My daughter lay next to me in bed this morning and told me something a girl in her class had said to another classmate the day before. It was this: “Why are Christians so boring – Halloween is the best thing ever!” Something came to me as my daughter quoted that question, which seemed as good an answer as any. Believe me, I’ve formulated many a know-it-all answer over the years – like I’ve formed many amazing comebacks a few seconds too late. In the awkward moment when asked directly why we don’t ‘do’ Halloween, these carefully formulated responses don’t make it out of my mouth and usually, it’s because I don’t want to sound judgemental, twee or condemnatory.
But here’s what I came up with at 6.30am:
Say I support Liverpool FC and my friend invites me to a Manchester United party. I wouldn’t rush at the chance to go. They’re the rival team!
It’s not that I don’t like cake, drinks, football – well, I don’t like football in real life, but bear with me – whatever else might go on at the party. I just don’t want to celebrate Manchester United! Plus, as a true Liverpool fan, I’m absolutely sold-out about which is the real winning team.
I went through the analogy with my daughter and she seemed pretty OK about this answer. Admittedly, now that they’re getting older, my kids aren’t really bothered about putting up a fight about the whole thing. When they were younger, it was harder to explain where I stood. Having said this, my opinion about Halloween evolves every year. I’m very happy to buy Halloween-themed Haribo because the flavours are nice; I’m happy to hand out sweets and congratulate the neighbours on their realistic severed hands and gruesome masks; I can understand the excitement of dressing up and acting all gory with fake blood (isn’t that what we loved about doctors kits and Casualty when we were younger?). But looking back at my fancy dress experiences, they were always better for me when I was dressed as someone pretty wholesome. I behaved better as Olaf, Maid Marion and Queen Amidala than I did as the Ice Queen in Upper Sixth. Maybe that’s Upper Sixth for you, but maybe there’s something about dressing as a baddie that’s not a great idea. I’m not mad about the kids dressing as witches because I know one, and she’s not one of my preferred role models.
But the previous paragraph leads back to judgemental ranting. I know plenty of Christians who are fine with most of the aspects of Halloween, and that’s fine too. I just wanted to share the football analogy because it might help someone to explain their stance. Thinking it through, we’re on the side of all the saints who are meant to be celebrated on All Hallows’ Eve, it’s just that we don’t feel the need to placate them – or scare them off – with pumpkins and black magic (I don’t mean the chocolate). I’m pretty sure they’re having a less mouldy-tasting feast in heaven. I’m also pretty keen not to be associated with a festival that veered into child-sacrifice in order to ward off evil spirits, but then again, there’s a lot about our own religious history that’s worth forgetting too.
Don’t forget we Christians are pretty good at nicking pagan rituals when they suit us – I’ve not come across many saintly characters who refuse to bring a tree inside for Christmas. And we’re great at feasting during any of our festivals. I’ve certainly stocked up on treats, planned a fun alternative for 31st October and something to do other than sit sulking at home when they’re not sweating it out in nylon at the Halloween Disco. I’m trying not to be too stuck up about it because most people see the festival as a bit of fun, and I don’t want to miss out on fun – I just want to angle the lamp to stay on, in defiance of the superstition which holds some actual dark-side players captive. And I pray that they’ll find out who wins at the end, before we get to the End.