Once a year I feel compelled to mention this topic, though 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? I would suggest 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."
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 mere weeks from entering into a time of honoring the incarnation of our Savior. We begin turning our hearts and minds to the fact that God humbled himself by becoming fully man 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, for me, no, it is not just all in good fun. It is not just a harmless night for 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 Halloween parties? Because someone might make fun of us or our children? Because we don't want our kids to "miss out", or we don't want to miss out on those cute photos of our little one in costume?
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 consider keeping your kids out of school Halloween celebrations if your school participates in such events. Avoid too much shopping with your children over this time. 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 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 the ringing doorbell? 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? A sister parish has a prayer service followed by a meal and skits on the lives of saints performed by the children. If your parish does not offer a service that evening, gather with a few friends and say the prayers yourself.
"Behold, the Lord will pass by, and before the Lord, a great and powerful wind will be rending the mountains and shattering the rocks; but the Lord will not be in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord will not be in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there will be a fire, but the Lord will not be in the fire. After the fire, there will be a sound of a gentle breeze, and the Lord will be there."
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she may help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:40-42