” my dad owns a Pilates studio, and from what it seems – many of the same stretches and workouts are used, just minus the whole meditation & religious aspect. Great convo Miss Rachel :)

    4. Thanks! This is so interesting to me, and I’ve learned SO MUCH about different types of Christianity and how people practice it, from Rachael.
      I should also note that we don’t chant or even meditate in my yoga classes. We close our eyes and breathe for a few minutes at the beginning and the end of class, but that’s it. No “OMs” or anything. Yoga is the absolute best thing I’ve ever done for my overall health. :)

  12. I’m uncertain about a lot of things; what to think about Halloween certainly being one of them. I know my kids love dressing up, seeing the neighbors in all their different costumes, looking at the carved pumpkins. And I know I was bitter because I just wanted to be silly and have fun with my friends and my parents were certain it was “Satan’s holiday”.

    A part of me understands that and can see what my parents were thinking, but a part of me also thinks that we should just relax a little bit an HAVE FUN. That you are RIGHT when you say that pure intentions make a difference.

  13. living in South Africa we don’t celebrate Halloween. although the past 5 years shops sell all the stuff and kids might dress up. but no trick or treating. we once had kids come to our house. only once in the 37 years my parents have lived here. my mom just said sorry this isn’t America we don’t celebrate. shame poor kids i do not think they got anything. night clubs have Halloween parties and I went to one once as a super hero. it is crazy how commercial and more American South Africa is becoming. you can get almost all American candy here now, the one thing i do miss though and always drinks lots of when i travel to America is Fresca.

  14. this is so great rachael! it’s such an interesting balance – trying to raise our children to be light in the darkness, but also not sheltering them from the world, and not wanting to come across as snobby. i tried teaching my kids to say “Happy Reformation Day!”…but apparently it’s just not as cool to say ;) my kids love the dressing up so much, and it certainly is a way for us to get to know our neighbors (whom we normally just don’t go knocking on their door to say hello), so i believe that the Lord can use this in us to creatively show His Love. so fun seeing you real quick at the fall fest!

  15. I completely relate to this one..and the yoga mention too. As a kid, I grew up in a Christian family & trick-or-treated yearly. Now, with a one year old and different perspective on it, I’m torn. I don’t want to celebrate Halloween, but I don’t want my little girl to miss out on the fun of costume parties and the like. Husband offered a decent suggestion to me the other day, that perhaps we could have costume parties for her birthday sometimes. Seemed reasonable to me. Thanks for sharing your heart, Rachael!

  16. I agree with everything you said here–I have some similar sentiments about Christmas and Santa and commercialism. I keep trying to work through how I should handle it all as a Christian mom, but maybe I will continue thinking and be okay with living in the tension. Thanks for such a thoughtful post!

  17. Great post, Rachel! I have felt like this since I had Jacob, but figured it was just a goody goody Annie thing. :)
    On our way home from trick or treating with Jacob last night, Josh and I were wondering if we should tell our moms we went :) We both grew up going to Harvest Festivals (which is basically the same thing, right? You dress in costumes, you get candy in a bucket.) and not trick or treating. We figure we’ll get our own groove down as the years go by, eat lots of candy, and have fun in costumes, all the while teaching Jacob to worship God.

  18. I love Halloween and look forward to handing out candy every year. For me, it’s a cool holiday because it’s one that every kid from every demographic can participate in equally. I love how it shows how much we, as a society, cherish our littlest citizens. I don’t care for the new “Halloween For Adults” phenomenon, though. I like it to be a happy, sillyl holiday where adults bend over backwards to make kids feel special for a day!

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