Monday, October 12, 2009

On Halloween

I did not touch this topic last year, as it is such a controversial subject among believers. There are those who feel strongly both ways. I would ask that whatever your opinion, you at least take the time to consider the following. How do we make the decision to participate or to not participate? The same way we make all decisions as Orthodox Christians, by looking at what the Bible, the Church Fathers and the Canons say.

"...Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Phillipians 4:8

So, if that is what we are to hold up and think about, the lovely, the gracious, the worthy of praise, how does Halloween measure up? There is nothing lovely about glorifying death. In fact, that is the exact opposite of what the Church is about. We celebrate life. We are weeks from entering into a time of honoring the incarnation of our Savior. We should be turning our hearts and minds to the fact that God humbled himself by becoming fully man in order to destroy death. Think about that just a minute. The One True God, all powerful, all knowing, all honorable. Put on flesh. Lived on this earth. Suffered temptation from Satan. Endured mockery, pain, death. Entered Hell. CRUSHED DEATH. FOR US. Why would we want to celebrate that which he endured so much to destroy?

So, no, it is not just all in good fun. It is not just a harmless night for our children to dress up and get free candy. IT IS A NIGHT THAT HOLDS UP ALL WE REJECT. IT IS A NIGHT FOR SATAN. So, my question is "why?" Why would we WANT to participate? Because it is fun? Because it is uncomfortable to keep our kids home from school that day? Because someone might make fun of us or our children? Because we don't want our kids to "miss out"?

Each morning as we read the lives of men and women who gave their lives rather than eat food sacrificed to idols, children who died rather than bow to anyone other than God, how can we ask those questions? I think of the mothers who encouraged their children to martyrdom, they weren't worried their kids would be made fun of - they were worried their children might not attain eternal communion with God. They didn't try to protect their children from embarrassment, they exhorted them to stand strong against the world, a world that hated them and their God. This world still hates us, and it hates our God. So, give your children the strength to stand against evil, teach them to be martyrs!

“Abstain from all appearance of evil” 1 Thessalonians 5:22

If you are interested in reading what others have to say on this topic - here is a selection of links to articles that say far better than I what our duty is as Orthodox Christians in this world. If you have never given this issue thought, or if you are unsure about what is right, I challenge you to take the time to read at least one of these articles.

Finally, on the practicality of the issue. I really do encourage you to keep your kids out of school on Friday when all of the parties will be happening. Avoid too much shopping with your children over the next few weeks. I try to limit the places we go during this time, since even a trip to the local drugstore is full of nightmarish images that can affect a young one in ways we often don't realize until much later. My daughter had years of nightmares from a grocery trip to Sam's where she turned a corner to be faced with a life-sized plastic witch. The night of October 31 has always been stressful for me, with young kids how do you avoid it? Our former parish used to have an Akathist to the patron saint of our church. What better place to be on this night, than in church, praying for the world. If your parish does not offer a service that evening, gather with a few friends (preferably in a home that is not in a suburban neighborhood if possible :) and say the prayers yourself.

12 comments:

mary@evlogia said...

I was at Super Target last week and walked by the Halloween display. Next to the plastic tombstones they had faux stone Celtic crosses. They were beautiful until you noticed a skull and cross bones in the center. I couldn't believe it. I had the same thought you shared in this post. Christ defeated death. The blasphemous symbol at Target expressed quite the opposite. So sad.

Lindsay said...

It's really, really hard for kids to understand why they don't get to participate, but I stick to my guns, and this year, finally, I think my 6 y/o understands so well. It's also nice to see more and more people choosing to abstain from this "holiday" and that makes it easier. My spiritual father wrote one of the articles you linked to, and it's always nice to re-read it as a great reminder. Thanks for addressing this!

Pres. Kathy said...

I think if we teach our children from young that we don't celebrate Halloween, then they won't even think twice about it as they get older. The monasery by our house in Wisconsin has what they call a Halloween alternative. It is very successful and the kids really enjoy it.

DebD said...

As my children have gotten older it actually has become harder. They want to be with their friends. Thank goodness for Harvest Parties, which have saved us in the past. This year will be a new adventure. My older teens will be at church for a "lock-in" youth thing, my 13 yr old wants to spend time with a friend. That leaves us our 8 yr old. We've always had family movie night, with a big bag of candy, on Halloween. I don't know what we'll do - but I fear he will be bored.

I rarely shop so being in stores doesn't usually present a problem.

she who must be obeyed said...

I agree Deb - I am finding it harder as mine get older. My younger ones don't care, but my 10 year old this year for the first time had a lot of questions about not trick or treating. We had a long talk about it and I explained in more detail than I have in the past, and he understands, but still there is that pull of friends, and the fact that it is around you everywhere you go. And I want to know how you manage to not shop much :) I feel like I spend more time in Target and Hobby Lobby than home sometimes :)

Christine said...

I am so thankful for this post..and for the links to the articles as well. My oldest is only 3, but I still struggle with how to handle the whole thing. She has older cousins and knows other kids who undoubtedly will go Trick or Treating. As I am watching how quickly she develops and learns, I am finding out how important it is to instill in her the difference between right and wrong. I do believe that if we don't give them a strong foundation on these things at this tender young age, it is going to be SO much harder later on in their childhood. Who am I kidding? As previous posts have said, it's going to get harder as they get older. Lord have mercy on us!

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Rachael said...

Thank you. I know how I feel, but I cannot explain eloquently. I will say this, whenever I am out shopping with my child at this time of year, she is very concerned about the Halloween decorations. They are so easy to impress, I have never understood wanting to fascinate them with death. And yeah, I know you can do just the "fun" part of Halloween, but I find that to be such a concession. Again, thank you for saying it so clearly, and with humility.

Erin said...

I agree pretty much with everything you've said, and yet, this issue is much more complicated than it appears on the surface. I continue to struggle with how to avoid this whole season (which my kids thankfully don't like anyway) while also teaching them to not be judgmental of others or to have any notion of moral superiority. That balancing act is really tricky and one which is especially important for homeschooling families to tackle, I think. But I haven't come up with the perfect solution. I have lots of thoughts from my own life struggles and experiences, but no clear answer. I guess humility and encouraging an active confessional life in kids is probably the key.

she who must be obeyed said...

Erin - you are so right. It is very hard to teach our kids that something is wrong, yet teach them to have the grace to not hurt others. I ran into this just this week. We had talked about halloween in relation to one of the saints we were reading about, and then later that day when another little girl asked the Queen what she was going to be for Halloween her response was "we don't celebrate Halloween, it's evil!" So, we had to have a little talk again. Today when she was asked the same question, she managed to look at me, then just respond with, "we don't celebrate halloween." So yes, it is always a balancing act (isn't everything:) of doing what we believe is right while not judging others.

suzie said...

Love this post!

GymMom said...

Thanks for the links. I haven't celebrated Halloween for 10 years, but I definitely benefited from reading the history and symbolism again.