How I talk to my kids about Halloween
My parents strictly prohibited my siblings and I from celebrating Halloween based on their understanding of the Bible and the pagan roots of Halloween. While my parents’ position was largely due to scriptural factors, it was also part cultural — as first generation immigrants from Taiwan, they could scarcely understand the American fascination with this “holiday”. Thus, understandably, they were dismissive of our naive interest in Halloween and their new homeland’s cultural devotion to it. Eventually we learned more about Halloween’s origins and fully endorsed our parents’ position. Today there are plenty of Christian teachers and apologists who can speak persuasively on this subject, like this guy on YouTube.
But it remains a challenge knowing how to communicate this to young children who do not yet have the firm conviction of faith, the reasoning of conscience, or the courage to be different. Each year the cultural obsession with Halloween seems greater than the year before, and our kids are bombarded with Halloween imagery from every direction the moment September ends.
I still remember going to school on Halloween when I was a kindergartner. This was my first confrontation with Halloween in a public school so I didn’t know what to expect. As my mom and I slowly walked toward the classroom that autumn morning, a classmate of mine came flying past us running at top speed in a full Superman costume with a red cape fluttering behind him. As I watched that cape fluttering (almost like he was flying!), and my dear mom saw my wistful gaze, compassion likely stirred within her as she realized I was walking into a classroom full of Superman’s, Batman’s, Hans Solo’s, and Luke Skywalker’s. While it wasn’t a huge deal to me, it was slightly awkward being the only kindergartner marching in the Halloween parade wearing my normal duds. When my fellow classmates asked why I didn’t dress up, I didn’t really know what to say.
So fast forward a few decades later. Here I am, with my own third-grader and first-grader. And Halloween’s cultural prominence keeps enlarging year after year.
But I feel ready. In a sense, I have been waiting my whole life to have these conversations with my children.
Now when I speak with them, I am able to look into their innocent eyes and tell them that I really understand how they feel. And I trust that means something to them. Part of the reason the Lord can shepherd us as a great and merciful High Priest is because He is able to be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15).
Each year the talks evolve and vary based on the kids’ growth, but the goal and gist of the message is the same. The goal is to impart something healthy and affirming into them about God, as opposed to something simply negative about Halloween or those innocents who would celebrate it. The gist of the message is basically the following 4 points:
1) Our family honors God above all else.
2) Our family knows that God is not happy with Halloween, so we have to honor His feeling.
3) Other families who believe in God and still celebrate Halloween do so because they don’t know God’s feeling.
4) God cares for us and provides ways for our family to be very happy without the need for Halloween.
The message is simple. It’s intended to save the kids from any resentment toward God or the church for this restriction, and to save them from being judgmental or condemning toward classmates or others who celebrate Halloween.
Above all, it’s a reminder for the kids, and for my wife and I, to learn to enjoy God and what He has given us — that is, our family, among many other blessings — as our chief pleasure and enjoyment in this life.
Like all parents, we are novice learners on the job so I gladly invite feedback from readers who have lessons or insight to share on this topic.