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.
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?
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?
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.