As a kid, I never celebrated a single Harvest Festival, but I do remember the excitement and anticipation around Halloween. During this one day, people everywhere were buying candy just so they could give it to me. I could dress up as anything I wanted. I could scare people. I could decorate our house with creepy things and laugh about it. It never seemed like a big deal that some Christians were opposed to trick-or-treating. Maybe I was sheltered from the debate.
But, when I grew up and had a daughter of my own, I found myself in a strange predicament. I was now responsible for the spiritual leadership of my family. I heard people talk about how celebrating Halloween could be thought of as celebrating Satan’s holiday, and it started to weigh on me. Whether I chose to celebrate the holiday or not, I would feel guilty. If we celebrated, I’d feel guilty for opening up my daughter to Satan’s influence. If I didn’t celebrate, I would feel guilty for not allowing my daughter to have fun with her friends, eat candy, and dress up. Either way, my choice could impact her for the rest of her life. And, no matter what I decided, there would be plenty of people around to make sure I felt guilty about it. Parenting is full of making difficult decisions where you feel like no matter which choice you make, you’ll offend someone—isn’t it?
Well, we ended up choosing a celebratory alternative. We celebrated Hallelujah Night—you might have heard it called a Harvest Festival—at the church we were attending at the time, instead of Halloween. There was plenty of candy. There were costumes, but nothing scary or demonic. There were games and friends. It just felt right. We could have the best of both worlds.
This arrangement worked for 12 years and three daughters. Then something unexpected happened. Somehow, in 2012, we ended up at home on October 31st. We had just come home from Hallelujah Night. It was late enough that most trick-or-treaters had gone home for the evening. Our porch light was off — the universal indicator that we’re not giving out candy, right?
Ding-dong. The doorbell rang and my heart jumped into my throat.
It was trick-or-treaters at the door. I opened my front door with sweaty palms. I hadn’t participated in this ritual as an adult, ever. The protocol was unfamiliar. I didn’t want to be rude. It seemed to me that explaining to an innocent kid, “We don’t celebrate your satanic holiday!” would be rude and probably not get him interested in visiting our church.
I can’t remember who made the first move, but I saw my three daughters behind me scrambling to take some of their own candy and create a pile of trick-or-treat candy for our unexpected visitors. They were sacrificing their own candy to make these kids at our door feel welcome.
Epiphanies are weird. That one moment transformed my perspective on the Halloween holiday. Here we were in the midst of the darkest night of the year, and my daughters were demonstrating love, hospitality, and generosity to neighborhood kids knocking on our door. I was a proud dad that night. We didn’t have many kids stop by the rest of the evening. My kids didn’t have to give up too much candy, but a spark had been ignited.
Fast forward to October 2013, and we were busy decorating paper bags in advance of Halloween. The whole family joined in. We wrote things like, “Zombies want your brain, but Jesus wants your heart!” (I know—I’ve got dad jokes.) Then, we filled each bag with candy. When the evening was upon us, I rolled our barbecue grill to the front yard and lit some coals. I stoked our firepit with wood, set up a tent and some lawn chairs. We put out a table with dozens of the candy-filled bags. I wanted it to be obvious to everyone that we were absolutely participating in Halloween this year. I wanted our house to be an oasis of love and generosity. We grilled hot dogs and gave them away. We had some sodas in a cooler that were free too. We invited friends over and just hung out for a few hours. Every kid who came got a bag decorated with Scripture and, of course, full of candy.
There are a lot of passages in the Bible I could use to explain why I now choose to celebrate Halloween instead of some alternative Harvest Festival, but I won’t share them all here. Mostly, I think about how Jesus ate dinner with Pharisees, dishonest tax collectors, and let all kinds of sinners hang around Him. He said it was the sick who need a doctor. He also pointed out that we are the light of the world and that we shouldn’t hide our light, but let it shine to be seen by others. When I used to double-check my porch light to make sure the front yard was as dark as possible and then turn off all the lights in the house so no one would accidentally think we’re at home, I was hiding my light. I don’t want to hide any more.
As for me, I’m not going to celebrate the darkness of Halloween, but I am going to celebrate the life I have in Jesus. And, I am going to share that life with others. On no other day of the year do I have families lining up at my door asking me to hand them candy. I’m reminded of the beggar at the gates of the temple begging for gold in the book of Acts. Peter didn’t have gold, but since his hand was out he gave the beggar a new life instead. This year, when people come to your door with their hands out asking for a treat, don’t squander the opportunity to share the Gospel in some way.
What’s the bottom line? Am I telling you that if you don’t give out candy on Halloween that you’re sinning? Or, am I saying if you do—or if you let your kids trick-or-treat—that you’re sinning? No to both of those. I think it’s possible to hand out or ask your neighbors for treats without glorifying our enemy. I’m also certainly not advocating for you to join in Halloween in some way if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. That would be sin for you for sure.
I am saying, I believe it’s not only permissible, but also wise to hijack something that might have been meant for evil and leverage it for good. God patented this move when He said that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Let’s hijack the holiday. Let’s love our neighbors. Let’s turn up the light and let it shine brighter than ever.