There are a few times every year that I’m reminded I don’t live in America anymore. Halloween is one of those times.
My facebook wall this morning was plastered with photos of my American friends and their kids decked out in their Halloween costumes, plastic pumpkins full to the brim with fun-size Snickers bars (I’m not sure what’s fun about a chocolate bar the size of my pinky toe, but that’s for another day). On my Christian English friends’ facebook walls? Statuses about how much they hate Halloween. About sitting in the dark with their curtains closed so they wouldn’t get any trick-or-treaters.
Growing up in a Christian family, we weren’t huge Halloweeners. We normally carved a jack-o-lantern (not too scary), were allowed to dress up (as princesses and pumpkins and hobos – never as devils or skeletons or vampires), and would occasionally go trick-or-treating at a few select houses in our neighborhood.
We never watched scary movies or went to haunted houses. For me, it was a little bit about my homemade princess outfit and mostly about the candy.
I had a few friends growing up who didn’t celebrate Halloween, but not many. There were churches, too, who threw alternative “harvest festivals”, and one in my hometown who held a – I cringe to type it – “Hallelujah-een” party. They were pretty much the same things we did at home anyway – fancy dress, chocolate, bobbing for apples – and none of the scary stuff.
So that’s the Halloween I grew up with. And that’s probably why, when I first came to England in 2003 and someone asked me why I celebrated Halloween, I was a little bit tongue-tied.
Yesterday, I briefly considered dressing Adlai up and taking him to a couple of friends’ houses to trick-or-treat. And, to be honest, I would’ve done it if it wasn’t raining and I didn’t have a chest infection. Instead, we drove to the pharmacy when Simon got home from work to pick up antibiotics. But while driving around, I caught a glimpse of between 20-30 trick-or-treaters, and out of those, I saw one – a princess – who wasn’t dressed up as a devil or a grim reaper or a werewolf or a vampire. And while there are kids who dress up as those things in America, I feel like there are more who are superheroes and Pocahontases and cowboys and dinosaurs.
I understand that the roots of Halloween are in darker things, and I’m sure it’s in large part because of the culture I grew up in that I’ve been able to separate that out from my Halloween experience for most of my life.
One of my English friends asked me yesterday why American Christians think it’s okay to celebrate Halloween, and I think that’s my best answer – that the Halloween I knew growing up, the one fashioned for me by my parents and my community wasn’t dark or grim or scary.
I’m interested to hear what you think, whether you’re British or American (or something else), a Christian or not.
Do you celebrate Halloween? Why or why not?
*For a little something extra to think about, read Rachael’s thoughts here.Also read this, by my friend Amaris, about her “Halloweeniversary.”