Monday, October 8, 2012

What Should Christians Do with Halloween? Ten Thoughts


Halloween can be a controversial time in the church and for good reason, considering its’ origins and how it has evolved in the past twenty years.

I have fond memories of Halloween because it was the only time of the year that candy was allowed in our home, with the minor exception of one box of Turtles on Christmas Day. The rest of the year my “candy” was chocolate AIDS. You remember the diet suppressant? (The affect that had on my adult eating habits is probably worthy of therapy.)

I don’t share that so that you’ll feel sorry for me. I share that because I remember Halloween as a fun time to dress up and go get what I couldn’t have the rest of the year. There was only one home in the entire subdivision that “decorated.” They would open their door to an eerie red light and creaking sounds. It was terrifying, and there were years that not even my desire for the chewy goodness of real chocolate and caramel could lure me to that house.

Our world has changed, though. By the time my husband and I had children old enough to participate in Halloween activities, it was entirely different. Our faith had grown as well, and we were now evaluating everything from a Biblical perspective.


If you and I were to sit down with a cup of mocha cappuccino and talk about what to do October 31st, these ten thoughts would probably come up in the conversation.
  1. Children like to dress up and eat candy. Nothing wrong with that. We have a closet full of costumes that are used in plays all year long. We also let our children have candy now and then. I want them to learn how to handle their sweet cravings, not let their sweet cravings handle them.
  2. If spiders normally send me scurrying to my husband, why would I want to decorate with them or make desserts with spiders on top?
  3. It was originally believed that on October 31 ghosts of the dead would return to earth to cause trouble. It was also believed that it was easier to predict the future on that day. These two articles explain the origins of the day a bit further.
  4. What does the Bible say? “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) We should bathe Halloween, like all events, in prayer.
  5. It just doesn’t work for us to stay home. We don’t have a basement or a back room where we can congregate and make it look like we’re not home. Even with the porch light off, neighborhood children still ring the doorbell. Nights like Halloween make me wish we lived in the country.
  6. It doesn’t work for us to go trick-or-treating either. Halloween is so different now than it was thirty years ago. Decorating is commonplace, often with spiders and webs, scary skeletons, severed body parts, witches, and various ghouls. If Halloween had been like this when I was a child, I would not have gone trick-or-treating. My children are scared of Halloween “decorations” to the point where it can be difficult to walk through the seasonal area of Wal-Mart. I am grateful for their sensitivity. We don’t need to invite evil into our family.
  7. Trunk-or-treats are a good solution for us. At one church nearby, each “station” portrays a different Bible story. They even taped together black trash bags and inflated them for Jonah to have a whale.
  8. Receiving candy presents a terrific opportunity for children to practice their please and thank you.
  9. We’ve started a family tradition that (hopefully) takes the emphasis off the evil. When we’re about twenty minutes from done, we phone in a Papa John’s pizza order. At home, we also have apples and some candy while we watch Charlie Brown.
  10. If you choose to go trick-or-treating, I hope you have a good family time. Like most things in life, it’s completely up to you. 




What are your thoughts on Halloween? How have you decided to approach it? What are your family practices? And what happens when your family disagrees? Click through to my Q4U to leave your two cents.




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64 comments:

  1. Well Said! I'd love to share your post on my blog! :)

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    1. I'd be honored! I would appreciate a link back here, or you could just direct your readers here if that's easier. Thank you!

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  2. Great post- it is hard to know how to respond when the world makes a holiday into such a big deal - yet as Christians we are called to live in this world and be there to shine His light. I agree that if you discuss it with your spouse, prayer about it and have a good family plan Halloween can be a fun family tradition - perfect times to discuss issues about fear and scary-things in life, and teach family values. I love this post - I was weary when I clicked on it as so many preach the hide away for the day philosophy, which I personally do not agree with. So thank you for stating this side of the story as well

    Marissa
    http://forfunreadinglist.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you so much, Marissa, for your kind words and your honesty. It has been difficult for us to know the right approach, and, like so many things in life, what works for us may not work for someone else. I'm glad I did not weary you! :)

