I just don’t know what to do with Halloween.
As a kid, and a teenager, it was a fun time to dress up, visit the neighbors and take in all the candy we could eat while trick-or-treating. It was social and mostly innocent and hey, everybody did it, didn’t they?
Now I have kids. And they like to dress up. And they like chocolate and candy and doing what their friends do. And I like those things, too, for the most part.
But there’s this battle inside me. And I can’t ignore it.
Soon, I will have to choose.
My kids did not go trick-or-treating tonight. (They’re 3 1/2 and 2, so they’ll get over it.)
I have many reasons why they didn’t.
Selfish reasons, such as:
- I’m tired and still getting back in the swing of things after being away all weekend.
- There’s snow on the ground. Snow. In October.
- My husband had class that started at 6:30. Trick-or-treating started at 6. Not a fan of walking through the neighborhood after dark by myself with two little ones.
- I have enough trouble staying away from the sweets when they aren’t in the house. A bucket-load of chocolate would do in my weight-loss goals for sure.
And not so selfish ones.
Like what this writer, whom I respect and admire, experienced on Halloween one year and how she overcame it. I don’t want to live my life in fear, but I don’t want to celebrate fear or participate in it, either.
Or this bit of information about who suffers so I — and my kids — can enjoy chocolate anytime we want. Sickening. And thought-provoking. Once I know something, it’s hard to go back to the way life was before. Can I enjoy a piece of chocolate if I think about the hands that picked the beans?
Then, there’s the pressure, as a Christian, to shun Halloween because of the evil associated with it. Or the pressure to “redeem” it by giving kids positive, non-scary influences on Halloween. (Confession: I’ve handed out Bible verses with candy in previous years, mostly to justify participating in Halloween at all.)
One of my clearest memories of Halloween as a child was the time my brother, my best friend (a guy) and I went to a house with no outside lights on. I know, biggest Halloween faux pas and definitely not on any safety list for Halloween. But the people who lived there were my grandparents’ age. I’d just met them — through my grandparents, maybe — and they lived sort of in our neighborhood. It was a whim. A whim I’d later regret. But we walked up to the door, rang the bell and received a kind-but-stern lecture on not ringing people’s doorbells on Halloween if their outside light wasn’t on and oh-by-the-way we don’t celebrate Halloween. I was horrified. Probably more than I would have been if they’d come to the door wearing grim reaper costumes or monster masks.
I don’t want to be those people. I don’t want to suck the life or joy out of anything.
What I do want is to be responsible. As a parent. As a citizen. As a Christian.
My son’s high fever, and subsequent ear infection diagnosis, made the decision not to trick-or-treat, easier tonight. I was relieved, really, that I had a legitimate excuse for not taking them out. In many ways, I’m a coward. I lack conviction. I want to care so deeply and passionately about things that people, even if they don’t agree with my decisions, can understand why I make the decisions I make.
I don’t want to be seen as a taker. As in, I’m taking fun out of my kids’ lives. On short notice, I tried to make up for that by making a special dinner — pumpkin soup with shrimp — and buying candy corn and Turkey Hill ice cream, which had chocolate in it. (Am I a hypocrite or what?) We watched a couple of Halloween kids’ shows on Netflix, which only prompted my daughter to ask when trick-or-treat is.
For now, I hope, this discussion and decision-making process is over. I have a year to gather information and make decisions and try some fair trade chocolate, if I can fit it into our food budget.
There’s a part of me that wants to get this “right.” But sometimes I don’t even know what “right” is. Is it “right” to be a Republican? Or a Democrat? Is it “right” to read Harry Potter novels or the Twilight series or The Hunger Games? Is it “right” to dismiss them as trash? Those are just a few of the other issues I wrestle with that are similar to the Halloween one for me.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke 11:42)
Reading these words of Jesus makes me wonder: Can I do what’s “right” and still be doing wrong?
Maybe I’m overthinking. I’ve been known to do that before. Maybe Halloween is no big deal. I mean, after all, the chocolate companies aren’t going to miss my kids’ absence in the trick-or-treating tradition. Nor will they miss my chocolate-buying if I change my habits. And are my kids going to hate me if I tell them they need to stay home when all their friends go trick-or-treating?
Parenting is hard. Parenting with conviction is harder.
I could go on, but I feel like I’d be creating more confusion and less progress toward an answer.
What are your thoughts? On Halloween, on decision-making, on convictions, on right and wrong?
Talk to me. I’m all ears.