Another year of Trick-or-Treaters. Or, as I like to call them, ‘little extortionists’.
As Christians, we have three options when the doorbell chimes and a bunch of skeleton-clad individuals are standing on our doorsteps waiting to threaten us with some trickery if we don’t immediately bestow sweet goods upon them. We can Reject, Receive or Redeem.
We can reject Halloween entirely and sit their with our lights off pretending no-one is at home (we have all done this at some point, I’m sure), we can receive Halloween wholesale and join in celebrating all the things we try and protect our children from for the other 364.25 days of the year… or we can redeem the good things of Halloween (yes, there are God-given good things to enjoy, even in this weird and ironic festival) while setting ourselves apart from the bad.
If you, like me, want to adopt the ‘Redeem’ approach, then you will have to get your head around what you are going to down when the trainee gangsters come a-knocking.
To help you on your way, here are three things that I try and say when I open our door to behold the dressed up mob who are baying for blood-themed sweeties…
One of the ways I can instantly and helpfully set myself apart from most people that Trick-or-Treaters will encounter is by being friendly and welcoming. No doubt those who are out-and-about knocking on people’s doors will have encountered a wide-range of reactions: from pleasant greetings to mild indifference to outright hostility. Let’s be marked out in our neighbourhoods as the people who are friendly, welcoming and genuinely happy to see people no matter what they are dressed up as.
#2 “You have clearly gone to a lot of trouble to dress up!”
People spend extraordinary amounts of time, effort and money on Halloween costumes, so I try to acknowledge this and show some appreciation for their effort. Remember, appreciating the effort that has been spent on dressing up is not the same as agreeing with the reason why they have dressed up (which we will get to in a moment). Dressing up is fun and it is satisfying when people take notice of the effort we have put into our costumes. Whenever Trick-or-Treaters come to our door, I try to take a look at each person’s costume and point out the things that I appreciate or look nice – especially if someone has dressed up in something that is not particularly Halloweeny. Again, this helps to set us apart from the more-negative people in our neighbourhoods and might even begin to build a positive rapport with the visitors. It also helps with getting any parents (who might be standing nearby) on-side, as they are the ones who probably spent all the money and put in all the effort in the first place.
#3 “Do you know that we don’t celebrate Halloween. Can you guess why not?”
The reason why #1 and #2 are so important is that they go a long way to earn me the opportunity to say something culturally quite controversial: that I don’t actually celebrate Halloween and think it is a bad idea. I try to phrase this as a question so that the conversation isn’t one-sided and so that the visitors might even think for themselves about why people do and – shock horror (the irony is intentional) – why some people don’t want to celebrate evil and darkness.
Why this matters
As you can see, these three things are intentionally trying to take the often-inevitable social interactions with Halloween Trick-or-Treaters on our doorsteps and turn them into potentially Gospel-commending or maybe even Gospel-proclaiming opportunities with those around us in our neighbourhoods and local communities.
Although I would love to have a deep conversation about Jesus on my doorstep (I have some Halloween-themed leaflets tucked into our sweet bowl that I offer to the visitors in addition to taking sweets for this very reason), the reality is that these encounters will be brief and seemingly inconsequential. However, we need to see that there are three main things we can accomplish by being intentional with these brief social interactions.
First, we can give a positive experience of meeting Christians. So many people view Christians (usually collectively) as cold, unloving and judgemental. Let’s try and correct that by being the most welcoming and hospitable people that they meet on their way around our neighbourhoods.
Second, we can begin to help people to think critically about their own ideas and preconceptions. So many people are blind to the realities of sin, the devil and the evil that is in each one of us. Halloween gives us an opportunity to point out that actually, evil is… well, evil, so why would we want to celebrate it?
Third, and most importantly, we can begin to point people to a better way. We can be people who love to dress up, carve pumpkins, and have a party… but do so to celebrate light and, most of all, to celebrate the true light of the world… Jesus.