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  3. Our daughter is only 19 months old so this will only be her second Halloween, but so far we've let her participate. She dressed up as a cat last year and went trick-or-treating at her grandparents, and except for a new fish costume we're planning on the same for this year. As she gets older depending on where we're at (my husband's in the military and it's just happened to work out that with a deployment last year and my sister-in-law's baby shower that we'll be home this year right around Halloween) we'll probably do either low-key trick or treating or some sort of church party. We're planning on using basically the same rules I grew up with of no scary costumes, so animals and clowns are a yes and ghosts and vampires are a no.
    As far as Christians and Halloween in general, like many Christians holidays that have taken on more secular connotations, Halloween is technically All Hallows Eve and grew out of early Christians redirecting pagan traditions. My freshman year of college, my church's college group actually threw a Halloween party were we portrayed it as a Christian celebration, and discussed the Christian roots before playing some ice breaker type games, having a costume contest, going on a city wide scavenger hunt, and going to a church member's home for a bonfire. While it ended up being mostly the usual attendees plus some outside friends, we did actually advertise it to the campus at large as a specifically Christian Halloween Party and not a Fall Festival which our church did host separately for the children of the church in the Fellowship Hall. Personally, I think this is a good article about Christians and Halloween that I found with a quick google search. http://carm.org/halloween

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    1. I love the church parties, but our local churches only do trunk-or-treats. Before we had children (and before we moved), my husband and I helped out with our church party. The families could come through the kitchen any time for hot dogs, chips, apples, cookies, etc., and they could also rotate through the classrooms for games with candy prizes. Non-scary costumes were allowed, but many didn't even have costumes. It was a wonderful evening, but it also takes a lot of effort on the part of the congregation. Thanks so much for commenting!

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  4. I think your ideas are great! we are choosing to do halloween. Kids don't think about the evils of it, they just want to dress up and have candy! and it's one of the only nights that it is acceptable to knock on your neighbors doors and get to know them a bit!!! :)

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    1. Excellent point about getting to know your neighbors more -- good way to witness. Thanks!

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  5. I appreciate this article! Our family doesn't celebrate Halloween. This year we plan to learn more about Reformation Day and some of the Reformers. Otherwise, it will be just like any other Wednesday!

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    1. Yes, Reformation Day on November 1. I need to learn more about it myself. Thanks for reminding me, Shari!

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  6. Well said and well explained. I really appriciate this post. Halloween is something I have always been convicted about. Well, not Halloween, as is candy and dressing up, but the "scary" part of it. If God is a God of peace, then it is likewise true that is is NOT a God of fear. So, to me, it is not OK to mess around with ghosts, gouls, spiders, etc. And, God says that we are to stay away from all forms of witchcraft, which to me, means using them to decorate, etc. Anyway...this is a big deal to me.

    I do have a question for you, and anyone else who reads this comment and cares to answer. My husbands family came over recently and brought Halloween books (ghosts, witches, etc.) to read and a smiling ghost craft. I was not thrilled. But, I didn't want to make his family feel awkward, so I didn't say anything and let the kids take part in it all. When the family members left, we explained to the kids what the Bible says. It was a little confusing to them, I am sure, since the family are Christians. But, I explained that not everyone has that same conviction, but in our home, we won't be involved with that stuff. How should I have handled this? I think my 2 year old son was scared that night. I prayed over him and my daughter, but that is scary stuff!

    Thanks for any thoughts.

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    1. Wonderful comments, Stephanie. God is a God of peace. Would you like for me to pose your question as a Q4U? I couldn't find an email for you, but you may email me if you'd like.

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    2. I do have a response to your question, but I thought I might leave it open to others for a bit first. :)

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    3. I think you handled that situation graciously and beautifully. Not everyone will have the same ideas or interpretations (even close family members)but you showed your children that you respected the family members with different views. They will always be subjected to different kinds of people with different beliefs and, by reacting the way you did, you have given them a model of Christian behaviour to live by. If at all possible, the only other advice I could give is to have a chat with those family members and just tell them how you feel about Halloween and how it will be celebrated in your home. Chances are, they just didn't realize their gifts may have been a little innappropriate.
      Again, great job Stephanie!

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    4. Thank you, Tracy. I think it would be a good idea to have my husband talk to his family and share with them how we feel. I know they did not intend to be inappropriate. I guess I just figured that they knew how we felt. :) Guess not. It is so hard to know how to handle all this stuff. I know we cannot keep our kids sheltered away from the world, even though I would love to at times. But it's just hard to let them be exposed to things I consider to not be OK. Thanks for your thoughts - you really encouraged me!

