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My friend, Lynn Cory, author of Neighborhood Initiative and the Love of God, has this to say about Halloween:

“Halloween is the only day of the year when many of our neighbors come to our homes.  Don’t miss this great opportunity to be at home when they stop by.  Let’s be hospitable!”

Here are some of his helpful suggestions…

Prior to Halloween:

Invite neighbor kids over with their parents for a pumpkin carving night.

Before Halloween, have a make-your-own trick-or-treat bag craft time. Set up a table with plain grocery bags, markers, glue sticks, stickers, and paints.

Have a neighborhood pumpkin-picking outing event. Check the phone book for local pick-your-own pumpkin patches. Make it a neighborhood tradition!

Organize a Halloween costume parade and contest in your neighborhood. Send out flyers to all the neighbors letting them know when and where the parade will be. Have everyone gather before you all go off to trick-or-treat. Serve donuts and cider.

Halloween Evening:

Water giveaway on warm evenings.

Hot chocolate, cider, or hot coffee, giveaway on cooler evenings.

Set up an outdoor picture-taking event for kids in costumes.  (Use a digital or Polaroid camera so children have their photos right away.)

Harvest games (ex. beanbag toss in wooden jack-o’-lantern.)

Halloween Bounce House – One church rented 30 bounce houses for those in their congregation to put up in their front yards on Halloween.

Barbeque hamburgers and/or hot dogs in the front yard and include waters.

Put out chairs in the front yard, so neighbors can sit down for a while and rest and drink something.  One pastor moved his living room furniture, including lamps, out on the front lawn and made his place very inviting.

Decorate your front yard with bales of hay that kids can sit on or can be used for taking pictures.  One pastor has a “Dachshund Coral.”  He puts out bales of hay in his fenced in front yard with a couple of Dachshunds and the fun begins.  Hundreds of kids show up to have their pictures taken.

Take treats to elderly neighbors who would appreciate the attention.

Join together with other neighbors from the neighborhood for Halloween.  This allows you an evening to spend time talking with other neighbors.

Be creative, what idea do you have?

 

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(This is a blog post about Halloween I have submitted to Life Model Works website)

First, let’s get this one out of the way for parents. Parents, if you grew up in the United States and so did your parents, maybe even your grandparents, then if you celebrate Halloween as the American traditional holiday it was when you or your parents or your grandparents were kids, you’ve got it covered. You can have the traditional down-home American Halloween, even today.

Now, along with that, the focus on how everyone else chooses to celebrate Halloween is going to be whatever is the craziest, most provocative, most extreme stuff out there. What sizzles sells. This is why what the media and social media chooses to cover this Halloween season won’t be you out trick or treating with your cute little Ninja Turtle.

Second, if you are a parent who is a Christian, here is a disclaimer. I am a biblical scholar, as are my colleagues. We can make 10 cases of why Halloween is not helpful, 10 why it is not harmful, and 10 more why it is a great opportunity to spread joy and love your neighbors.

I am also a historian, as are many of my colleagues, and so we have already studied all the varied background information about the “origins” of Halloween and such. I personally don’t find origin stories all that helpful when making decisions about present reality, and I notice that when we do make origin stories a huge deal, we tend to simply grab on to the origin stories that serves our point of view. When we pastor-types hang out together, we can argue all of these points and then see who the loudest, most aggressive person is, as he or she will probably go away thinking they are the Bible Answer Guy/ Origin Historian Extraordinaire. Come to think of it, if that’s the case, then we do have a problem and will need to do some work on self-satisfaction and humility. That’s not good…

Where does that lead us?

I will give my opinion as a Christian/parent/grandparent/pastor. This is profound, so wait for it…wait for it….

Do whatever you want, with common sense. If you don’t want to do anything? Don’t.

Alright, but what is common sense?

According to the latest brain science, God designed us so that the emotional well-being of children has already been wired to a great extent by age one. Parents, whatever you decide about Halloween is not going to “scar them for life.”

Hospitality toward your neighbor is a big deal for Jesus, and an important model for your children to witness. A friend of mine said it this way:

“Halloween is the only day of the year when many of our neighbors come to our homes.  Don’t miss this great opportunity to be at home when they stop by.  Let’s be hospitable!”

I would add, hospitality toward you neighbor might include trick or treating in your own neighborhood, as there are many homes that still have a warm remembrance of the down-home Halloween of days gone by, and your kids will increase the joy level of their evening, some in a significant way.

Appropriate costumes? For your children? Not too dark; not over-sexualized.

Appropriate costumes for neighbor’s kids? That’s their business. But, what do you do if they come to your door as a gory zombie or a sexy nun?

Give them candy without an editorial.

If you are already done trick or treating with your own kid and they see the gory or over-sexualized, at the end of the night, you can have a meaningful conversation about their experiences in general and the topic of costumes might come up. Then go for it.

Personally, as a pastor of a church where we celebrate Holy Communion every Sunday,  whenever I see gory monsters, zombies, and vampires, if these same kids choose to worship with us some day and they are not familiar with Holy Communion, it will be very interesting when I start talking about eating the body of Jesus and drinking his blood…

Oh, well, Happy Halloween! Or not…