Dear Dr. Savant,
My husband and I have three children. Our two daughters are ages eight and ten and our little boy just turned six. Matthew, our son just came home from his first grade class and asked me if we believe in Halloween. My husband cleared his throat, but didn’t answer and I started to answer, but like my husband realized I wasn’t exactly sure what to say.
This is especially true this year since our church has decided not to hold the alternative “Harvest Party” we usually have, sponsored by the Children’s Ministry. We had already given our two daughters permission to go trick-or-treating with their friends this year, but my husband, Ron, and I had not yet decided what to do with Matthew and whether or not we would be handing out candy on our porch this year.
Luckily, it seems like Matthew’s main concern was over whether or not I would be willing to make cupcakes for his class party at the end of October. Apparently, Ms. Debbie, one of the room mothers went on some type of tirade about the evils of Halloween in front of his class when the teacher passed out a hand-out asking parents for help throwing a class party. She has even started a petition that she wants to bring up at the next PTA meeting. I have been a Christ-Follower for a long time, but to be honest I have never really had a strong feeling either way. Do you have any advice about what a person trying to be outward focused and compassionate should do or say?
With apologies to William Shakespeare, I felt the title was appropriate. It is a pun on the famous lines from his most popular play. Like Hamlet, many of us get paralyzed into inaction because we spend too much time pondering what to do next. Here at Serve! we try not deride folks for their values. We understand that not everyone has the same tolerance for the traditions people have in a diverse community. Harvest parties are wonderful bond-building events for families in a given parish or congregation, but we just don’t see them as a great vehicle for evangelism. There is nothing wrong with them, it just isn’t living in the outflow of God’s kindness to avoid our neighbors on one of the rare times they may be out and about.
Personally, I like to take advantage of that holiday and be a bit more like Jesus–go hang out with the sinners if you will. What better holiday than the one at the end of October? People tend to be festive in the fall, and frankly, when they encounter the Ms. Debbies of our churches, well it leaves a taste in their mouths that is worse than scorched popcorn balls. Melody, I would encourage you and your family to take a risk. Call it a one year experiment. Go all out and really love on your neighbors. Give out extra special treats and maybe even set out some cider or hot chocolate for the chaperones of the little kids that trick-or-treat in your neighborhood. A small gesture of kindness and a simple conversation goes a long ways these days.
Be honest with Matthew and just explain your mixed feelings about the holiday and the fact that not everyone agrees. Let him join in with you in your experiment. No matter what you decide, keep the conversation going with him and your daughters. It is good for our kids to see us work out our faith. As for the class party, I would make the best cupcakes you are capable of–and make sure you send a few to Ms. Debbie. She probably has a secret sweet tooth.