Halloween was an extremely perplexing and stressful subject for me when I was growing up. To be candid, it continues to be so. After my parents became Adventists, the Halloween festivities we once eagerly anticipated vanished. Suddenly Halloween was off-limits for discussion. Occasionally on October 31 we tried alternative activities, such as bowling or visiting the mall. Still, more often than not, we found ourselves huddled in the basement watching movies, with all lights, especially the porch lights, switched off to create the illusion of an empty home. With time, we would retreat to our respective rooms, almost afraid to breathe, as the sounds of trick-or-treaters echoed outside.
One Halloween night, as I slept, a car carrying intoxicated teenagers returning from a party crashed in front of our house. My parents extended their care to the injured youths, calling their parents and ensuring their safe passage to a hospital. Yet the next day, while they were talking about it with us, their emphasis was not on the importance of showing kindness and helping others in spite of their poor choices, but on how this incident was more evidence that Halloween was really bad news.
To be clear, I am absolutely certain that my parents’ intentions were rooted in keeping us safe. Because of the lack of open conversation, however, I felt bewildered and uncomfortable whenever I had to explain why I abstained from anything related to the holiday. Beyond a hurriedly muttered sentence or two about “Satan’s holiday,” I did not receive an explanation as to why we were to stay away from it. The situation was not any easier at church or school. Halloween appeared to be a mostly avoided topic; some kids celebrated it, some didn’t, and that was the end of it. Consequently, my feelings toward Halloween became a mix of dread and aversion, as I lacked my own convictions. I felt that it was bad, but only because I was told it was bad.
Then I became a teacher.
The Decision-making Process
Navigating Halloween within a public school environment was one thing, but when I began teaching at an Adventist school, I realized that Halloween was not the core issue. It became evident that I needed to refine my decision-making process to reconcile the convictions laid on my heart. Why did Halloween evoke such discomfort? Why did I react the way I did when I learned how others celebrated (or didn’t celebrate) Halloween? Is there an unequivocally “right” way to approach Halloween? How can I navigate this topic with my students who are asking questions?
Perhaps your children are asking more questions about Halloween, and you are unsure how to address this difficult topic. Reflecting on my experiences as a curious child before and a trusted adult now expected to have answers, I’ve found that addressing tough questions provides an opportunity to teach our values, faith, and discernment. This equips our children to make informed choices and stand confidently in their convictions. As an educator, I have always preferred to provide tools rather than impose my thoughts and opinions. I want to empower students to practice making informed decisions with a touch of guidance.
Here are some strategies that have aided me in discussing this topic with my students—strategies I intend to employ with my own children as they grow up. These adaptable principles can serve as a framework for addressing various challenging topics.
Understand the Origins: Take time to educate yourself, enabling accurate answers to questions. Utilize this as a chance to teach your children about discernment and critical thinking. Discuss Halloween’s historical and cultural significance while highlighting the differences between its original meaning, its evolution, and the various ways it is celebrated worldwide today. This might also involve exploring other events that share the same date, such as Reformation Day, or other historical Christian holidays, such as All Saints’ Day (November 1) or All Souls’ Day (November 2).
Emphasize Faith and Teach Discernment: Strengthen your children’s faith by explaining how it shapes your decisions, including those concerning Halloween celebrations. Guide them in discerning between harmless fun and anything that promotes darkness or evil. Infuse relevant Bible verses into your discussions to illuminate these concepts (such as but not limited to: Phil. 4:8; 1 Thess. 5:21, 22; Rom. 12:9; 1 Cor. 10:21; Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11; 4:27; 1 Peter 5:8; Deut. 18:10-12).
Address Concerns and Facilitate Open Dialogue: If certain aspects of Halloween cause you concern, address them in a balanced and age-appropriate manner. Cultivate an environment of open communication with your children, encouraging them to pose questions and articulate their thoughts about Halloween. Approach these discussions with attentive listening and offer honest responses tailored to their age and understanding.
Personalize Your Approach and Respect Differences: Each family is unique and will tailor their approach to their own beliefs and values. It is acceptable if your approach differs from others. Nurture a sense of respect for differing beliefs and practices, all while instilling in your children the confidence to uphold their convictions. Guide conversations toward the principles of love, kindness, and respect for others, regardless of differing perspectives.
Lead by Example: Your attitude and actions wield tremendous influence over your children. By thoughtfully, respectfully, and openly addressing Halloween, you model the behavior you wish to impart. Confidently show up to tackle the hard conversations and let the Word of God guide you. Teach your children to be a beacon of positivity and goodness in all situations, Halloween included, drawing inspiration from the words of Matthew 5:14-16. Through thoughtful conversations and a commitment to guiding principles, you can equip your children with the tools they need to make their own informed decisions confidently. Remember that your approach to discussing Halloween with your children should come from a place of love and care, and reflect the Bible’s beliefs and values. Halloween and the themes that surround it can be a wonderful opportunity to model further how to let God’s truth guide your decisions in a confusing and dark world.