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  7. This is the one day that the world will come to your home. We have a ministry where we cook hotdogs and hamburgers on our front yard for everyone who is out and about. We serve water. We take the opportunity to try and say "hi" to our neighbors, we hand out goody bags and treats to the kids and we talk and listen and pray and share the gospel with anyone that God gives us an opportunity with. In our very large neighborhood this is a huge undertaking and we have several people from our church join with us and help. Every year we are blessed and hope we have blessed someone else and encouraged them toward Christ.

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    1. What a terrific idea, Suanna! You are so right that the world will come to your home that day. I have often thought of dressing our family as Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus (plus lots of shepherds and animals!), and trick-or-treating, passing out tracts to the ones handing out candy. But I wasn't sure it would be well-received, and I definitely don't want to seem rude or pushy. With what you do, though, they are coming to you. You've certainly given me something to think and pray about. Thanks so much for commenting!

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    2. What an awesome idea, Suanna! What a great way to share Jesus' love!

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  8. In our family, we buy candy for the kids that come by if we are home on Halloween. We usually just spend a family night together. My kids dress up all throughout the year and they get their candy fix each week. We may take them to fall festivals at church but we don't choose to trick or treat. I explained to my middle one just the other day that society has made Halloween about darkness, scariness, or evil. We serve a God of light and peace; so, we choose not to take part. However, our Christmas and Easter celebrations are always a lot of fun and birthdays are just as fun. So, I don't feel my girls are missing out.

    My outlook as far as others celebrating Halloween is that it is each family's personal decision. We have friends and church members that have fun with it. So be it... but as for our house, we choose to celebrate other holidays throughout the year. :)

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    1. We also make birthdays a big celebration. With everyone's birthdays in between October and January, plus Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Valentine's Day, our children aren't missing out! Thanks so much, Leah, and many blessings to you.

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  9. My sons are 5 and 2 and they love to dress up and of course they love candy! In the past our church had a "harvest festival" so we would just take them there. Last year however, it was cancelled so we took the boys trick-or-treating. I was in shock over the decorations and sound effects! One house had a tape playing with scary music and a woman screaming in the background, it was horrible! I loved trick or treating as a child but I agree that things have changed and it is so much more scary now!

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    1. I've also heard those tapes, and they are scary. Now there are also life-size figures that move and talk and make sound. Terrifies my children! Maybe you could find another harvest festival in your area? Thanks so much for commenting, Heidi!

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  10. My family has always celebrated Halloween. You bring up good points, but I see it as a social activity. Our neighborhood is filled with happy noises, families around fires, and mostly tame decorations. My daughter is 2 and likes to touch everything and seems to have a really good grasp on what is fake and what is real. We will be walking around showing off her cute tiger costume!

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    1. Sounds like you're in a wonderful neighborhood! Enjoy your trick-or-treating, Leslie, and thanks for the link-up!

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  11. I think that sounds sounds like a great Halloween tradition! I would have been all on board for that as a kid myself!

    I don't have kids of my own yet, but I am a children's librarian. We are doing Trick or Treat at my library. I view it as an opportunity to get kids into the library and remind them of what we have to offer, especially kids who don't normally come. It's also a chance to clean out the storage area of leftover Summer Reading Prizes. Ha ha!

    I am also doing a Halloween themed story time and chose to do monsters, specifically monster books which empower the kiddos to get rid of their monsters or to show empathy, rather be frightened by them. I think that's a good way to do a Halloween theme but with a positive lesson.

    We always celebrated Halloween when I was a kid, but some of the Halloween things now do bother me (and I think would have as a kid as well). Especially the way so many treat the holiday as big or bigger than Christmas without any of the positives of the Christmas season (after all, isn't Trick-or-Treating all about what I can get? Where as my families Christmas tradition generally focus on what we can give back . . . )

    Anyway, thanks for this post - I love your ideas and it's definitely something I'll keep in mind if I ever have kids of my own.

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    1. If our library had a trick-or-treat, we would probably go, as long as they didn't have the scary noises and all that. And your monster book selections sound good. It's a far different thing to read a picture book with a drawing of a monster (or have one read to you) than to approach a house bathed in spooky light with screams emanating from it! I love your positive spin on it. Great comment, Amy!

