Saturday, October 18, 2008

It’s That Time of Year Again

It is here again. The pre-Halloween time. The Halloween-bashing time.

This is when I began to be driven nuts by hearing from some Protestant Christians and some Catholics that I know about how we should not be doing the typical American secularized activities that I consider Halloween to be about. I get pressure verbally by friends, blog articles, emails, and church announcements and events that we should have some other type of party to provide fun for our children on October 31st. The purpose of having some other kind of party is NOT that there is really something else to celebrate but it is done solely in order to give the kids something fun to do and hopefully not care that they are missing out on what 99% of American children do on Halloween: dressing in a costume and knocking on neighbor’s doors to say hello and to get candy. I’m not even calling it “trick or treating” as no parent I know endorses doing a trick if the person does not give candy (if their lights are off and/or if no one is home).

The other annoying thing is that the fun ‘alternative’ party that some attend or host call it a harvest party but those celebrating the harvest 99% of the time are not farmers and a good number of them probably don’t even grow a single tomato plant or anything else they can harvest in their backyard or on a pot on their patio nor do they all support local farmers by shopping at local farmers markets. I speculate that some are so out of touch with the seasons and agriculture that they don’t even know what vegetables get harvested in the fall. This ignorance of agriculture is due to the fact that they buy the same produce year round at the grocery store and are totally unaware of what is ‘in season’ in October. A good number attending harvest parties also don’t buy organic as they feel no need to try to avoid the produce laden with chemicals (for their own health or for the Earth’s).

My opinion is if a person is going to attend or host a harvest party they should have some type of positive feeling about growing one’s own vegetables or at the very least should be supporting local farmers by buying local produce. If they can’t be bothered to buy from local farmers at a farmer’s market they could at least buy domestic produce or eat what is in season when it is in season rather than buying vegetable from all over the world that causes more problems to transport long distances. If they care about vegetables enough to have a party about harvesting them they might want to think about the impact of chemical use on the environment and on their own bodies if they choose to ingest them as well.

If one more person tells me to learn the history of Halloween and consider that in my decision making as to whether or not to allow my children to ‘do Halloween” I am going to scream. I have read and re-read the history of Halloween. Also the other day, I watched some videos produced by The History Channel on their website and they didn’t teach me anything new.

Since I am a Christian I have given this thought from a religious viewpoint. I still see no reason to not have my children dress in a costume and walk around the neighborhood at night asking neighbors for candy. I see nothing Biblically wrong with what I have just described.

Here is how our family celebrates Halloween. A bunch of neighbors who we are friendly with all get together in a group. The kids walk ahead of the parents and go knocking on our neighbor’s doors. The parents walk behind them. This all started when my oldest was three so you can understand that parental supervision is necessary. Now that my oldest is eleven I would let him go out alone except for one main problem—it is not a fear of my kids getting kidnapped but it is the real issue we have here of the streets not having street lights and the rush-hour crazy drivers driving 40 miles per hour or faster in a 25 mile per hour dark, windy side street; they give little thought to the fact that it is Halloween and don’t alter their driving patterns for this one night. We parents have watched the kids not notice when a car is coming, you see they wander into the middle of the road while walking (we have no sidewalks in this town). And do you know what? One of the kid’s favorite things of all is just being able to walk around after dark and secondly, walk around with friends talking to each other and laughing all the while. So part of the love of trick or treating is just walking outside in the dark and seeing what the world is like after dark (bats flying, unseen leaves crunching underfoot, stars sparkling and so forth).

Anyhow as we walk around and get candy from the neighbors (some of whom are our own husbands) we adults say hello to the neighbors. Sometimes this is the only time each year we see each other due the busyness of people around here. The parents enjoy each other’s company as we walk and talk.

And let’s not forget to acknowledge that the kids are happy to get candy! This is a special treat for my kids as frankly I don’t buy them candy to eat any time of the year! The only candy they get is in a birthday party goodie bag or is eaten at a friend or relative’s house. Oh, and they do eat some of the left over decorations for our homemade gingerbread house.

After the trick or treating, we go to one neighbor’s house and eat dinner. We each bring a dish that is an appetizer, salad or dessert and the host family buys pizza for everyone. The kids play with toys, games, watch a DVD movie or play video games. The kids have a blast together. The adults get to talk and catch up with each other after busy summers in which we rarely have seen each other. There is a lot of laughter. Each year when this happens I think, “What a great way to spend Halloween”.

Now if someone can tell me what the heck is wrong with what our family chooses to do or how doing what we do is somehow against Christianity, I would love to hear it.

I can also share that we do carve pumpkins, one for each kid and one for me. I don’t decorate the outside of the house other than the jack o’lantern. We don’t decorate inside either. I just feel that ‘less is more’ with regard to decorating at the holidays and also that the fun is in the doing of things not the putting on a show for others to see that is part of some holidays.

