The Common Good

Hark! Halloween Haters and Holiday Hype

091102-candy-cornHalloween is over. I was standing in the kitchen tonight pilfering through the bowl of chewy, crinkly wrapped treats that my children acquired last night. Poor things. They do all the work of running up and down the sidewalks, climbing stairs, ringing bells and then I dole them out a piece or two a day and confiscate anything with caramel for myself. Hardly seems fair.

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But then again, I endured childbirth so I will use that card once again. Caramel is mine.

As I chewed on something with nougat I saw the first Christmas commercial of the season flash across the television screen in our family room. A bunch of people in a sleigh on a snowy night, wearing red sweaters with wispy scarves. They were sipping some sort of hot beverage, laughing like they had not a care in the world.

I just looked at the screen and sighed.

In an instant those bright sweaters and cheery faces shoved me into an exhausted holiday panic. Too soon. Too crazy. Am I behind? Christmas cards? Do we have parties on the calendar yet? Halloween costumes are still on the floor. Leaves are still on my deck. I still plan to go another week or two before sporting gloves.

I wanted to scream "let me enjoy my chocolate for a minute!" Let me savor, for just a bit longer, the fact that the squirrels have not devoured all of our pumpkins.

The malls are probably already decked out in holiday decor. I dashed into a store several weeks ago to return a gift for one of my children and saw Christmas outfits and ties on display. It was barely October.

And I know that I am stating the obvious here. It seems to be the sort of self-soothing banter we all participate in this time of year. We chitter and chat with one another, lamenting how quickly Christmas creeps up. We say that the real reason for the season are friends, family, God, community, giving, doing, being. And we all believe this but, regardless of our attempts, we cannot seem to stop the freight train.

We clean. We obsess. We shop. We stock up. We line up the day after Thanksgiving at 4:00 a.m. We are still in pj's and a food coma from the day before, but gosh darn it we are going to get 20% off that Wii if it kills us. Which it may.

As I stood with candy in one hand and Christmas commercials calling out to the other, I vowed once again not to get sucked in. Not to panic.

And I also thought about what a bad rap Halloween gets in many Christian circles. I my house, we join in the costumes and the pumpkins; we watch lots of Charlie Brown and hand out candy. But I know there are many good, faithful families who choose to bow out of Halloween, stating that the ideas celebrated on this day are completely inconsistent with the Christian faith.

And I know this debate, for those inside Christendom, is much larger than I am unpacking here. But as I chewed on that candy bar I could not help but wonder why Christians don't rally against consumerism and going into debt and Christmas shopping in October the same way many of them tackle Halloween.

Careless consumption, disregard for the poor, and perpetuating systems of injustice are enemies of faith that I dare to say loom larger than whatever Pagan, Druid, Wiccan -- you name it -- rituals and fears Halloween conjures up for many people of faith.

And while I choose to participate very gladly, albeit modestly, in Halloween, I still respect those who have thought through why they choose to step out. But my respect level for this conversation drops considerably when people use Halloween as a way to throw a few superior jabs at those of us who trick or treat while they plan a shopping strategy to cover the next 8 weeks.

We might get a little closer to the heart of Jesus if we all sat on our front porches for the next few weeks and munched on some candy while chatting with our neighbors. We might fight some of the most gruesome enemies of this world like injustice and poverty if we linger around the candy bowl and talk them through for a while and stay out of the malls.

Give Halloween a break. Turn off the television. Rake some leaves. Take a walk and enjoy the last few balmy days, the final rays of warm sunshine. And think for a bit about how to fight the truly ugly realities of our world, not just those dressed up like them on October 31.

portrait-tracey-bianchiTracey Bianchi blogs about finding a saner, greener life from the heart of the Chicago suburbs. She wrote Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet (Zondervan 2009) and blogs at traceybianchi.com.

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