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  12. We choose to not celebrate Halloween, instead we do Reformation Day. We also felt that the darkness and the underlying factors to the pagan holiday of All Hollows Eve were not appropriate for our family. Having said that I don't look down my nose at what others choose to do.

    I do appreciate your list and drawing attention to things that we must, as Christians, at least consider when we approach anything that this world embraces as much as they embrace Halloween.

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    1. It's too easy for Christians to join in with the world's activities without examining for themselves the whys and wherefores. Scripture must always be at the forefront of every decision. Thanks so much for commenting!

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  13. This is a great post!! I found you at Far Above Rubies. We celebrated Halloween the first few years with our kids. But, we really found that the candy was just dumped out later. We don't let the kids have much candy (if any), so what was the point of going? We've toyed with the church trunk-or-treats, but again - the candy goes to waste in our house. So, we just stay home and play games. Thankfully, we can turn off all lights that are visible to the outside and act like no one is home! Sadly, this year, my oldest is having mouth surgery that morning, so I don't think he'll feel like going out anyway. I think there will be lots of movies, ice cream and snuggles this year!!

    I would love to link back to your post when I address our views of Halloween.
    Blessings,
    Annette

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    1. The amount of candy can be overwhelming, especially if the trunk-or-treats are generous. And mouth surgery wouldn't be conducive to candy anyway. Movies and ice cream sound good to me!

      Thank you for your kind words, Annette, and a link-back would be terrific. Blessings to you and prayers for the surgery.

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  14. This was a great post and so true. I wrote a similar one last year. I agree that a fun time for kids had changed into so much creepy stuff that it is just so bad. But I agree that it is difficult to get away from it totally. Even my grandsons pre-school has a kind of trick or treating through ths school building and they have a party. I think we as Christians can serve God in how we deal with Halloween and all that surrounds it. My link today at Titus Tues shares what my daughter did last year for a group of children in a childrens home. You might like to use the poem I shared. Come by and visit me. Thanks so much for sharing this. Have a Blessed Wed.

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    1. We received, at a trunk-or-treat a few years back, little picture books with the poem. The children love it! Great idea of your daughter. Thanks for leaving your comment, and many blessings to you.

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  15. I'm Australian so Halloween isn't really an issue for us. I appreciated reading your considered, respectful post. :)

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    1. Thanks for coming all that way! :) I've often thought that living out in the country would eliminate the issue, but maybe I just need to move to Australia?

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  16. We celebrate Halloween. My husband feels strongly we should not give even a corner of one day to Satan, so we dress up, trick-or-treat, and hand out candy in good fun. Sure the origin isn't Christian, but the same can be said for the name of Easter or the reason that Christmas was set in December.

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    1. Good points, Kristy. Thanks for commenting!

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  17. Very good post! We do not celebrate Halloween at our house and I do not allow our children to trick or treat. However, they do participate in church related activities. I also am working on a post about Halloween and why we don't celebrate it over on my blog. I found you thru Thriving Thursday, I hope you'll check out my blog as well. www.jensjourney77.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks, Jen! Can't wait to read your thoughts on Halloween -- I'll check it out.

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  18. Very balanced view, Meghan. I also grew up without any stigma attached to Halloween, but felt uneasy about it my first Halloween as a Christian. It took many years for me to work through an approach that I'm comfortable with. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and journey.

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    1. As I grow in Christ, it seems that there is always something that needs a new decision based on what I've learned. Thanks for your kind words, Gail.

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  19. Great post and nicely written! It is always hard as my kids growing older. We try to keep it simple. I am continue to pray for my kids God to speak to their hearts. Thanks again!

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    1. Didn't I put prayer on the list? I was thinking it as I was writing but it must not have come out my fingers and into the keyboard. So here -- #11 Prayer! Thanks, Sara.

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  20. We have 7 children and live out in the country. Our kids love to dress up and we trick or treat at the various bedrooms and bathrooms in our home. Each child chooses a candy to pass out and picks a room as their "home". One child takes his turn to go door to door in the safety of their home to gather their candy.

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    1. LOVE IT! Safe and fun -- perfect. Thanks for the great idea!

