It is amazing how your attitude towards things changes over time. Before kids I was so anti-Halloween, I believed it was an American Pagan tradition, that Australia and Christians should have no part in! It was just a cheap tacky way for companies to make money. Add to that the whole for the rest of the year we tell children not to talk to strangers and definitely not to take lollies from them!
So I hear you saying what changed? When my first born was 5 we moved to a new area on the Northern beaches of Sydney, I was the Minister at a little local community church and he had just started school there. For weeks beforehand every day he would come home from school begging to come trick or treating. I doing my “good Christian” mum thing would loudly proclaim no and explain to him the why I was so adamant of it.
So then the 31st of October creeped around. We lived in a quiet street in a small isolated section of the community you know 1 way in and 1 way out. At this point we had not met any of the neighbours despite having lived there for 10 months. 6 pm hits and the streets are full of families walking around together, it didn’t matter their culture or religious background everyone was out laughing and having fun, talking to each other. People had gone to crazy effort to decorate food and their houses, people greeted the door in costumes, there was a community system in place to know who was being part of it and who wasn’t.
This was the first time I met my neighbours and my neighbours kids, in 10 months.
Jesus calls us to love our neighbour, it is the greatest commandment. I think we often try and justify it in a western world it is only the people we know -we need to love, but I do think that Jesus was talking about our literal neighbour as well. If I don’t know my neighbour then how can I love my neighbour? Here was the only vessel I had seen in nearly a year of engaging the community that broke us out of the private busy world, where we drive into our garages and have our worlds contained by buildings. Community happened.
This one day had ended the drought of anonymity, as a secular festival, it took away the challenge to my Buddhist and Muslim neighbours, that Christmas and Easter brought.
So now I was stuck, how do I respond as a Christian going forward? How could I love my neighbour? One I took a deep breathe and engaged with my community as I found it. God opened the door so I ran straight in!
The first time I set up my own pranks for the kids. I turned mandarins into Jack-o- lanterns with a sharpy and asked the kids if they wanted a trick or treat. If they chose trick I gave them a mandarin. The parents loved it!!
There are so many great ideas of alternatives to just lollies that you can offer. You can find them on the Pulse Pinterest page under biblical gifts or get creative!
There are some great articles that might get you thinking about your situation and some of the history of Halloween. What I love about these articles is the respect they have for people regardless of the decision they make as Christians, so I would like to do likewise. This is my story and why I came to the decisions we did as a family. You might come to a different place, that is ok, I respect that. As long as you have talked about it together, pay attention to your community and pray about it.
For me the most important thing is how can we get to know our neighbours so that we are able to love them?
Karen Mitchell-Lambert is ordained in the ministry of Deacon and is the team leader of PULSE.