Halloween and the Laws in our Inward Parts

October 31, 2010

OT SS Lesson #43

When my now-returned-missionary daughter was in second grade, her class had a Halloween party. I sent her to school in a little blue Sleeping Beauty princess costume. As the teacher was setting up for the party, one of the students informed her that she was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that she could not participate in the festivities. The teacher made arrangements for this child to go and sit in the back of an adjoining empty classroom and read books while the class was having the party. My daughter, seeing that another classmate was making a difficult sacrifice for her religion, and knowing that her religion also required the sacrifice of many fun things (like birthday parties on Sundays), told the teacher that her religion did not allow her to go to Halloween parties either. She sat in the back of the classroom that day with the other girl. When my daughter came home that afternoon and told me about what had happened, she said that she couldn’t remember if we were supposed to celebrate Halloween or not (despite having a Sleeping Beauty costume on!!), but she did know that there were lots of things we weren’t supposed to do because of our religion. She figured if someone else was giving up a party for religion’s sake, that it was a safe bet that her religion required it also. My daughter had internalized the part of our religion that requires sacrifice and abstinence. As Jeremiah 31 would have it, this aspect of the law had been written in her heart. After this experience, I wanted to be more careful about how I presented Mormonism to my children. I didn’t want it to become solely a religion of “don’ts.” I recognize the importance of asceticism, but I wanted my family to learn to serve the Lord and keep commandments with a sense of joy and love rather than obligation and fear. I’ve been thinking about this part of SS lesson #43 as we approach the Sunday Halloween 2010. I’m sure that we will see all sorts of different decisions made by LDS families as we decide what our participation in the holiday and our honoring the Sabbath will look like. As we do this, I think it would be instructive to ponder the laws that have been written in our inward parts. For those who decide to hold Halloween festivities on a different day, or to abstain completely:

  • Are you doing this in the spirit of self-restraint or asceticism?
  • Do you feel that fun, costumes, or candy will take away from your focus on worshipping God?
  • Do you believe that the emphasis on Halloween ghoulishness is inimical to keeping the day holy?
  • Is there an aspect of fear of divine punishment if you stray from prescribed Sunday ritual?

For those of you who have decided to celebrate the holiday in the usual manner:

  • Are you succumbing to social or family pressure?
  • Do you view the time spent together as wholesome family recreation?
  • Do you make partial concessions to the holiday by such actions as putting candy on your porch, but abstain in other ways?
  • Do you think that pleasure and family fun is an acceptable way to honor God?
  • How do you justify your decision to stray from more accepted forms of worship?

How has the law of the Sabbath been written in your heart, and how does it affect the decision you have made to participate or not participate in Halloween activities this year?

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16 Responses to Halloween and the Laws in our Inward Parts

  1. Justin Tungate on October 31, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    I don’t care if my kids celebrate Halloween on Sunday every couple of years and I don’t think that God does either.

    My rule of thumb is that if it’s not OK to do on Sunday then it’s probably not OK to do.

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  2. Course Correction on October 31, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    Nice post. Your daughter was an unusually sensitive child. What a blessing to so insightful at such a young age.

    I would love to be in your SS class. I think the reasons we act or fail to act are as important as our actions. I hope you report on the discussion.

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  3. Bored in Vernal on October 31, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    Justin, that’s a good rule of thumb. I’m just wondering, though–do you think the Sabbath should be distinctive from all other days, and if that is your rule of thumb, then what do you do to make it so?

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  4. Melissa on October 31, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    This can easily apply to easter as well.
    I have friends who “invite” the easter bunny to come on Saturday so that they can keep the sabbath part of East centered around Christ. However – when Christmas falls on Sunday they don’t invite Santa to come on Saturday . . . hmm, I guess every thing has some sort of justification on one level or another!!

