Most people who know me, know that I love Halloween. I don't know what it is about this spooky holiday but it has always filled me with joy, but from the glowing pumpkins to cute kids in costumes asking for candy, I love it all. I think a lot of it is nostalgia for a happy childhood spent celebrating Halloween with themed food and trick or treating, but deep down it's just one of those things I know I love but I don't really know why.
This year, I wanted to think a little more deeply about why. I'm finding that there is a cultural difference around Halloween between the US and the UK - not only is it not widely celebrated here, but it also turns out there are many people (especially Christians) who are adamant that it should not be celebrated. This was surprising to me because where I'm from, Halloween has never been seen as controversial for mainline Christians.
Not only do most Christians I know join in the fun of Halloween, every church I've ever been a part of has put on some sort of event for the holiday. Whether its a "trunk or treat" event with a parade of costumes and candy in the parking lot or the literal "haunted house" maze my youth group built in the church one year, there has always been some sort of event - usually with a wide reach into the community, bringing in people who don't normally go to church. It was a chance to be visible in our community and connect with new people.
Here, if churches do anything, there seems to be a tradition of "light parties" which are intended to be the antithesis to the dark and scary aspects of Halloween. But even that can be a bit controversial - sometimes seen as capitulating to secular culture in trying to offer anything at all. Halloween in general is seen by many people as something that celebrates the occult, evil, and dark forces in the world. Or if not that, some see it as just "imported American rubbish" as one person wrote on Facebook.
So, as an American who loves Halloween, I've tried to be conscious of my new setting this year. I've kept my love for Halloween quiet, not because I feel like it's wrong or I feel guilty about it, but because I want to learn more about my new culture before I go around flaunting something that might rub people the wrong way. The pandemic, of course, has meant that we can't celebrate in many of the ways we might have wanted to anyway - no visiting castles with Halloween events, or hosting friends for a fancy dress party, or even handing out candy to cute kids in costumes. I have decorated the house some on the inside, worn my Halloween leggings, and have some fun glow in the dark Color Street on my nails, but that's about it.
I'm continuing to ponder and pray and discern my own attitude towards Halloween and my faith. My thoughts at the moment lean towards Halloween being an event that mocks death and ghouls and evil spirits in this world - we make light of it, not celebrate it. And, as Christians, we worship a risen savior who has defeated death - so why not?
Perhaps by next year I'll be able to articulate a little bit more about why I love Halloween and why I think that's okay as a Christian, but for now, this is where I'm at - listening, learning, and loving my new country - controversial holidays and all.