I grew up as most children in America do, celebrating Halloween. My mom would spend hours getting creative and making costumes. A lot could be done with an old white sheet. Though the most popular was probably a ghost with eye holes cut out, the best one she made was a tube of toothpaste for my sister. When there wasn’t much time for creativity or money for supplies , we dressed up as circus clowns or “bums” aka homeless.
When I got married, a dear friend gave me a book by Martha Zimmerman called, Celebrating the Christian Year. It’s out of print now but I have been successful finding them on http://www.abebooks.com for under $4.00. The author moves through the calendar year talking about each holiday. She uncovers the origins and progression to how each event is celebrated in modern times. As she discussed Halloween and All Saints Day, she laid out the mixing of Christian and pagan practices through the years. In the end, she challenged us as readers to consider our own hearts and our goals in celebration. Martha gave some suggestions for alternative ways to celebrate this season and got me thinking of how we could best glorify God in our home.
Those who know me, know how downright practical I am. When our oldest was a baby and then a toddler I saw no benefit to dressing him up in a costume for Trick or Treating. He wasn’t old enough to know that it was an option or what he was missing out on. By the time this changed and he was cognizant of what Halloween was, I had 4 children under 4 years old. I was already pushed to the limit that year and I figured I could put it off a little longer. Finally, the year came when we needed to decide what we wanted to do with our family.
We did some mini interviews with our children to find out why they thought people celebrated the holiday and what made it special. We found out that for them, it was all about the candy! We had a dress up box out year round. My children went to the grocery store and played in costume regularly so making a big deal for one night wasn’t such a big deal. But they legitimately felt that they were missing out on a chance for candy.
We decided from that point on that October 31st would be “Verse Night” at our house. After dinner, our children line up to say Bible verses that they have memorized throughout the year. Either Daddy or I sit on the couch with a HUGE bag of candy. All their favorites! Each child says a verse, is rewarded with a piece of candy and then goes to the back of the line to work their way forward again. The more each has memorized, the more candy they get. The younger ones get more “helps” and are also allowed to sing hymns or choruses from church since their years of memorization are more limited.
For our family, it wouldn’t be fall if we didn’t have Verse Night! Sure, we have been invited to Reformation parties and “Trunk or Treat”. We even had an elderly neighbor come over and ask us to knock on their door later that evening to “trick or treat” because his wife was lonely and needed visitors. (we quickly hit up our costume box and marched over to spend some time with them) Without a doubt, the favorite tradition for us has been lining up, saying verses and filling each child’s little bags with candy!
Each family has been created uniquely, why would we all celebrate in the same way? I encourage you to prayerfully recognize what is the core of your traditions and decide if those are ones that you want to continue. You don’t have to do things the way they were done in your youth, the decision is yours! How can your celebrations cultivate Christian growth? How can you joyfully celebrate with your family in a way that honors your values and your goals in parenting? I don’t know what you will choose but I would love to challenge you to go deeper and then come back and tell me how you celebrate!
If you would like some tips on Scripture memory, make sure you read my post about how we have integrated memorization into our family life. You can find it here.