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  5. Corktree on October 31, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    We’ve tried to keep the secular separate from the spiritual, but in our limited years with children, I think we’re still evolving. We have tried to separate Santa and the Easter bunny from Sundays, but unlike Halloween, the community is not aware of what your participation is.

    So we did the trunk or treat this year for the kids, and we’re compromising tonight. We do want our kids to learn that sacrificing something you may want in order to serve God or show your devotion is part of Sabbath worship, but that we don’t want to pass judgment on the decisions or traditions of anyone else. So we’ll have our lights on and candy ready tonight to show that we are part of our community.

    The rest of the members around us did their own coordinated door to door last night (our Trunk or Treat was Friday) and we didn’t agree so we didn’t participate (plus we were lazy and didn’t want to do three nights of candy). I just have to wonder how it came across to the rest of the neighborhood?

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  6. Joe on October 31, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    I think Halloween can be a fun holiday for kids for many reasons. I do think adults have been progressively ruining it since I was a teenager, but this is true for most holidays which have become overhyped (and not just in the commercial sense.)

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  7. Stephen Marsh on October 31, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Yeah, in some communities it gets strange. My daughter’s best friend’s church did their Trunk or Treat last Sunday.

    Makes you think.

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  8. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on October 31, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    Didn’t Utah do the same thing with the 4th of July?

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  9. Bored in Vernal on October 31, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    Have it the week before?!?

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  10. mh on October 31, 2010 at 10:30 PM

    I’m really impressed with your daughter’s sensitivity. That’s pretty cool.

    Sabbath Days are supposed to be different from other days, aren’t they Justin? I mean the whole day of rest to to *not* do things you do on the other days of the week.

    Utah doesn’t like to celebrate any holidays on Sunday, including the 4th of July and Halloween. It has to do with the whole “keeping the Sabbath Day holy.” I think we could relax a bit, but I’m in the minority. So yes, we often celebrate Sunday holidays the day before. Of course, Christmas and Easter are ok for Sabbath celebrations, but that’s about it.

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  11. hawkgrrrl on November 1, 2010 at 7:28 AM

    I love the story about your daughter. As to no trick or treating on Sunday, it honestly never even crossed my mind. And handing out candy? Many of those who trick or treat in our neighborhood are dropped off from other areas of the city. They are usually poorer. We get a lot of illegals. I’m inclined to want to hand out more, not less, and wish I had sandwiches to pass out too.

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  12. Mike S on November 1, 2010 at 7:53 AM

    I live in SLC. Gave out almost 200 candy bars on Saturday night, the majority of which went to folks from outside out neighborhood. Didn’t get a single Trick-or-Treater last night (Sunday).

    Also, that is great that your daughter is sensitive enough to others that she was willing to join her classmate. That will serve her well in life.

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  13. Alice on November 1, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    We live in Utah, so we went trick or treating on saturday. If we lived somewhere where everyone else went on sunday, I’m not sure what we would have done. Maybe we would have skipped the trick or treating, but thrown a party on saturday or something…

    Although we do have an indoor easter egg hunt with the kids on easter sunday, it’s a fun tradition- and is trick or treating really any different?

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  14. Thomas on November 1, 2010 at 5:21 PM

    I quoted Colossians 2:16 to myself and took the kids trick-or-treating.

    Re: “ghoulishness,” I generally agree with Justin that “if it’s not OK to do on Sunday then it’s probably not OK to do.” I can understand making fun of evil (personified, in our ancestors’ thinking, by ghouls and goblins and things that go bump in the night), but I don’t like the eagnerness with which some people actually emulate it. A silly ghost costume, yes; a slasher-film costume — not me.

    Everybody liked the two little knights, the queen, and the ladybug last night. The ladybug had a particularly good first ambulatory Halloween.

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  15. Ron on November 7, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    Notwithstanding that Halloween has it pagan roots, one can’t help but be impressed with the uncompromising faith that these two little girls displayed and to exercise on the side of caution is a lesson that should inspire Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Thanks for sharing!

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