What We’re (Not) Doing for Halloween This Year

Last year, I went trick-or-treating for the first time in my life.  Up until that point, as a matter of principle, I never even handed out candy on Halloween.

I grew up in a family that didn’t celebrate Halloween because my parents felt uncomfortable with participating in a holiday that had roots in the occult.  Therefore, on Halloween night, we either stayed home or we went to the fall festival at our church.

I didn’t resent my parents for opting out of Halloween — not at all.  In fact, I appreciated it.  I mean, I didn’t want any part in celebrating something satanic.  But I definitely paid a price for it at school.

Awkward Abstinence 

When my teacher gave me coloring sheets with witches and jack-o-lanterns, I sheepishly explained that I didn’t celebrate Halloween and asked if I could have a different one.  That was always awkward.

The worst part was when it came time for the Halloween party.  It was impossible to discreetly opt out of that, but I did my best, which usually just resulted in me quietly leaving for the library.  I was okay with that — however, what I was not okay with was the year my fifth grade teacher brusquely told me to go sit in the hallway during the party.  She almost seemed angry with me.

I initially felt embarrassed — sitting in the hallway was usually a form of punishment — but then this cute girl named Jessica got sent out there too.

“You don’t celebrate Halloween either?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

My heart skipped a beat.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I’m a Jehovah’s Witness,” she said.

Great, I thought, we’ll just be weird together.

Awkward Participation

If you’ve celebrated Halloween your whole life, it’s hard to explain how uneasy I felt three years ago when I went trick-or-treating for the first time.  I wasn’t naturally inclined to do it, but my wife and I talked about it, and we figured God wouldn’t care too much if we dressed our toddlers as fairies and got some free candy from the neighbors.  Besides, we thought it would be fun to do as a family.

It wasn’t.

To be fair, things got off to a good start — the people in our neighborhood were really sweet to our daughters, and the girls loved dressing up.  But eventually, I started getting concerned about the creepy ambiance.

I know this was naive of me, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the plenitude of witches, zombies, ghosts, and live-action, death-themed yard displays.  I mean, I haven’t even exposed my girls to Ursula from The Little Mermaid — and all of a sudden, our little fairies were getting a moderate dose of horror-movie-lite.

Most people would probably think I was being overly-sensitive, but they wouldn’t if they could’ve seen the horrified look on my two-year-old daughter’s face when this kid ran up wearing a demonic, screamy-faced mask.  When she was afraid at bedtime, I felt like I had let her down, that I should have known better.

A Man Dressed Up as a Jerk

In the end, I suppose the worst trick of the night happened at this one house where we knocked on the door and no one came at first.  We almost left, but then I noticed someone was peeping through the blinds at us.  When I looked at them, they pulled away and their finger bumped a little stained-glass suncatcher in the window that said, “Jesus is Lord.”

Finally, the doorknob turned, and a heavy-set, middle-aged, bearded guy opened the door wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt.  His teenage son was standing behind him looking at us.

“Trick or treat,” my wife and I said awkwardly.

“Excuse me?  What are you talking about?” he said with his brow furrowed.  I could see where this was going.

“Um — we were just taking the kids around to — you know — get candy — because it’s Halloween or whatever,” I said.

“Well, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I mean, we’re about to go to a party.”

Yeah, I’ll bet you’re going to a party, 
I thought. It’s a fall festival at your church.  I’ve been to that party, buddy.  You don’t have to put the rest of the world on a guilt trip for going around and getting free candy on the devil’s birthday.  

And with that, we took our daughters by the hands, went to a different house, and unsuccessfully tried to shake off the feeling of embarrassment.

Burned out on Tricks

Halloween kind of left a bad taste in my mouth last year, and you can call me a quitter, but I think we’re going to pass on the trick-or-treating this year.  I mean, after last year’s experience, I definitely don’t plan on taking the girls around the neighborhood to see if someone can permanently traumatize them with a reenactment of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

We heard there’s a church down the road that’s doing a family festival, so we’re thinking that maybe we could do that this year instead.  I’m sure the “Jesus is Lord” party pooper will be there, in which case I think I might walk up and ask, “What are we all doing here? Why is this festival happening?  Help me understand why they’re giving out all this free candy.”

Regardless, after my experience with the old party pooper, I know one thing for sure: I’m definitely finished with being the Halloween boycotter who keeps the lights off when kids are trick-or-treating.  Maybe I do think that Halloween is a dark, death-obsessed holiday that’s too scary for toddlers, but when a kid with the demonic mask comes to my door this year, I’m not just going to tell him Jesus loves him — he’s getting a handful of Jolly Ranchers.