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  21. Meghan...Your post is thought provoking and written well. We have done the trick-or-treating, the harvest festivals at churches, learned about the Reformation and attended parties thrown by friends. Our most fun memories are just when we're together. Our children are older now so staying home, baking goodies and playing games is good for us plus we live in the mountains so we never get visitors. Thank you for sharing this at WJIM this week. Have a fabulous week.

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    1. The mountains sound ideal, Naomi! I agree, the important part is being together. Thanks, as always, for the link-up.

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  22. I agree with you. I'm not into the holiday. We have taught our daughter about it because she sees it everywhere. I enjoyed Halloween when I was younger, but that was because I was a wild child and my parents let me do whatever I wanted. We turn out the light or hang out with our church friend who have a chili feed each year. Thanks for sharing your thoughts at Mom's Library!

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    1. Chili feed? What time and where? Maybe we live closer together than you think! Thanks, Janine!

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  23. Thank you for your post! It was thoughtful and well balanced. Our family has decided not to take part in Halloween even though my husband and I celebrated it as kids. We have 3 kids- 4, 3 and 1 year old. We play dress up all year round so I don't feel I am depriving them in that area. We also eat candy on occasion or if positive behavior warrants it! :-) I guess as Christians we felt like we need to be different from the world on this night. Especially given the origins and the verses you quoted. It is hard though especially when people ask you, "so what's your child gonna be for Halloween this year?" I usually just humbly say, "Oh we actually don't do the whole Halloween thing!" We do carve pumpkins and make candy apples as a family or have friends over for a Fall Harvest Hay day. What would be your response to people (non-christians) who ask why you don't celebrate it? Many blessings!

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    1. I think your reply is fine. It's honest and to the point. If they ask why, then you have a great witnessing opportunity. I haven't been asked more than once or twice, and the children usually pipe up to talk about their costumes and how we go to a church party. We look so conservative that I don't think anyone has been surprised. Another response could be that trick-or-treating is just too scary for your little ones. That's definitely true for us. Hope that helps, and thanks for asking!

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  24. Meghan, I'd love to put a link to this post in my next Halloween post (part 2). Would that be all right with you?
    Thanks again for this thoughtful post,
    Gail

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    1. That would be terrific, Gail. I'm honored!

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  25. Hey, your post was one of the most visited from Thriving Thursdays, so it's featured on my blog today!

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  26. wow - what a great post...(apparently I'm not alone in thinking so - this one has a ton of comments). I am with you. We don't celebrate Halloween...but I do support churches that do harvest parties or similar outreaches to the world and provide a safe place for children and families who might otherwise be out on the streets. I think it's a great opportunity for the church to reach out, using methods that are not demonic and frightening. :) Thanks for linking up this great post!

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    1. It's been a great conversation, Rosilind. So glad you joined in, and have a great time at the harvest party!

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  27. This is becoming one of my favorite blogs!! :) I am approaching this with a slightly different perspective. As a child, my parents allowed Halloween and trick or treating. When I began having my own family, my husband and I allowed our son to participate by dressing up in something appropriate and going to relatives' homes for some candy. Then our second child came along and she arrived with a little something extra---an extra chromosome to be exact. :) We dressed her up as a cute little pumpkin when she was a baby, but from the beginning, she never enjoyed being dressed up. As she reached toddler age, she became terrified of anyone dressed up in any type of costume, whether it was scary or not. At this time, I felt the Lord was using our daughter to get us to re-evaluate whether Halloween was something we should participate celebrate. Hubby and I began to research and look at scriptures to which we concluded that Halloween wasn't something we wanted to celebrate, so we started a new family tradition. We go out to eat for the evening usually at Bob Evans. :) Now we have three children and they love it that we don't celebrate Halloween and opt instead for a family fun evening out. The Lord has used all of my children, especially my daughter with Down Syndrome, to look at things from a different perspective. Honestly, we have matured in our faith since she came along. She laughs freely, loves unconditionally, and forgives instantly. I imagine she would wonder why on earth anyone would want to glamorize a holiday steeped in evil origins. And I must say, I agree with her completely. :) If only those of us who are considered "typical" could use the same logic that she does.

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    1. A great idea for Bob Evans and a family night out! We have a neighbor with a child with Down Syndrome, and he says that their family is blessed every day by that child. It brings tears to my eyes to hear him talk about his son. Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your story here. Many blessings to you!

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I so much appreciate your time and effort in leaving a comment, and I try to respond to as many as time permits. :-)