To trick or to treat?

October is just around the corner…..and with that comes halloween.

This is our second halloween here in America, and if I were to single out the biggest cultural difference between here and where we came from, without a doubt it would be halloween.

Last year our eyes kinda glazed over with all the decorations, the school festivities, the way our friends celebrated it and the pounds and pounds of candy.  We didn’t know how to treat the holiday – we didn’t how or what our response should be……the way it is celebrated goes completely against what we’ve known and been taught in the Christian church.  But that was before we lived here.  So, this year I’ve been thinking ahead…what should our response be?

So.  This post is to help me process my thoughts.  Not criticisms of you and how you may choose to celebrate – but some observations….and a desire to think about a biblical response.  Now I am the first to admit that I am not theologian.  I get lost in a lot of Christian debates – and there are many halloween issues that have been debated on for years I know.  But my husband and I are the spiritual gatekeepers of our home.  We are responsible for the spiritual atmosphere.  The buck stops with us, in regard to our three little boys.

OK.  So.  Halloween was and still is a big cultural shock for us.  From where we come from hardly anyone goes trick or treating…although it is becoming more popular.  There is no candy corn or corn candy or whatever it is called.  No decorative pumpkins or ghosts.  Just a few dress ups sold in the shops and some churches host events called ‘Light Parties’ and use these as an outreach to their communities.  Being born and raised in the mission field and church – I was always taught that halloween is evil and nasty and to stay away….

So what is a girl to do when she finds herself thrust into the land of the free and the home of the brave….that happens to be the home of the trick or treating…

There is so much out there in cyberspace about halloween I’m not going to repeat it or point you in the right direction for research – you have the power of google at your fingertips.  Let’s lay out some facts though –

Fact – The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer sacrifices to gods in Druidic tradition. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks.

Opinion – I’m told by my American friends that halloween is just a fun time to dress up and eat candy and for silly decorations. That may be how your family treats it too….but you can’t get away from the fact that these traditions aren’t exactly steeped in sunshine and joy.

Opinion – Just a dress up huh?  Well yep I agree that a ladybudy costume is pretty harmless and no-one’s gonna get freaked out or offended by a ladybug.  But where do you draw the line with costumes?  My son’s school has a costume parade and one of the girls in his class last year dressed up as a witch.  A kid from a Christian family.  Now at that I draw the line.  Why would you want your child to impersonate someone who relishes in this festival?  It is my opinion that witches are not just storybook characters, they are real and living and dabble in witchcraft and halloween for them is their ultimate holiday. Halloween is a real, sacred day for those who follow Wicca. In fact, it is one of two high and holy days for them. The Celtic belief of spirits being released is current, along with the worship of Samhain (the lord of death) – both are promoted as something to embrace on that day.  There is so much that goes on in the supernatural that we are unaware of – and while I know that my God is bigger and my God is stronger….old hairy legs is out there, there is no denying that.  There are lots of ghosts and ghoul type costumes out there too.  Yuck yuck yuck.  Does nothing to edify anyone’s soul.  I would even go so far as to say that if you’re dressing up as something that is spiritually ‘yukky’ you’re giving them the glory.  While I’m not a devil hiding behind every bush kinda gal – I am also aware that we are in a spiritual battle, and I want to be on the right side my friends.  I also believe that there is power in symbols.  Why would I want icky ghosts adorning my home when I want the Holy Spirit to be dwelling here too.

So what will I do this year with my son and his school parade?  Last year I kept him home for the day for two reasons – one – he is a sensitive chap and  – two – there were no school rules on what was ok and wasn’t ok for costumes…….I’m waiting for a school newsletter to tell me of the ‘rules’ for this year, and have to consider the fact that he is a whole year older now.  Hmmmm.

