This Little Light of Mine

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As another Halloween was drawing to a close, I sat alone on our front porch with a depleted bowl of candy, waiting for any remaining neighborhood children to come by. It was quiet, almost too quiet. I counted seven consecutive houses on our street that were completely dark. No porch lights, no light spilling out from the front windows.

The Neighborhood
With no street lights in our neighborhood, that kind of darkness is noticeable. We rely on the lights of each home to keep the neighborhood lit. Any other night of the year, these families, at home or away, do their part to illuminate the neighborhood. So why not on Halloween, the night when everyone knows there will be families with children out and about after dark?

Some of these families don’t “do” Halloween. They go away for the evening to avoid the trick-or-treaters. Maybe they don’t want their kids to have all that candy. Or maybe after being gone all day and commuting for a few hours, they’re just not in the mood to spend an evening dealing with other people’s rude and ungrateful children. I get it; I do. But I suspect there are deeper reasons for their absence on this evening.

Of the families on our street who chose to keep their homes dark, I know the majority are Christians.

To one degree or another, these families are intentional about sharing their faith through their words and actions. On every other day of the year, the outward expression of their faith is a stark contrast from their absence and the darkness on this night. Why the retreat on this one day?

The Holiday
It’s true that Halloween, with its ghosts, goblins, and candy, is a secular holiday. But there is no corresponding boycott of Valentine’s Day or of the nonreligious aspects of holidays such as Christmas. And how do we reconcile a spiritual justification for skipping Halloween when it’s countered with a celebration at church earlier in the week where kids don costumes, play games, and receive candy and prizes? I don’t have a problem with churches using the holiday as an opportunity to engage the community, but it seems to me we should make the same effort in our neighborhoods on the night when people are willing to knock on our door.

We spend the other 364 days a year relying on God’s grace, looking for opportunities to share our faith. I can’t help but wonder what message neighbors pick up as they walk by these darkened homes. Do they—especially those who don’t share our faith—understand the spiritual stand being taken? Is there a chance the avoidance of the neighborhood on this one night of the year is feeding some stereotypes about Christians?

The Witness
People I love and respect have made the decision to avoid the festivities of Halloween. I share these questions not out of judgment, but simply because I know I’m making some assumptions and I’d like to understand. My own life is full of inconsistencies. You won’t have to look hard to find frequent failures in loving my neighbor, likely on each and every day of the year. Is Halloween a modern-day example of Romans 14—the weak and the strong—regardless of which viewpoint is exhibiting the stronger faith?

I enjoy an evening at home alone with my family as much as anyone. But in a neighborhood where many homes have two working parents making long commutes, rarely is there a time when folks make a point of being outside together.

For me, Halloween seems like a fabulous opportunity to get to know my neighbors and their children better, to build community. At the very least, to keep the light on for them.

Your neighbors are out looking for you. Be engaged. Redeem the night. Let your light shine. Don’t hide it under a bushel—no! Let your light shine.

About the Author

Brian Pikkaart is a senior network architect with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

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Comments

Brian, it would be rude of me to suggest that you are missing some of the distinctions between things in your article. For example, the issue is not that Halloween is a secular holiday.  July 4 or July 1 is also a secular holiday, and that is not the issue.  The issue rather is what is being taught or celebrated. 

Nothing wrong with handing out candy on any day of the week, but that is also not the issue for those who choose not to celebrate halloween.  Being drawn into the carnival atmosphere of watching children dressed as demons and witches and continuing the age old pagan celebration of dark spirits, and a anti-christian superstitious attitude towards these demons, is the issue. 

Sharing God's grace yes.  But how are you doing that by merely sharing candies and indulging what is going on, and what is either consciously or unintentionally being promoted and taught?  It would be hard to say that you are letting your light shine under those conditions.  So yes, redeem the night.  Don't walk in the same darkness.  Set up an alternative event.  A neighborhood treasure hunt;  a costume code;  ice cream and cookies;   an explanation of the reformation;  sharing the good news of Christ;  a swimming party;  games for kids;  combination of the above.   Just doing whatever everyone else is doing is letting their light shine, not your light. 

I too have  thought a lot about this, but in the end, when our children were younger, we explained to them as was age appropriate, what we would and would not do on Halloween in terms of costume types and decor, etc. .  We then proceeded to participate.  It opened up discussions with our children and indeed, gave us another means to connect with neighbors.  Even though our children are grown, we still participate handing out candy.  We know so many of our neighbors, that we can be very "personal" as we interact with their children.  The parents feel "safe" knowing where the candy is coming from, as this is just one of numerous things we do together as a community.  We have found, that most people, Christian or not, are not celebrating anything occult, but just having fun dressing up and collecting candy.  Most actually don't want anything too scarey for their little ones and we've had great conversations and shared ideas around how to have a fun time on Halloween, including appropriate costumes and yard decor!

An interesting blog by a woman who was previously in the occult, a psychic, who be came a christian and now finds celebration of halloween abhorent and contrary to christian living.   "An open halloween letter from an ex-pagan" is the name of this excellent story of her conversion.   pennierenewed.blogspot.ca

We have struggled every year with how to respond as a Christian to Halloween -a "holiday" so steeped in evil that it celebrates the very things we should detest. We have tried every hat - avoiding the creepy houses, only allowing our kids to have cute costumes, focusing on the good of neighborliness and candy; going out for dinner and a movie to avoid the whole thing...this year we decided that as Christians we should be following what Jesus would do and where He would go. He demonstrated over and over that we should be present in the darkness, and that we should not use religious practices to avoid showing love to our neighbours. However, we are also instructed to "flee from evil" and to only focus on what is right and good. So, as a family, we set up a coffee and hot chocolate and candy station on our front yard, with a firepit, and chairs, and juice boxes for the kids. Our kids didn't dress up and go trick-or-treating, but they joined us in being a warm and welcoming presence in our community on the one night of the year when the whole community is out and about. It was wonderful!! We didn't join them in celebrating what we still feel is a holiday that does not glorify God, but we didn't judge them. We just came alongside them and tried to bless them. And the response was overwhelming. A new tradition has been born in our family! I don't say this to brag, but rather to share what we felt was a wonderful solution to our struggles with the "Halloween dilemma". Happy Reformation Day, may we never stop re-forming ourselves, our community, and our relationship to God and others.

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