halloween

The Trick, and the Treat: To Keep Giving and Receiving

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

I've had the privilege of participating in a church’s Trunk-or-Treat program for kids in a low-income neighborhood in Cincinnati. Folks bring their cars and vans to the church’s parking lot and decorate them. They hand out candy to the kids, who come dressed in their costumes. There’s food and hot chocolate and books, all for free.

One regular attendee is a little boy who has no legs, so his mom pushes him around the parking lot in a wheelchair. He loves to dress like a ninja and if you ask why, he’ll go on and on about how much he loves ninjas and his costume. And how much he loves Halloween.

The kids make the route around the parking lot a few times with their bags open, getting another piece of candy and a little bit of love at each stop. Everyone enjoys the giving and the getting.

Maybe that’s what I love most about Halloween.

Still Looking for a Costume?

Image courtesy Joe Kay
Image courtesy Joe Kay

I was browsing an elaborate Halloween store and came across an aisle of religious-oriented costumes. There were the usual ones: nun, rabbi, priest. And one I’d never seen before.

Yes, you can go Trick-or-Treating as Jesus this year. There is a Jesus costume.

What do you think about that?

I’m guessing some people will feel offended; I understand and respect where they’re coming from. Others would see it as harmless and find some humor in it. (Hey, see the guy in the Jesus costume? He gave treats to the whole neighborhood using only two Swedish Fish.)

I had a feeling there was material for a blog in all of this somewhere, so I took a photo, filed the idea in the back of my brain, and moved on to inspect the rubber rats and flying bats that are more my style.

Eventually, a thought worked its way into the front of my brain:

Why shouldn’t someone wear a Jesus costume?

On Scripture: Halloween and All the Saints

Candles illuminate a cemetery on All Saints' Day, wawritto / Shutterstock.com
Candles illuminate a cemetery on All Saints' Day, wawritto / Shutterstock.com

I probably shouldn’t admit how much I like Halloween. I’m too much of a slug to deck out my house, I rarely wear a costume, and I haven’t been to a wild party in years, but I love the excitement children bring to the whole process. Then again, there’s the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – what’s better than that? I’m pretty much a sucker for Halloween.

I was already an adult when I learned how we came upon Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve marks the night before All Hallows’ Day, or All Saints’ Day, when Christians celebrate those who have preceded us in the faith. Some churches honor great heroes of the faith, the “saints” of our past. Other churches emphasize that all believers are “saints,” not because we are especially virtuous but because we are made holy simply by God’s will. In some churches, the label “saints” joins us not only to our deceased forebears but also to our living sisters and brothers scattered around the world. (Still other churches simply don’t observe the day at all.)

Please Do Not Dress Up for Halloween in Blackface, Brownface, or Yellowface; Don’t Be Stupid

Photo campaign from Ohio University's Students Teaching Against Racism (STARS)
Photo campaign from Ohio University's Students Teaching Against Racism (STARS)

Americans love Halloween. In fact, maybe it’s fair to say we go crazy about Halloween. How crazy?

Americans spend $310 million dollars per year on costumes … for our pets. Wow.

In total, Americans spend between $6.5 – $6.86 billion dollars on all things Halloween: costumes, candy, and decoration. More wowzers.

So, as the average consumers spends about $27 on costumes, I thought it’s never too early to encourage folks to be careful how they dress up for Halloween … even if it’s “all in the spirit of fun.”

Listen, I like fun. And while my social life is nearly zilch, I like fun parties, but it’s all fun and games until someone shows up at a costume party or … err … at your front door trick-or-treating in a borderline racist costume.

Yes, it’s not too early to tell people:

Please don’t dress up in a blackface, yellowface, brownface, or any other costumers that stereotype, denigrate, or mock another culture.

Don’t caricature another real culture. Why? Because we’re a culture and not a costume.

Is Purim the Jewish Halloween? Some Jews Say No.

Purim carnival in Jerusalem. Unidentified people watch the show. (Ekaterina Lin
Purim carnival in Jerusalem. Unidentified people watch the show. (Ekaterina Lin / Shutterstock.com)

WASHINGTON — Debby Levitt's four children are dressing up big time for Purim, one of the more raucous of Jewish holidays, which begins on Wednesday (March 7) this year.

Commemorating Queen Esther's brave and successful efforts to save the Jews of Persia from extermination, Purim calls on Jews to rejoice in costume and to give goodies to neighbors and friends.

Girls often dress up as the beautiful queen, and boys as her valiant cousin Mordecai, who refused to bow down to the evil Haman, who aimed to extinguish all vestiges of Judaism from the kingdom.

The goody baskets — mishloach manot, in Hebrew, or the "sending of portions" — are meant to contradict Haman, who asserts in the biblical book of Esther that Jews were a people riven by strife.

Costumes? Goodies? Sounds like Halloween. But for the Levitts, it's nothing like Halloween.

Boo! It's Jesus!: Halloween and Evangelization

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Is Halloween a prime time for evangelism?

Are religious tracks passed out along with (or in lieu of) "treats" really the best way to spread the gospel message?

Or do the roots and practices of Halloween run so deeply counter to Christian tradition that Halloween is best ignored by believers?

At times such as these, the church often finds itself wrestling with the big question H. Richard Niebuhr posed in his seminal 1951 work, Christ and Culture. That is, to what extent should Christians engage in and interact with the world around them?

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