The way my family celebrates Christmas has everything to do with how we celebrate Halloween. We’re trying to be consistent.
Every October I go into the attic and pull out two large plastic bins full of Halloween decorations and one even bigger one full of costume scraps: wigs, wings, hats, glasses, make-up and, of course, chaps. We go all out for Halloween. And this perplexes some folks. You know the ones.
Some Christians get all in a tizzy about the pagan origins of Halloween. Some of them hold an alternative celebration called “______________ Festival” at their church. Others hand out tracts to trick-or-treaters. Still others sit the holiday out all-together.
But our family celebrates Halloween. Every year. And not once have we sacrificed a virgin or pledged our allegiance to the Prince of Darkness. But, yes, I suppose the naysayers are right: celebrating Halloween is a “slippery slope”. Our celebration of Halloween, I guess, could, theoretically devolve into a celebration of the occult or teach our kids that evil isn’t something to be feared but something that’s fun. I guess. Maybe. It’s possible. Not likely, but…
But we celebrate it anyway because we’re in control of the celebration. I can decide to dress my kids as a butterfly, Spiderman and a puppy and let them ask strangers for candy and at the same time I can not let them slaughter the neighbor’s dog on an altar. See how that works? Slippery slope accounted for.
And celebrating Halloween this way actually does something very positive: It redeems the day. We, as a family, are doing something pretty miraculous when you think about it. We’re taking a pagan celebration of evil (according to some folks) and turning it into a night of conversation and laughter with friends (about three dozen of us walking around the neighborhood) and getting seriously sugar buzzed at the same time. Now, if Satan has anything to do with Halloween this probably ticks him off just a tad – all the fun and neighborliness.
Which brings us back to Christmas and gifts and consistency. Christmas is a pagan holiday stolen, I mean redeemed by Christians. Part of its celebration in America is gift giving. Gift giving is a slippery slope too: It can admittedly lead to gluttony, debt, ingratitude, and can recast us as the central character of the Christmas story and greatly diminish the part Christ plays in the whole thing. But, can Christmas – can gift giving – not be redeemed in the same way costumes and fake cobwebs can?
Now, I know this isn’t what some of you expected me to say in this series. You expected me to say gift giving is a bad idea when there are so many poor kids in the world. Wrong. It’s a fantastic idea. Sometimes it’s even kingdom-ish. Giving people stuff can have transcendental meaning – don’t you feel that in the smile-inducing surprise of the unwrapping moment? Don’t you see something supernatural and downright joyful in the hug and “thank you” that follows? The apostle Paul said it; I didn’t: Christ came to redeem all things.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you how we do the whole gift giving thing in our imperfect family. And I’ll ask you then to tell us how you do it too? That’s tomorrow. Today? Try to relax and enjoy yourself amidst all the slippery slopes lined with fear mongers.