I originally posted this in October of 2013 (and yes, we’re taking the kids trick-or-treating this afternoon).  If you’d like an email with a weekly recap of what I’ve written, click here.  You can also keep up with my latest articles (and more) on Facebook or Twitter.


  1. Graeme Phillips

    Very interesting and thoughtful article.

    In my pre-Christian days, I did trick-or-treating on one occasion, though even then, I was normally too indifferent. I did (and still have) a plethora of other sins though.

    The part about dressing up cute instead of scary is an example of the UK expression “polishing turds”. Another example of that is “Christian clubbing” (where people remove a few worldly elements and think it is ok): – an oxymoron if one ever existed.

    I really like this article, as it is a great illustration of how we think little tiny steps towards the world won’t harm us. It reminds me of the illustration given by Boundless in the guide to finding a mate about alligators: – fleeing from an alligator does not mean going up to it and seeing how much you can tease it before you become its lunch.

    A situation we all find ourselves in: – we think we can take just a little bit of something we know isn’t right, we think we can handle it and then we end up regretting it.


  2. Hi Josh,

    I just found you today while reading some of the ACLJ articles; and I am thrilled! First of all on the subject of not profiling people based upon their mid-Eastern appearance. That makes complete sense because for one we are seeing more and more blonde haired blue eyed people who have decided ISIS and terrorism is their “thing”. Also, you are correct in that not all Muslims are terrorists; however, since the majority still are, I AM paying attention – especially to my surroundings and if anything doesn’t “look right,” doesn’t matter what they look like. If possible, me and mine are “outa’ there”!

    This could be, for instance, while standing in line at WalMart a few years ago during Christmas-time shopping, I just about had a heart attack (embellished) – but it was frightening – when all of a sudden about three policemen come up quickly, pull their guns on the persons two or three behind me and told them to drop to the floor on their face and lay down any guns they have. This, of course, happened very quickly; and one of the people did have a gun, which just like on TV the policemen moved it away from the “perp”, and they proceeded to put on handcuffs and get them out of there. None of them were middle Eastern appearing, or Muslim appearing. They looked like three white kids dressed in those long black coats.

    And I agree that we are not given a “spirit of fear” – but we are to be discerning and to protect our lives and others around us – because there’s still plenty of lives to be “saved” here on earth. And yes, when my time is up, I know I’ll be in the presence of the Lord – really looking forward to that! But in the meantime my kids and grandkids need me here; so I’m still going to try and pay attention enough that I won’t find myself in a death trap. I’d rather err on the side of caution. If anybody is acting “strange” – or “suspicious” – I’m probably just gonna go the other way – and I can always pray for them.

    The Halloween thing – I grew up with it – but after learning much more about it – and as happened with your little girls – the same thing happened when my daughter was six – she was terrified when this guy came out of a casket which was standing by the door, dressed up with the intention of terrifying, and looked at her like he could kill her. Then we had the neighbor who decorated his whole yard with figures of women being hung by their necks, or hung up after their necks were chopped off. My daughter and I were both afraid to even drive by there – and we’re not “scared-y-cats”. (She is grown now.)

    For a while, I put a sign on my door that said “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” – and at that point, I would still open the door, hand out some candy and a Christian pamphlet on salvation. Still like that idea. We also do the church’s huge community effort (all free to the community) – fall festival.

    But for a few years I was so obnoxious at work (they all liked me so that was the only way I got away with this) – and let it be known rather loudly and emphatically that I hate halloween. Well, I really don’t like it – but the Lord convicted me of my “obnoxious-ism”. 🙂

    I think it’s the same thing as is explained in the Bible, if eating or drinking something is possibly a deterrent to someone coming to the Lord, then I don’t need to partake. I think if the subject of halloween comes up in a conversation we can share what we may have learned with someone – if He leads. But to just be ugly about it – well, that doesn’t make “Christianity” very attractive to those who have no idea they’re doing anything wrong. To them it’s just a tradition. We are supposed to win them over with “love” if possible. Then if that doesn’t’ work we’re supposed to “scare the _ _ _ _ out of them”! (paraphrased) 🙂 Or, better yet, just share that both Heaven and hell are real.

    The really scary stuff – and coming to the door where you have little ones – I think those are the years to just leave the light off. I also used to leave a bowl of candy with my sign (This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it) – if I went out with my children.

    Thank you so much for what you’re doing and thank you for letting me share. God bless you and your family!

    Karen Young


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