Remember the song This Little Light of Mine that you sang as a kid in Sunday School?
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
As another Halloween was drawing to a close, I sat alone with a depleted bowl of candy on our front porch, waiting for any remaining neighborhood children to come by. It was quiet, almost too quiet. As I surveyed our street, I counted 7 consecutive houses next to us that were completely dark. No porch lights, no sidewalk lights, and no light spilling out from the front windows.
With no street lights in our neighborhood, that type of darkness is noticeable. Our street relies on the lights of each home to keep the neighborhood lit. And on any other night of the year, whether they’re home or away, these families do their part to illuminate the neighborhood. So why not on Halloween, when everyone knows there will be families with children out and about after dark?
Some of these families have told us they don’t do Halloween. They go away for the evening to avoid the Trick-or-Treaters, and make it a family outing. I understand they may not want their kids to have all that candy. Or maybe after being gone since 4:30 a.m. and commuting for a couple hours, they’re just not in the mood to come home and spend an evening dealing with (someone else’s) rude and ungrateful children. I get it, I do. But I suspect there are deeper reasons for their absence on this evening.
Of the families that chose to keep their homes dark, I know at least 5 of the 7 are Christians. To one degree or another, these families are intentional about sharing their faith through their words and actions. That outward expression of their faith on every other day of the year is a stark contrast from their absence and darkness on this night. Why the retreat on this one day?
The case can be made that Halloween, with its ghosts, goblins, and candy, is a secular holiday. But there is no corresponding boycott of Valentine’s Day, or the non-religious aspects of holidays such as Christmas. And how do I reconcile a spiritual justification for skipping Halloween when it’s countered with a celebration at church earlier in the week? There the children donned costumes, played games, and received candy and prizes. I don’t have a problem with churches using the holiday as an opportunity to engage the community, but then it seems the same effort should be made within our neighborhood on the night when people are willing to come to our homes and knock on the door.
We spend the other 364 days a year relying on God’s grace, striving to live an attractive life, looking for opportunities to share our faith with those around us. As neighbors came by on Halloween, I couldn’t help but wonder what message they receive from a home that has been intentionally darkened? How is it being perceived by those walking the streets? Do those who don’t share our faith understand the spiritual stand being taken, or is there a chance the avoidance of the neighborhood on only this one night of the year is feeding some Christian stereotypes? As one who shares your faith, I know I have found it hard to understand.
People close to me, that I love and respect, have made the decision to avoid the usual festivities of Halloween. I share these questions not out of judgement, but simply because I know I’m making some assumptions and I’d like to understand. I readily admit my life is full of inconsistencies. You won’t have to look hard to find a weak witness, or frequent failures in loving my neighbor, likely on all 365 days of the year. Is Halloween a modern day example of Romans 14 (regardless of which viewpoint is exhibiting the stronger faith)?
The second verse of This Little Light of Mine starts out with, “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.” Personally, I enjoy an evening at home, alone with my family, more than you probably realize. I dream of opportunities to hunker down within the safe confines of our home and isolate myself from the world around me. But in a neighborhood where many homes have two working parents making long commutes, rarely is there a time when the neighborhood is intentional about being outside together.
For me, Halloween seems like a fabulous opportunity to get to know them and their children better, to build community, or at the very least to keep the light on for them. Your neighbors are out looking for you. Be engaged. Be visible. Redeem the night. Don’t hide under the Halloween bushel. Let your light shine.