Last Sunday, I went up to "Constance", a little seven year old girl in our church who is simply adorable and is everyone's favorite. She was playing around on the piano between services, and when she stopped and turned around, I said "Constance, are you excited that Halloween is almost here? What are you going to be for Halloween?"
"I'm not going to be anything for Halloween," Constance said solemnly. "The Bible tells us not to part...part...participate in things of eeeeevil."
"Er, uh, yeah," I said, thinking quickly.
You see, many Christians are divided on this subject. I've always felt it was fine for my kid to trick-or-treat, and I even encouraged it. But there is no doubt that over the last 35 years or so, Halloween has become a much darker holiday than the Halloween of our childhood (or our parents' childhoods).
Because so many people now associate Halloween with violence and evil, many Christian parents are discouraging or outright banning their kids from what was once merely a way to dress up for a night and get free candy.
"Why would you ask me something like that?" asked Constance, curiously. It was a pretty reasonable question, really. From her point of view, I was asking if she was going to be truly naughty, and I sounded as if I was encouraging that.
"Well," I answered, "Some people think it's OK to trick-or-treat and some don't. In our family, we never minded it, but we've always understood why other people don't want to."
"Did you ever trick-or-treat?" she asked, watching me closely.
"Yeah, all the time," I admitted. Her eyes widened as if I'd just confessed to killing babies and drinking their blood. "BUT," I added quickly, "it was different in my time."
"How?" she asked, genuinely wondering. "Didn't you have skeletons and monsters then?"
"Yeah, we did," I admitted, "But it wasn't as real as it is now. It's gotten really gross since we were little. When we were kids it was more like... like cartoons! We never saw anything really scary or nasty back then." (I didn't tell her about the Jimmy Carter costume that I once saw, which was both).
My kid finally stopped trick-or-treating this year, but it's only because he's over 6 feet tall and people frown on adult-sized trick-or-treaters. He didn't really mourn the loss, as he's also grown to dislike the holiday and feels it's become way too sadistic.
We went to the Bush Gardens Howl-O-Scream last year, but we both grew quickly disenchanted with such joyous celebrations of violence and cruelty. At that point, we decided we were done with the holiday, although we still give out candy and snacks for now.
And, like many other people, we have yet to decide how much of this we want to continue to sanction. And, if we continue to participate, are we (as little Constance fears) participating in things of eeeeevil?