[Adapted for the public from a long post-Halloween post of mine on Facebook. Enjoy.]
Whoever heard of a Beautiful Halloween? Well, last night, I had one.
This is a long post, so be warned, and one that may inspire strong responses depending upon where I post it, but here goes:
I never liked Halloween much anyway, even before I was a follower of Christ, as opposed to people who plan excitedly for it every year. I remember painting my little brother’s face and turning him into Dracula, and helping my Mom with other get-ups for my sister and brothers, but the only costume I remember for myself was face-painting Starchild from Kiss when I was about 12 years old while my friends went to the jazz concert at the Coliseum, many many years ago. I don’t have any other really strong memories of Halloween as a child. Now, in the face of some believers who are adamant about “not celebrating” it, I am one of those who believe that God judges intent and action way more than posturing and exclusion. It’s a candy hunt gone wrong, in other words, and I pray protection every day anyway over more than just my own. So I started the evening sitting squarely on the broken part of the fence.
Really, I hated (and I rarely use the word “hate”) the pressure to buy or make a prize-winning costume, often with few resources (at least in my family), especially when that meant that children at school with little home-training would be making snide comments about our creative endeavors (strike one). I also intensely disliked the fact that we were supposed to be going door to door – at night – to neighbors’ houses – some of whom were kindly people and some of whom we didn’t know too well if at all – and a lot of times years ago we just didn’t go up to houses we didn’t know (strike two). And finally, I dreaded the battle I always fought – again way before any profession of faith — to keep first my siblings and then my own children away from nutcases who wanted to turn a children’s hunt for fun and candy into something debased and evil (Dracula included, mea culpa. Strike three, Halloween).
Then the proverbial nail in the coffin: Sick people on the news doing twisted things to candy, and sometimes even to children themselves, some actually turning the evening into exactly that Evil Night, not the actual “All Hallows Eve” it came from that was supposed to “ridicule the power of death” before “All Hallows Day” where people are supposed to celebrate the saints, according to that less-than-reliable source, Wikipedia. I always just want to get the night done and over with. Last night was no different. Bah Humbug, whatever. I know I said it under my breath at least four times last night while the kids were getting ready: “I hate Halloween…”
Over the years, I’ve fought the battle in different ways: Some years, I would just prohibit my children from wearing bloody, violent or otherwise “evil” costumes, talk to them about “good vs. evil”, and we’d head out on the trick-or-treat trail. Some years, I would throw my own party, inviting my kids’ friends to my house for a safe night of candy, real food, and an uplifting but fun movie. Some years I would take my children to “Harvest Fests” at churches where there was often fun in the way of bouncy houses and games, plus people who cared enough to give the kids a good time in the name of God, but I have never been to a church Halloween alternative that had enough candy for my kids to feel it was a good trade-off. Some years we tried the “safe trick or treats” set up by retail malls (and, I heard, companies, too, and this year I heard Dish did its thing well) but, same thing: not enough candy. One year, a group of neighbors on the countryside in Virginia, set up a “Trunk or Treat” in a library parking lot where grown-ups decorated the trunks of their SUVs, pickups, and sedans, and passed out candy to all the kids in a safe, controlled environment, and I would count that as a success: Lots of candy to check, no strange houses, minimal hyper-scary decorations to avoid. But still the exception to the rule.
Well last night, still in my grumpy-but-ok-I’ll-do-it-mood, I prepared for my kids and their company to assemble at my house, first walk through the neighborhood to our local church “Trunk or Treat,” and then hit the neighborhood houses, some of whom had been preparing their houses since the September leaves began to fall. By the time night fell and people were either waiting in my living room or en route driving over from work, I had my seven, my grandson, my son-in-law, my brother-in-law, my other daughter’s significant other, his little sister, their Mom, her significant other, and my son’s best friend, all looking at me, The Halloween Grinch, to get the party started. Really. At the end of a tiring day. When I don’t really like Halloween. And to top it off, my husband, usually the escort on these nights if he’s off from work, started to feel ill and had to stay home until he felt better. I gave him some ibuprofen and was therefore on my own.
Well, I don’t know where the energy came from, but we all started out in fits and starts. It was a balmy and pretty autumn night (not the ice cold freezing rain I hoped for every year that would cancel Halloween. I told you I was the Grinch.) I let some of them hit two or three houses on our street while others finished their makeup and went to the bathroom (and I laid down on the bed for two minutes to pray for more energy). Then we all trooped out up a neighborhood path in the darkness, behind the houses all decorated and waiting, to make it over to the church parking lot six minutes away for the well-announced “Trick or Treat”. When we passed the last playground and the church lot came in sight, we saw nothing. Just darkness and a few cars. Maybe we had missed it. In any case, right then and there, with everyone looking at me expectantly, I told the little ones to hit the first Halloween house in sight, which they did, and the next hour and a half developed into a funfest of going house to house, saying Hi to neighbors and neighbors’ dogs, little old ladies and grandfathers passing out candy and cooing at our kids, couples (and there were three) laughing and holding hands as they helped watch the younger ones and the teens, my blocking my baby grandson in his stroller with his blanket to keep him from looking at some of the more nightmare-inducing front yard displays, and then coming back to our warm house that smelled like cinnamon-scented pine cones (that the teens laughed about because of some SpongeBob episode I haven’t seen yet), everyone Happy and Healthy, ready to check candy. The ice was broken.
This isn’t the only reason I called this Halloween beautiful, though, just because we dodged the bullet of it being “evil” and a hack, and just because we enjoyed nice weather and camaraderie. When we got back to the house, when everyone finally was back in the house and filled my living room and den ( a living room and den my husband and I thank God for every day and work hard to maintain so I was feeling doubly blessed), I had SEVENTEEN PEOPLE flushed from a nice night, warm and laughing, most of whom were either mine and would not have even been on the earth or known each other if my beloved husband of 21 years and I had never met. People were happy, but hungry and ready to check their haul. I pulled out chairs and my husband, feeling somewhat better, went into host mode. My eldest and her significant other ran to the grocery store for some food while I broke out the ginger ale. The little girls put My Little Pony on the computer, and the rest of us talked and socialized and spent time together in what felt more like a warm Thanksgiving gathering than a post-Halloween candy de-briefing.
All was well in the world. God had used one of His very real superpowers on the evening, turning what was meant for evil into something good. A bible verse goes like this: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20 – English Standard Version). For that I am happy, contented and thankful. I wondered why I told each of my children yesterday morning before they left for school and work that they needed to pray hard for protection and to stay close to God. I don’t always make a point of that, but yesterday, it felt like I needed to. Well, I am happy. I know that some will say I place my family in harm’s way by letting them enjoy the innocuous parts of Halloween, but I choose to believe God when He says that He wants us to full of prayer and joy go out into the world, to share His love, and that He will protect us and keep us, and that there is no evil that He can’t use for good.
Some are going to find my next statement controversial and I know I’ll hear about it, but I mean it with all my heart:
Lord, Thank you for a Beautiful Halloween.