Updated for 2021
Halloween is still a week away, but by the Halloween costumes, candy and gruesome house decorations appearing, and the horror movies ready to launch, I would say it is very much on peoples’ minds here in the U.S. So it is time to think about what you are going to do. Now I am not an advocate for Halloween. When I grew up in Australia it was not really celebrated and it always seems weird to me that Christians celebrate it as much as non Christians but here in America it is such a part of the culture that we really need to think about creative faith-based ways to celebrate. And I must confess that carving Halloween lanterns can be fun.
I am not going to get into the theology here. Some Christians see this celebration as evil and like to stay home with lights off. Others feel we should participate in ways that engage and redeem the culture. I am of that persuasion and so thought that you might like some resources to help you too:
Verge Network has a useful article Twelve Simple Ways to Be Missional this Halloween
Another helpful article from Grace to You: Christians and Halloween. It includes some historical perspectives as well as some suggestions for alternative celebrations like harvest or Reformation festivals. They also point out that there are some not so good alternatives like Hellhouse evangelism. I particularly love the idea of taking acts of mercy out into the community and treating treating” needy families with food baskets, gift cards, and the gospel message.
One alternative is to hold an All Saints Party. Rather than celebrating Halloween celebrate All Saints Day November 1st. Have kids dress up as their favourite person or saint. Finding Truth in Halloween is a good article to start with. It has some great ideas for All Saints/Halloween party with downloadable coloring pages for kids.
This is a great alternative way to share stories (maybe of the saints that have most influenced you life), decorate pumpkins if you must but also consider some alternatives like decorating window panes with non-toxic paint markers, making Christmas decorations and wreaths. This article from Christianity Today is a thoughtful approach. You may also like to look at: Should Christians Celebrate Halloween and Should Christians Celebrate Halloween (yes 2 different articles with the same name) which are good articles about this.
One of my favourite ideas is Reverse Trick or Treating: The goal is to publicize the fact that most chocolate sold in the US is tainted by child slavery and exploitative conditions for adult workers. Fairtrade eliminates child labour and ensures healthy working conditions with a living wage for workers.
Thousands of groups of Trick-or-Treaters in the United States and Canada will unite to help:
- END poverty among cocoa farmers
- END forced/abusive child labor in the cocoa industry
- PROTECT the environment
- PROMOTE Fair Trade
How? By distributing Fair Trade chocolate to adults, attached to a card explaining these problems in the cocoa industry and how Fair Trade presents a solution. You can learn more about this initiative here.
My growing concern for just working conditions for children makes me a strong advocate for this. I think it is a wonderful way to raise awareness of these issues and show consistency for our values.
I love this little video that some reverse trick or treaters put together a couple of years ago – not sure if they were part of the Fair Trade movement though.
Green America also posted an interesting article a couple of years ago that is worth a read. It highlights some of the concerns about the toxicity of paint and the waste of materials. Here are some of their thoughts and suggestions:
- “In 2019, the National Retail Federation expected the 172 million people who celebrate Halloween to spend a whopping $86.79 per person, mostly on costumes and candy. That money adds up to a staggering $8.8 billion across the nation.”
- Face paint: A 2009 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that 10 out of 10 children’s face paints tested contained at least trace levels of lead. This article provides some DIY alternatives.
- The Candy Problem: 41 million kids in the U.S. go trick or treating. No wonder one out of three children in America are overweight and many will develop diabetes. Consider making your own healthy treats, giving out non food items like polished stones, temporary tattoos, or friendship bracelets.
- Swap costumes: Millions of costumes are purchased in the U.S. each year. Consider holding a pre-Halloween party to swap, mend, make, or borrow costumes from your friends.
- Organize a Community or Neighbourhood Event. Green Halloween started in Seattle but grew into a national phenomenon with community events at more than 50 locations. You might want to join in the fun and get to know some of your neighbours.
What to do with the pumpkins though? Make the most of them. Kids and adults alike love carving and decorating pumpkins, but I hate to watch them slowly rotting on the porch. I grew up with pumpkin as the main part of my diet. It is great in soups, pies and roasted as a vegetable. Or as pumpkin bread or muffins. You can also save the seeds and toast them in the oven with a little salt. Here are links to some of my favourite recipes:
- Pumpkin Soup Carribbean Style with Black Beans
- Walk Through the Garden Soup
- Pumpkin Bread. This is a great recipe – and as it says it is adaptable.
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins – I would use less sugar and whole wheat flour, however.
- Gluten-Free, Grain Free Chocolate Chip Muffins I have not tried this recipe but it looks interesting – uses almond butter and honey instead of sugar.
- Gluten-Free Pumpkin Oatmeal Anytime Squares. Again I have not tried these but they look very interesting.