If I were to look for them, I could find pictures of my children in Halloween costumes – I vividly remember them dressed as a pumpkin, Ash (a Pokemon© trainer), an athlete, a princess, a shark, and a birdhouse. I suppose it is good clean fun to put on a costume or a mask and walk around the neighborhood until your pillow case is full of candy. I suppose it is also good to have the neighborhood kids come to the door and declare ‘trick-or-treat’ with their hands out for a snack-sized Snickers™. Truth be told, I actually like celebrating Halloween.
Well, that actually may not be true. I do not enjoy the excessive lawn displays a few in the community have assembled: the spectacle of gravestones (I will make an exception for a cleverly worded epitaph) and half-buried bodies or the presentation of hedges draped with too many cobwebs or strings of orange pumpkin lights. I do not enjoy the barrage of Halloween merchandise peddled for the two months between ‘The Back-to-School Buys’ and ‘The Holiday Shopping Season’. I do not enjoy everything coming in some sort of pumpkin flavoring (again, I will make an exception for pies, raviolis and lattes). Maybe I don’t like celebrating Halloween.
What I do like is handing out candy. I like seeing all the costumes and all the smiling faces. I like that my neighbors will come to my door, ring my bell and receive what I have to offer. I like that the streets are filled with the happy sounds of cheerful children as they assess the stashes they already amassed. I even like the 16 year-olds with a costume consisting of face-paint that still delights in peanut M&Ms™. I like eating my kids candy after they come home, just to make sure it is alright to consume (I want to keep them safe).
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
I have no doubt that I will be showing hospitality (i.e. giving out some Laffy Taffy™) to a few strangers tonight. Some will have costumes that I won’t understand and others will be well-recognized and highly-commercialized ‘wintery’ characters. Some will come from other parts of the city and some will be neighbors I haven’t met. Some will be shy and others will be bold. And some may just be angels in disguise.
There may be some who will argue that, as a Christian, participating in Halloween is a subtle type of syncretism (a fancy term meaning “the combination of different forms of belief or practice”) and that I am compromising my faith to mingle with the dark forces in our culture. I appreciate that concern and understand their position. I simply disagree: the children that will ring my bell and enjoy my candy are not in some way celebrating evil or participating in witchcraft; they are having a bit of fun pretending to be their hero and getting enough chocolate to last a week. Maybe my offering of a candy bar will lead to a deeper conversation with a parent just in time for the next few holidays…and that would truly be a treat.