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.