I have never before had so many posts in my Facebook news feed from Christian friends who don’t celebrate Halloween. Many of them are making statements about how this is right for their family, but going on to argue that all Christians should be finding Biblical Evidence to support boycotting Halloween. Other Christians are arguing that if you want to be hardcore about it, you should ditch your Pagan-originating Christmas tree, too.
The following stories are not unrelated, but sound like it.
When I was a freshman in college, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. Like a little lost sheep, I figured anywhere was better than nowhere, and declared early for Anthropology. I liked my first year seminar advisor, and she even got me signed on to help TA the second semester of the Intro to Anthropology class I had breezed through. (Note to former Jaime: that’s because it was easy.)
The second year of college, there was trouble in paradise, as I realized my exciting advisor was telling the same stories off the same mimeographed notes she had done when she got her PhD. She was teaching the most exciting class offered on campus that Fall: Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion. It just sounds scandalous, doesn’t it? I had a bad registration number, but my advisor saved a sticker for my card.
I went in to the class as a believer in Christ, and knew that there would be some rough patches, as there inevitably were when she insisted on calling Catholicism “polytheistic” for asking recognized Saints to pray with you to God. That was a fun day. My friends in the Christian Fellowship prayed specifically against the influence of the course on those who were taking it, and I kind of smiled and thought “You guys have far too much respect for this teacher’s power.” (Can I say purple print mimeographed notes again? In the year 2000.)
But Halloween? Now that was a trip. The assignment for the day (counted towards class credit) was to come dressed in our Halloween costumes. There was every variation of axe murderers, “cereal” killers, kittens, sexy everything, and a fallen angel. This story would be awesome if I could remember what I went as, but I don’t. So, let’s just pretend I went as a crazy cat lady, with a hundred beanie baby kittens coming out of every pocket, or something. Looking around that lecture hall, I just saw a bunch of kids who knew one thing. We were all in this class to coast. The lecture for the day was to list each costume into a few categories: funny, morbid, sexual, sweet, etc.
And the lesson for the day was that Halloween’s ultimate goal was to allow us to break society’s constraints on appropriate dress codes and behaviors so we could go about our regular business for the rest of the year, conquering our fear of that persona inside of us, or making fun or a persona around us.
Seen in that light alone, I think the Christians who are feeling convicted to bypass Halloween entirely are completely justified, and should do just that. Also, I came to the conclusion that if you need to unleash your bloody, dripping faced homicidal maniac or tawdry sexy nurse one day of the year to survive, you are in a bad way.
On a completely related note, I officially switched my major to Chemistry that Halloween, because, well…it was hard. And if the underwhelming Anthro courses were any indication (or should I say the now irritated advisor?), a good major should be hard. Right? And you can’t get much harder than Chemistry. College was clearly wasted on my 19 year-old self at this point.
Roll ahead another year, and I was a junior who was doing great in my Analytical Chemistry class. I loved this class, guys. The professor was engaging, and explained things in the exact way my brain learned. I was finally in my niche. As I rolled out of bed roughly 15 minutes before class on Halloween, I was so excited. We were a small liberal arts school, and I had seen people in the cafeteria dressed up to go to class for the two previous years. I couldn’t wait to see what clever things my fellow scientists in training would come up with–cerebral and clever, I was sure: the Bohr Atom, Mr. Wizard, maybe the Solar system. I slipped into my knee socks, donned my polyester minidress bought at Goodwill just for this costume, a truly hideous knit shawl, parted my hair straight down the middle, and buckled my Mary Janes.
I looked in the mirror and there she was: Jan Brady.
I even walked like her to class. I was so Method. (Did I mention that I had a theatre scholarship?…truly, a lost academic soul here, folks.) Maybe I put a little too much swing in it as I galumped through the crunch of autumn leaves, because, as the bell rang, I had my hand on the 12 foot, solid oak door’s iron handle…and the dread crept into my whole body. It was 10 short steps to the class, and even before I opened the door, I knew. Class had started right on time, and I may as well have been standing there naked. No one was wearing a costume. Not one. It was a long walk with no eye contact to my goody-two-shoes seat in the second row (eye contact level with the prof).
I non-challantly slunk out of my knitted cape poncho, and quickly realized polyester does not hide sweat well–anywhere. It was too late to put the poncho back on. Maybe my polyester sheath dress would just look hipster. Except my fashion sense was still clinging tight to solid colored t-shirts, cardigans, and jeans. I blush- a lot, folks -and I am blushing right now thinking about it. As soon as class was over, I went straight home and changed.
And I tell you that story to tell you this: Halloween only has the meaning you assign to it. If you choose to honor death, scariness, and gore on Halloween, then I would say boycotting Halloween may very well help you walk more closely with God. If they dress up and you don’t, though, it’s gonna get real weird, real quick.
But, if Halloween is a time to look your neighbors in the eye, give candy gifts to children, put on goofy clothes, and value one part of our American heritage that still brings us together in a world of electronic contact…well, I say it would be sinful to avoid it. You don’t have to give out tracts about salvation with your candy to spread God’s love (though the one on Dungeons and Dragons is a classic). Adorn your home with non-scary decorations, hand out pencils if you prefer, and put on your (non-sexy, please) cat ears. Then hand out your treats with a smile. Learn some names. Ask if they live in the neighborhood. Ask them to look for an invitation in December to go caroling.
If God is calling your family to ignore Halloween, then please do so. Know that I support you, and love your heart, and see that this is one way God calls some Christians to draw close to Him. But, for those of us who do celebrate, a little extra care to be sensitive of how our decorations and costumes come across to other people is a good idea. Murder and chainsaw depictions in your front yard are on a little shaky ground theologically. As are some churches’ “Judgement houses,” depicting abortions, rape, and drug usage and bringing a little slice of hell to earth. But, if you have a chance to show your neighbors, or even the kids who got dropped off in the “good candy” neighborhood, just a little love, well, you should do it up big.
When the answers aren’t clear for everyone, you need to figure out what God is asking of you.
But mostly, don’t show up in character when you’re running late. It may haunt your dreams for years to come.
PS: This post would be great with a picture of me as The New Jan Brady, but there was no time to snap a photo through my shame.