So what about trick or treating?  Last year we were happy that no-one came to our door.  Happy because we had no treats to give.  Happy because we didn’t have to be the meanies that turned people away empty handed.  This year I’ve changed my mind about that.  I don’t want to be the snobby Christians on the corner who turn kids away.  That ain’t being salt and light.  I don’t want to be high and mighty with my morals and ‘we don’t believes’.  That ain’t gonna bring people to Jesus.  I also don’t think much of the pounds and pounds of candy that kids get at this time of year so I’m gonna make and ice some cookies or cake pops…and hand them out with some tracts..some cool ones if I can get my hands on some…..and hopefully we will have kids come knocking at our door this year.  I now realize that halloween is the perfect opportunity to show Christian love and hospitality. Jesus fed the stomachs of the people as well as their souls.  I want my halloween treats to be the best on the block – people remember good food. How often do you actually get neighbors knocking on your door?  This is an opportunity for my family to be real givers.

We won’t take our kids  door to door ourselves this year – I want to be home to open our door to others.  And we won’t be decorating our house or ourselves…..but this year we won’t be shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world.  I know some of you readers out there love this season and love getting into halloween.  This isn’t to condemn or criticize you – but I do have a request for you dear readers……just because you’ve done the whole halloween thing for years and years…..doesn’t mean you always have to do it the same every year…..just because you see it as a bit of fun….could you take a moment to think about the icky side of things.  The evil side of things.  It is not just a bit of dress ups.

Can we use halloween as a chance to provide a teachable moment for our kids?  To talk about its origins and to celebrate God’s provision and protection.  To not just embrace the ghosts and ghouls and laugh them off as mere decorations.

Here’s my Asher now, aged 11 weeks for this photo.  Chunky huh?

We are marked

Out of all the household jobs I do, I like ironing the least.  Ironing is evil.  I don’t mind cleaning the bathroom, doing dishes, dusting or even cleaning the little boys’ room (the toilet!).  I would even go as far to say I love washing the clothes – and hanging them out to dry, folding them and putting them away.  The Spunky Hunk is not allowed to do that job.  Maybe I’m just plain weird – but I get a sense of achievement with taking some dirty clothes and making them clean and presentable.  But ironing.  Nah. That’s evil.

So on Friday I actually spent time in the morning ironing a dress that I wanted to wear.  Big task for me you now understand.  When I went to put my dress on, I accidentally got deodorant marks on it.  White marks on a brown dress.  Not good, not good.  Trouble was I was pushed for time and didn’t want to change, so I tried to wash the marks off – never works – and kept my long hair down trying to cover up the marks.  All day long I was aware of the marks….where I went in my day…I was a marked woman.  That’s what ironing will do for you.

I don’t know how noticeable it was to other people – but I was aware of it.  A little embarrassed – but not overly concerned about it, not enough to get changed anyway, when I had time later on in the day.

Now I’ve been thinking about how can I as a Christian be ‘Jesus with skin on’? How can I spend my days, doing normal Mummy things, and actually appear to be different to the people around me?  But not freak them out with weirdness. Because you know what – I am different.  I am ‘marked’ by the touch of Christ.  I am ‘marked’ by the Holy Spirit who dwells in me.  As my dress was marked the other day, and I was visible to everyone as the woman who was too pushed for time and too lazy to wear anything other than the marked dress, so I am marked.  But how would you know this?

To give a simple, practical example – How can I be Christlike to the other parents around me at my son’s school?

I would hope that I speak to my family nicely – peppering my words with kindness and love.  Now I’m the first to admit that this doesn’t always happen – but I am working on it.

I try to take an interest in others – to initiate conversation with others and be more interested in what they have to say, than what I have to say.

I stay away from gossip.

I honour and value my husband – and will not criticize him, and not engage in idle chatter that brings him down.

These are just a few of the ways that I can show I am marked by the One who gives me hope.  The one who asks us to be in this world but not of it.  I am not perfect – I miss opportunities to share God’s love all the time, but these are a few of the initiatives I am aware of trying to do on a regular basis, to share my marks.

And as for the marked dress – it has been washed and is in the ironing pile……waiting…….