What Happened to Halloween?


Growing up in the 50s and 60s, every kid in my neighborhood counted down the days until the 31st of October. We couldn’t wait to dress up in what was usually a handmade costume paired with a mask we’d purchased at the local five and dime. Afterward, we would walk around our small community, which wasn’t much more than a cluster of houses.

Not a lot changed from year to year, but our anticipation was always high. At each stop we knew we would collect candy – and compliments – from our neighbors and family friends, who would feign surprise at seeing Annie Oakley, Superman or a clown standing on their doorstep.

There were no boiling caldrons on front porches, skeletons hanging from trees or ghost sounds screeching from hidden speakers. We had no fear of traipsing through the dark, and the only noise we might hear besides the passing of traffic were shrieks of laughter from other kids in the neighborhood, who were either ahead of us or behind us.

Everyone we ran into was considered trustworthy. And so was the candy. One elderly couple always greeted us with popcorn balls or other homemade treats. Most would give us a store-bought candy bar or two. Times and budgets were tighter back then, and just a small amount was special.

Movies like Halloween and Jason hadn’t yet been released. And no one in our neighborhood had ever heard about spiking chocolate bars or tainting candy apples. Nor did we consider the possibility that the holiday had been derived from pagan roots. We were, after all, just kids and our parents allowed us to have fun. Innocent fun.

Sadly, that’s no longer the norm. But is it the holiday that has changed, or is it us? What has happened to the Halloween we fondly remember? Today, many of us would like to wipe it off the calendar. But why? Because we know too much? Or maybe we fear too much? Have we let the influences of the world seep into our worldview? What has happened to our childlike innocence?

Jesus admonishes us in the Sermon on the Mount to come to Him with the innocence of a child. So why do we try to force our children to grow up too quickly? Why do we pass along the worries of the world so soon? Once innocence is lost it’s gone forever.

Of course, we all know that Halloween can be linked to all sorts of evil. And I have to admit that I’d rather see a pint-sized princess or a supersized jack-o-lantern standing at my door than a grotesque angel of death with a sickle in his or her hand.

But we can also utilize the annual celebration to express our faith. For years, I’ve included Bible-based tracts with handfuls of candy. And church-sponsored Harvest Festivals and block parties are a great way to organize and ensure the safety of our kids. Let’s not allow October 31st – or our personal fears – to take away the innocence of childhood anticipation. They’ll grow up soon enough. But when they do, maybe they’ll have good memories of innocent fun and fellowship – even the generosity of others and, perhaps, faith shared – when they look back to the Halloween of their past.

Kathy Harris is an author by way of a “divine detour” into the Nashville entertainment industry. Her debut novel, The Road to Mercy, released by Abingdon Press, is available at Amazon and other retailers. Visit her on Twitter, Facebook, her blog, or her author website.

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