1. It is fun. Candy. Decorations. Costumes. What’s not to love? Why do we search for eggs on Easter? Why do we watch fireworks on the Fourth of July? Why do we hang stockings on Christmas? It’s fun. It is a day to celebrate with friends, family, and neighbors. Kids love to play pretend. They love to dress up as superheroes, cartoon characters, magical creatures, and yes – even monsters. Today I picked up my daughter from school, and you know what I saw? Elsas. So many Elsas. And storm troopers, clowns, ninjas, jesters, Harry Potters, minecraft guys, princesses, and batmen. More than this though, I saw smiles. I saw kids running and playing and laughing. I saw Dads holding little hands, asking “did you have fun?” and an exuberant, “Yes” in response. I saw teachers giving hugs and kids sharing candy. Halloween is fun, and in a world that is full of plenty of real-life monsters, a little bit of fun is a good thing.
2. It builds community. On my block, Halloween is a great community building experience. All the families come out and enjoy the evening together. We bring food. We have bonfires. The kids play, the adults talk. We get to know each other. The neighborhood I live in now is the first place I’ve lived since where I grew up that I know the names of everyone on my block. A big reason for that is that the neighborhood embraces Halloween.
3. It is a chance to mock death and evil, not celebrate it. OK, so now I’ll get a little deeper. At every graveside service I have ever officiated, I have read these words, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting? But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I could make the argument that Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, is an important Christian holiday. It comes on the eve of winter, when death is impending. Yet it is only through this death that we have a harvest. It is “when a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Death is something that is universally feared. Halloween is a chance to look straight into that death and laugh. It is on the brink of death, just as we enter the valley, that we can stand in the assurance that we shall fear no evil.
4. Reverse Trick or Treating. In years past, we have used Halloween as a chance to raise awareness about fair trade chocolate. If you want to be upset about Halloween, then be upset about the part of it that really matters. Get upset that it is the most popular season for buying chocolate, and that most of the chocolate bought on Halloween is made by child slaves. I’ve written a lot about Fair Trade Chocolate. Every Halloween, I try to use it as a chance to teach people about the value of fair trade chocolate. We glue little chocolates from Equal Exchange to postcards explaining some bullet-points about the chocolate market, and hand them out to people as we go trick or treating. It is a small thing, but it is a way to connect a fun event to a real issue. and hopefully, some people learn something along the way.
5. Jesus said, “Lighten up.” Ok, so he might not have said that, but stay with me for a second. In the Old Testament, God and the prophets tells the people over and over again to “fear the Lord.” Most modern readers of these texts bristle at the idea of a fearful God. They, and I count myself among them, remind people that biblical fear is more about reverence. “Revere and respect the Lord,” is fine translation. Now, jump ahead to Jesus, who went around saying “fear not” or “don’t be afraid,” a lot. If we look at the OT understanding of fear as reverence, is it possible that Jesus was saying, “Be irreverent.” In other words, “lighten up,” or “have a sense of humor.” So, maybe this is a stretch. I don’t have time to do the proper word study, but I do believe that Jesus appreciated life. He wants us to have it abundantly, and sometimes that means having a great time with friends, family, and even strangers. So, Happy Halloween everybody.