Lastly for us Halloween is not focused on the occult or on sinning acts. By that I mean, I do not dress in sexy costumes or weird women’s costumes meant to titillate (sexy nurse et cetera). We do not practice witchcraft and I don’t seek to even pretend to so there is nothing in our celebration of Halloween that shows images of witches or the occult. Yes we read Harry Potter here and other fantasy genre books with magic in them but none of that is part of Halloween. I don’t have my kids dressing up as murderers or anything like one boy I know did, when he was a zombie doctor that murders people and wore scrubs dripping in blood with a dagger knife. We do not believe in ghosts here in our family but I did allow my son to dress as a ghost last year, he looked more similar actually to the person in the famous painting “The Scream”. This year I think that son will be a ghost again with a different mask. My son dressing as a ghost does not mean we believe in ghosts as in fact no one in our family believes in them.

What gets me is the judgmental attitude of some people, some Protestants and some Catholics who look down upon or are disgusted by other families choice to continue to celebrate Halloween in the way that my parents and I did when we were young. I just read on one blog this week that a Christian mother feels that anything we do that does not “glorify God” is going against the word of God. If that person can apply trick or treating as being something that does not glorify God then what does that same mother say about celebrating a child’s birthday with a party? Is a child’s birthday party with visitors, cake, and presents something that is ‘glorifying God’?

It seems to me that celebrating Halloween by trick or treating is a purely secular thing that has been an American tradition for over 150 years, and door to door trick or treating seems to have peaked after World War II.

History is ever changing. What started off as one thing morphs into another. No matter how the holiday came to be, what it is today in America is NOT what it was when it started. It seems to me that in the last twenty years the popularity of Halloween for ADULTS has increased. A good number of single adults use the holiday as a party night, to dress up in costume and to drink excessive amounts of alcohol. The increase in the number of adult Halloween parties combined with the excess spending of Americans resulted in a lot of money being spent on the holiday, from Halloween themed serving dishes, to home decorations, to ridiculously large and expensive lawn decorations, to foods and drinks to serve at parties, to the (expensive) costumes. Part of the hype of Halloween nowadays is the marketing and advertising all around us, trying to get us to spend more and more money on Halloween themed items.

I have tolerated hearing the proselytizing of some people for too long and I think this year if someone wants to get into it with me, I’m not in the mood to sit quietly and listen, I’m going to let loose on them like they let loose on me.

Wish me luck at this week’s Community Bible Study where the lecture is going to be a promotion of alternative ways to celebrate Halloween with our children. If it is too ridiculous it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and the last nail in the coffin to seal my decision to quit the program. And if I do I will be sure to tell the leadership how I feel about that.

Update: I wrote this blog post earlier this week. I did not attend the Community Bible Study session this week partially out of the fact that I’d have to listen to a lecture about alternative ways to celebrate Halloween. I think indeed the fact that such a lecture was given did seal the deal on my decision to quit that program.

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Karen said...

As a non Christian, I can say that you have some feeling for the sorts of things I deal with year round.

It's not Christians in general that cause me problems, but there are more than a few who do this, and too often it is denied by those who cannot believe that their fellow believers would be so judgmental, condemning and downright rude.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Sigh. It's also that time of the year when I get disgusted with aspects of my religious organization, albeit for different reasons.

We do Halloween. We do not go all out on decorations. Where we live, we do not get trick-or-treaters. But we take the boys to town and let them have at it for an hour or so.

Now, we are all well aware that Halloween is NOT a Jewish Holiday. We know that Halloween was once a pagan harvest festival and cross-quarter celebration. We also know that Christianity transmuted it into All Hallows Eve, (Halloween) the eve of All Saints Day. The association with the departed comes from both streams. Further, the day after that, All Souls, is known in New Mexico as Dia de Los Muertes--the Day of the Dead.
And we know that in the United States much of the religious origins have been lost, and it has become a minor holiday for kids to get candy from neighbors who admire their costumes.

We like the impromptu fun of Halloween. We know enough about it not to take it any more seriously than that!

Of course, Judaism doesn't have a devil or demons (except in the folklore sense) so we aren't terribly worried about propitiating these non-existant creatures.

Have fun, Christine!

Jess said...

Hi Christine,
I just wanted to encourage you to stick it out. Sure, there might be things that are taught that you disagree with, but if you just leave rather than sticking around to "sharpen" the rest of the body of Christ (and BE sharpened), no one will benefit.

(Although I definitely do understand just wanting to throw your hands up when encountering things that are so frustrating and offensive to you! None of us like to be thought "evil" or "wrong" for what we're doing. I think Romans 14 is a helpful passage on things like this.) Anyway, hang in there and don't be discouraged. God's got them on a journey of learning and growing too... and shunning Halloween may be part of their journey, even if you feel the freedom from Him to enjoy it as a family.


Jonnia said...

Oh my word! I am 126% with you on every point here - even the side rant about harvest parties!!!
You go, girl!!!