Every year I think on this, and I'm always curious to hear others' thoughts on "the Halloween thing." I hope you all will share a little with me in the form of a comment, about how you see this holiday.
So here's my Halloween history: Growing up, I loved Halloween. I plastered our house windows and doors with cardboard cut-outs of pumpkins, ghosts, goblins, and the like. I'm amazed my dear parents put up with it; it was seriously tacky around there from October 1 to November 1. One year I even fashioned a ghost out of a sheet and hung it in a Pine tree. I loved the spooky music sung in music class, and the homemade haunted houses put up in the local communities. I loved perusing the Halloween aisle at the local dime store (that's what we called it--the "dime store"--ha!)
I loved dressing up and trick-or-treating. We lived outside of town, and so when I was little, Mom would drive my brother and I around the countryside to friends' and relatives' homes to trick-or-treat. We would stay and visit a few minutes with each (or sometimes much longer than a few minutes...or so it felt to an anxious little trick-or-treater!) Every year, I looked forward to our friend Charlotte's homemade popcorn balls, and my Aunt Verlie's big bag of candy (which out of many, many bags of candy, was labeled with my own name.)
When I got a little older, I would stay overnight at a friend's house in town. We could do the traditional, walk-down-the-sidewalk-and-go-door-to-door trick-or-treating....and so the progression of this holiday began... As my classmates and I got older, Halloween evolved into overnights with a gory movie. I positively shudder to think of the things I put into my mind. I certainly would not view these types of movies now, and CERTAINLY would not allow my kids to watch them. During these high school years, other classmates preferred it to be a mischief-making event...and later into an excuse to party (not in a good way.) Kudos to my mom and dad...they kept a pretty good eye on me and I really didn't participate in the Halloween mischief. I would have if I'd had the chance, though, and I remember many who did. They got into all sorts of trouble (if they were the lucky ones who got caught...aka the ones who had people who cared enough about them to catch them.)
During college, for students on-campus, Halloween was all about the dressing up and drinking...house parties and bars. Unhealthy. Scuzzy. Skanky. Not a good thing to be a part of...and as I grew in maturity and became a Christian and grew in my Christian walk, I realized that.
As a young-married, I loved decorating at Halloween time, but stuck to the cute pumpkins and little black kitties. We moved to Alaska, and the decorating charm wore off as my cute little trinkets froze in the ground or whatever. Let's face it--pumpkins and snow just don't really go all that well together.
We had our first baby...and to have my own little dolly to dress up however I wanted was SUCH fun. At 3 months old, Little Wise Bobcat was my own little red chili pepper and he was ADORABLE. We drove him up to visit the grandparents at their cabin. (The year before he was born, I dressed up our dog--yes, our DOG, as a princess and we drove up to their cabin to "trick-or-treat"!) We visited and ate candy. What's not to like about that?!
Baby #2 came along and of course I had to dress up my newest dolly. He was an adorable baby lion and the big bro was a fireman. Adorable. We were invited to a harvest festival at a local church, which had a little hot dog supper and games/prizes for small children. Lots of fun and we did that for the next few years. The only exception was the year we tried a larger festival at the fairgrounds. YUCK. We spent 1/2 the night in notoriously long lines, about 1/4 the night trying to distract our babies from seeing some horrendously gory costumes, and the other 1/4 the night playing games. I was becoming very disenchanted, as I thought about the years to come. Is this something we really wanted to put time and energy into?
Through these years, I have noticed something else. An upping of the ante, you might say. Gone, for the most part, are the "cute" Halloween decorations I used to see around and about. Marketed and displayed in their place, is a whole host of really, really disgusting decor. You know what I'm talking about. Things designed to strike shock and fear in a person. It used to be fun to check out the seasonal aisle. Now I find myself avoiding that area of stores entirely, particularly if I have the children with me, even needing to avoid certain stores for the entire month of October, in some cases.
Jessica, you're going a little overboard here!!!! Maybe I am. But...am I? It is my job to instill and encourage goodness in my children. Do these other things really have any place here if that is my goal? As children of The King, we ought to be encouraging faith in our children--not fear. The roots of Halloween are pagan...and dark. Honestly, and unfortunately, those things were a draw to me as a kid; it was harmless fun, right? I was fascinated by the spooky music, the witches and ghosts, and scary stuff. I know we could ignore those aspects (and we do) and make a big deal out of the dressing up in a good way and the candy and things. However, then we'd be setting the stage for the kids to always expect something to go on during Halloween. We'd be ever-so-subtly instilling in them that celebrating darkness is cute. There's a progression to it all. Feel good/eat candy/dress up now....but one day they'll be with their fellow teenage friends and having to make a decision on a movie...or they'll be on a college campus and deciding what to do. In other words, Mommy won't be there to watch their every move. If Halloween was always a big deal, will they still be expecting it to deliver a thrill? I'm picturing the partying and carousing and wearing of skanky outfits that goes on, all in the name of "good fun." Yuck. We need to do all that we can now...to help and equip our guys to choose goodness in the future.
I know that despite Halloween's history, many families do try and participate in the innocent aspects of it--like the dressing up/pretending/eating candy aspects. I'm not diggin' at ya if you do. :) We tried for a few years to wade through it and take the good out of it, leaving the bad. We just found that it took too darn much energy--energy that is precious and in short supply during this season of life. At some point it became apparent that we'd rather put that energy toward other means. There are so many GOOD things to encourage our boys to do!
We've spent a few years trying to think of the perfect solution. I admit that some years I sort of lament of how fun it would be to dress my little cuties up and take them trick-or-treating. But, here's the reality: Put energy into costumes...probably money too, but definitely energy. Cover up the costumes with a huge winter coat. Brave the wind and cold and yet more WIND to go--somewhere--where we may or may not see things we'd rather not. Definitely we'd be instilling in them that it's all cute fun. Hmmm...no thanks.
We ditched the festivals several years ago. One year we went swimming. That was a fun alternative. We have some fun neighbors who have a hayride every year...and we look forward to that as our big harvest event in lieu of Halloween. Still there's a bit of "what should we do" as we reach the end of the month and the hoopla rises. There are good things to take part in. Do we want to? The answer, for us, has been "no".
So, for the last couple years, this is what October 31 looked like for us. A bowl of candy sat in the kitchen. We never have trick-or-treaters...but you never know...and besides, we like to eat all the left-overs (which usually consist of the entire bowl.) We got all sticky and gooey carving a big pumpkin, roasted and ate yummy pumpkin seeds, and set the pumpkin out on the front porch. We watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown over a bowl of popcorn. Before bed, we ran outside in the dark and cold in our jammies to see how pretty our pumpkin looked from the road. How boring! Except it really wasn't. It was a warm, fun evening in together...and we enjoyed it very much!
I wrote the majority of this post LAST YEAR! Here I am on October 31 once again, and here is what our night looked like. We cozily ate our family supper of homemade baked beans and potato soup. Boys cleaned up their toys and put on their jams, and returned to the kitchen table for root beer and the caramel corn and pumpkin bars we made earlier in the day. Our happy pumpkin, which we carved a couple nights ago, glowed warmly. The front porch light was on, just in case, as we laughed through the classic Great Pumpkin. A pleasant family evening, which they will hopefully remember, but without all the pomp and spook-umstance.