Tonight is our annual Light Party. It is our alternative to Halloween. We have food, games and crafts for the kids to do. But our focus isn’t on the darker side of things but the light of Jesus Christ.
Now, I know Christians have different views on these things. Some want to withdraw altogether. Close the door, turn off the lights, pretend we’re not in and have nothing to do with it. If some horribly dressed urchins knock on the door looking for sweets we’ll send them away with a tract and nothing more.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who immerse themselves in it. There’s nothing wrong with it, they reckon. Most of the Christians who shun it altogether are, in their view, being superstitious. Just get involved, enjoy it and make the most of the opportunity to meet your neighbours and tell them something about Christ.
In between those pole, lie a range of opinions. Some largely take the same view as the ‘close the door’ crew but reckon tracts are more likely to be read if you give out some sweets as well with a smile. Others try to ‘redeem’ it and sort of join in but in a kind of Christiany way. Others still offer some alternative, like a light party.
I am not one of those that thinks you are on the verge of joining the Satanists if you happen to go out in a costume and ask for some sweets. But I am one of those who doesn’t do that and won’t be sending my kids out to do it either. Notwithstanding the dozens of other articles on this that you can go and read, here are a few reasons we favour a light party over other options.
Something to celebrate?
At the heart of it for me, I simply see nothing in Halloween to celebrate. It seems to revel in all that is neither right nor good. I, frankly, don’t want any part of that. If I weigh it against Philippians 4:8, I struggle to find anything in it that I want my children to dwell upon. For us, we prefer to steer clear.
Even if I was of the view that Halloween is nothing but harmless fun, in our context, it is extremely unhelpful. Most of our Muslim friends and neighbours live their lives not so much with a purist form of Islam but something closer to folk religion. Many spend their lives in fear of the jinn (for which read, evil spirits). If you have ever noticed Muslim friends with decorative type CDs hanging from their rearview mirror, these are usually something close to amulets to ward off evil spirits. Halloween is not usually permissible for Muslims to celebrate and, for many, the fear of it is all too real. It would not do our gospel witness any good to be seen to celebrate such things.
But beyond our Muslim friends, the occult is a very real presence. Many indigenous Oldhammers live under a folk Catholicism that encourages a similar fear of demons and spirits. Spiritism remains a force that is alive and well in deprived communities. It is just contextually unhelpful (at best) for us to be seen to celebrate this.
Just as in lots of place like ours, trick or treating is not always the happy, family event that it is for many others. In our area, terrified people will often hide indoors, fearing the reprisals from local youths if they do not oblige. In some instances, it amounts to little more than culturally justifiable mugging. Half the time, it’s not the old dears cowering in doors who get mugged but the outside (it really is easier to steal sweets from kids than to extort them from adults!) The reality is that in areas like ours, it doesn’t always have a genteel family atmosphere.
Even should I be able to shake my disquiet about those other things, at the end of the day, getting involved in Halloween in our context doesn’t provide any great gospel value for us. In fact, given much of what I’ve already said, you can probably figure out why! Even if I thought it wise to get involved, I just don’t think it would give us any great gospel value. We’re already pretty well known locally and I’m not convinced doing Halloween once per year does more for us.
By contrast, specifically because we offer a lighter alternative, we get really helpful opportunities with local Muslim families. Many of their children don’t want to miss out on the fun but their parents – not unlike many Christian parents – don’t want their children involved. Having a light party they can tap into, with people they trust (many families linked to our English Classes come), gives us a gospel opportunity with them that we wouldn’t otherwise have. We can present the gospel to them in our own building and build upon the existing relationships we have with them.
Whilst not a definitive one, I don’t pretend this isn’t a thing. I remember as a child watching all my friends at school pouring out bucket fulls of sweets the next day. I, on the other hand, had been given a series of scare stories about what people do on Halloween night to those who don’t partake along with the more austere, ‘we just don’t do that.’ One spent a miserable night both terrified at home simultaneously feeling like you were missing out. Whilst the reasons not to join in were sound enough, it was a hard one to swallow. Having an equally fun, but clearly different, alternative seems to me to be a more equitable (and legitimate) way to celebrate something better whilst not making your children feel like they are entirely missing out.
So there are a few reasons why we favour a light party. If you do something different, or approach this a different way, I’m not going to fall out with you about it. But this is what we do. We like it, it gives us good gospel opportunities and our conscience isn’t troubled by it. And I can’t really say fairer than that.