You spent a couple weeks decorating your front porch and lawn to get it just right. After dark, the headstones and spider webs looked so realistic. When the trick-or-treaters arrived, you burst open the door, appearing to have a massive cut to your forehead and blood streaming down your face. You have a great sense of humor and you wanted to make Halloween fun for everyone … especially yourself.
What you don’t know is that a half-dozen of the kids who pressed your doorbell have had trouble sleeping for several nights. Three others have had night terrors, waking their parents with screams in the wee hours. Several thought the blood was real and have asked what really happened to you or if you’re still alive.
In recent years, Halloween has shifted from a little kid’s holiday to something approaching a second New Year’s Eve for grown-ups. Costumes have become more elaborate and some families now spend more on Halloween decorations than they used to spend on Christmas.
As you make your plans for the evening, please remember that what’s appropriate for adult revelers may not be suitable for kids. The gory makeup you’re planning to wear may be perfectly suitable for the adult party you’ll attend or the spookhouse catering to older teens, but it will terrify the five-year-old in a princess costume who rings your doorbell hoping for some M&Ms.
Many Christians are opposed to Halloween because they view it as a Satanic or pagan holiday, or because they’re troubled by imagery borrowed from those themes. May I be so bold as to say I’m bothered by the deliberate efforts to create overwhelming fear, especially among children who have trouble distinguishing between what’s real and what’s stagecraft. Children contend with enough scary things that they don’t need adults to create more of them.
At the risk of sounding like a downer, can I also add that if you have a teen who’s planning to go out on Halloween night, please remind them not to scare small children, either. They can have their fun with their peers, but terrifying the little ones is unnecessarily cruel, even when unintentional.
For a safer, less terrifying approach to trick-or-treat, why not bring your children to one of the many trunk-or-treat events at local churches? The kids will still be able to show off their costumes and get more candy than they could ever eat, but you won’t have to worry about them wandering along dark streets or being terrified by a neighbor who overdoes things.