Saturday, October 13, 2012

Halloween! To celebrate or not?

The weather is getting cooler.  The leaves are changing color and falling to the ground.  This is my most favorite time of year.  I even chose October for my wedding month because this time of year just makes me happy.  For me it marks the beginning of the holiday season.  My mind starts to shift and I begin planning for all kinds of family fun and memories.

The first holiday up is Halloween!  Halloween sometimes sparks a dilemma in the church.  To celebrate or not?!?!  Some feel that it is the devil's holiday and centers around evil.  Some feel that it is just good hearted fun for the kids.  They get to dress up and gather candy from neighbors and friends.

It's important to look at the history and origins of Halloween.  The source of all of my historical information here is from Wikipedia. Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of it's original title "All Hallow's Evening"), is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31.  Halloween is commonly thought to have pagan roots.  All Hallow's Eve or Halloween initially incorporated traditions from pagan harvest festivals and festivals honoring the dead.

Halloween is also thought to have been heavily influenced by the Christian holy days of All Saints Day (also known as Hallowmans, All Hallows, and Hallowtide) and All Soul's Day.  They were a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed who had yet to reach Heaven.  It was believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until "All Saint's Day, and All Hallows Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving into the next world.  To avoid being recognized by a soul, Christians would wear masks and costumes to disguise themselves.  The Vatican has now strongly condemned these traditions as being "pagan" and "anti-Christian."

Thoughts on Halloween throughout today's Christian community are diverse.  In the Anglican Church, some have chosen to emphasize the Christian traditions associated with All Hallow's Eve.  Some of these practices include praying, fasting, and attending worship services.  Other protestant Christians celebrate the holiday as Reformation Day, a way of celebrating the Protestant Reformation.  Harvest festivals are held and children dress up as Bible characters or Reformers.

Some Christians reject the holiday because they feel that it celebrates paganism, the occult, or other practices that are incompatible with their beliefs.  Many fundamentalists or conservative evangelicals use "Judgement Houses" and other Christian literature such as "tracts" to take advantage of Halloween's popularity as an opportunity to evangelize.  Some considered Halloween to be completely incompatible with  Christian faith and believing that it originated as a pagan "Festival of the Dead."

Okay, so how does our family handle Halloween?  As a result of our position as Christian leaders, people often look to us for understanding of how they should handle certain issues in life.  This makes me anxious most of the time because I simply do not feel qualified.  However, it is part of the job, so I try to do the best I can and follow how the Lord convicts me on issues.  That in no way means I expect people to share my thoughts and beliefs on all matters.   People are convicted on many different levels.  You have to deal with the Lord in your own time on your own level!  It's not one size fits all.

 First I will say that I know there are many, some even within our own church that would disagree with me, but the Hamby's do participate in Halloween activities.  Usually in the middle of September my kids are begging me to bring out the Fall/Halloween decorations.  It marks the beginning of a time in our home when our surroundings are not the norm.  I put away all of my treasured Willow Tree figures, pack up some of my pictures and other everyday decor and things look quite festive until the New Year.

 I use a combination of Autumn and Halloween decor.  Much of it was passed down to me from my mom and are items from my childhood.  Some were even made by my grandparents, so they carry lots of memories.  Yes, some are jack-o-lanterns and ghosts.  For us it is not about celebrating jack-o-lanterns and ghosts, but simply setting a mood, making memories, and warming up our home.  The joy on my middle child's (Aiden) face when those bins come out of the basement is priceless.  By the way, he gets this excited about the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations too.  I have wonderful Halloween memories from my childhood.  Like the book Five Little Jack -O- Lanterns my mom used to read to my brother and I that I now read to my children.  Growing up, our yard was the best decorated yard in the neighborhood.   Our house was at the top of a steep hill, so my dad built a coffin and tombstones with all the neighbors last names on them and placed them at the bottom of the hill.   All the new neighbors that moved in heard about it and made sure that my dad made a tombstone for their family.  One year we even had a haunted house with dry ice for fog,  peeled grapes, and cold spaghetti to stick our hands in while blind folded.  It was all in good fun and fellowship for the neighborhood.  Let me be very clear, jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, costumes and Trick or Treating simply mean childish fun for our kids.  That is all.  They have no meaning and hold no religious importance in our home.  We celebrate and worship Christ alone in this home.

In the years since we have had children old enough to Trick or Treat, we have participated in that as well.  The past several years we have hosted our friends and their families in our home for chili and treats after Trick or Treating.  This year will be different since we no longer live in a neighborhood and our location is not well suited for Trick or Treating.  We are excited that our church has decided to hold a Trunk or Treat event.  This is when people park their themed, decorated cars in the church parking lot and pass out candy, church information, and share the Gospel with the children and families in the community.

Halloween 2010 (Community Helpers and Lady Bugs)

Halloween 2011 (Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad)

Now, I guess we could take the stand that Halloween is incompatible with the Christian faith.  The truth is, it's roots most certainly are.  I am not denying that.  We do not condone any of the historical pagan traditions and do not celebrate Halloween in that way.  But, how would turning out our lights and locking our doors or condemning the children and families who are participating do anything to reach people for Jesus.   People are GOING to head out with their candy bags on October 31st. Why not seize the opportunity to tell them about how much God loves them and about the sacrifice He made on their behalf.   I don't really support the "Judgement House" type events.  I feel like people have to be brought to the Lord through brokenness and love, not fear.  The Church must be relevant in  today's society in order to reach people!  We must meet people where they are!  We must reach into their lives!  And we MUST MUST MUST reach the children!  A local church that fails to reach the people and the children, faces a certain death.  Isn't this what Christ did?

When I think about those people that turn off their porch lights and condemn Halloween and those who participate in it, a chorus in the Casting Crowns song Jesus Friend of Sinners comes to mind.  It goes, "Nobody knows what we're for, only what we're against when we judge the wounded."  Don't you want people to know WHO you are for?  Isn't that more important than what you are against?  I respect your right to have that opinion, but I challenge you to search yourself and ask "what  AM I doing to reach the children and families in my community.  What is my church doing?"  If not in this way, then how?  There are many ways to do that.  Be a voice in your church for the children and the lost!  God will honor that!

I encourage you to find a church that is hosting a trunk or treat or fall festival event.  They are a safe place to let your kids have fun, collect Halloween candy, and learn about the Lord at the same time.  This year our family will have 4 pirates and a baby sea turtle.  Our van will be the ship and our slogan will be "Jesus is our buried and risen treasure."  Trunk or Treat is right up my alley because I LOVE to theme my kid's Halloween costumes.

Have fun, be safe. and don't forget to brush your teeth!   Happy Halloween!

This is the closest to the original rhyme from when I was little that I could find!  Enjoy!

Five Little Jack-O-Lanterns
Five little jack-o-lanterns sitting on a gate. 
The 1st one said, "It's getting late."
The 2nd one said, "I hear a noise."
The 3rd one said, "It's only some boys."
The 4th one said, "Let's run, let's run."
The 5th one said, "It's Halloween fun."
Then oooooooo went the wind, and out went the light.
And away ran the jack-o-lanterns on Halloween night. 

                                                 Our 2013 Halloween Announcement

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