As the mother of two little girls, the pressure of Halloween sometimes feels unbearable. Especially when one of them has a birthday in the half-term holidays and you live in a tourist destination and every attraction in town decides to clothe itself in ghosts, ghouls and cobwebs for her entire birthday week. Honestly, it feels like you can’t even step foot inside a supermarket or a restaurant without being confronted by Scream masks and giant Frankenstein hands.
And the pressure mounts. Friends are dressing up and going out and banging on doors and why can’t we go Mum?
It’s a divisive subject – some see it as nothing more than harmless fun, others would argue that it is much more sinister than that; the thin end of the wedge of occultism, the subsuming and normalisation of the dark arts into our everyday lives and culture. I could tell you stories of growing up in a place where witchcraft was real and more than one girl walked through the doors of our church traumatised by rituals that no young eyes should have to see.
But for now – for me – it comes down to nothing more complicated than time. I only have so many hours in the day and so many thoughts inside my head and so I want those hours and those thoughts to be spent on the good stuff. The Bible puts it like this:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phillippians 4:8)
My girls – like me – are sensitive souls. Sponges whose internal emotions are easily affected by the things they see, watch, feel, listen to in the world around them. On a purely practical level, a good night’s sleep in our house is much aided by an absence of scary TV. This isn’t rocket science, the Bible tells us that our eyes are the windows to our souls, the lamp to our bodies. We might not like to admit it, but the stuff we put in makes us who we are.
So for us – above the complicated theological arguments and shouts of bah humbug (depending on what camp you fall into) – I will tell you that Halloween simply doesn’t fit with our family culture. Dressing up and banging on doors in the dark and demanding sweets doesn’t fit with helping your neighbours, caring about the elderly, being polite, not expecting just ‘cos you’ve asked for it. At no other time would I encourage my children to go out and knock on stranger’s doors. At no other time would we as society condone something that we know often traumatises the elderly and frail within our towns and villages.
So what do you do when Halloween isn’t something your family do? When the Bible tells you to think about whatever is pure and lovely and admirable and praiseworthy and it’s hard to love Jesus Mummy when my friends want me to go trick or treating…
When every email and advert I see wishes me a ‘Happy Halloween’ and what does that mean even?
I heard some-one say once that if your children’s heart strings are being tugged by the things of this world, you need to give them a better story.
So that’s what we try and do at Halloween in our house.
The pumpkin that arrives in our veg box is carved, but with a heart and a cross in it. And the light of the world breaks in and it spreads and chases away the darkness in my soul, the darkness that threatens to consume all of us every now and again.
And friends come and pulled pork is eaten and games are played with sweets on flour mountains and doughnuts on strings. And sparklers fizz a bright path through the night sky. Because the one who first loved us loves it when we laugh and love with one another.
I’d love to hear your ideas for what you do as an alternative to Halloween. Leave your comments below….