Yesterday it was Halloween. Adorable little ladybugs, princesses and cowboys walked the streets of our community loading up on candy from neighbors in their cute, little, plastic, pumpkin buckets, their parents tagging along behind them on the sidewalk. At least, that’s the Norman Rockwell portrayal of the festivities of the night. And I have friends whose families experience replicate it idyllically.
We didn’t celebrate Halloween when our kids were little. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about cute and candy makes me exceedingly happy. I like the Rockwell picture. It’s pretty much what I experienced as a kid back in the good old days.
But Halloween isn’t just that. It’s also scary costumes, spooky houses and horror movies. For some, it’s a Wiccan celebration for connecting with the dead and the spirit world too. And, if you’re an Enneagram 6 like I am, you remember isolated news reports about evil people who laced kids candy with toxins and menacingly killed them. And that takes you over the edge.
So, when my kids were itty-bitties, I decided to find an alternative that offered all the fun without any of the fear. And the church calendar made it easy. The day after Halloween is All Saints Day, a celebration that honors martyrs and saints, known and unknown, flesh and blood humans who lived imperfect but devout lives.
Our festivities began on October 1. The kids decorated their brown paper bags with markers and stickers, stencils and crayons, ribbon and glitter. Every night after dinner we read aloud a story about somebody, somewhere who did something with their life that made Jesus smile. Then we asked the question,
“Who lived a sweet life for Jesus?”
In unison the girls called out the name of the character in our story.
I spent a fortune on our candy stash. No tootsie rolls here. Only the best of the favorites in our candy bowl. The kids chose one piece for their bag and another for desert except on bonus nights when they got two. They earned extra candy by independently reading stories about heroes and heroines of the faith and re-telling them to the fam.
Some years we decorated pumpkins with happy faces, carved out a cross or planted fall pansies inside.
On November 1, the night after the neighbor kids got all hyped up on sugar, I cooked a special meal. The kids plundered the dress up clothes bins and created costumes based on their favorite saint and wore them to dinner for the big “reveal”. After they told us who they were and why they chose that person, they got to dump their candy out of their bags and over-consume like the neighbor kids.
Traditions are sacred spaces where family communal practices shape our relationships and I wanted to include Jesus in every single one. I figured that if God’s instructions about loving Him explicitly told me to include Him in my family’s daily routine of sitting and walking and lying down and getting up, then surely, He should also be a focal point in our holiday celebrations.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.Deut. 6:5-9
And in those fleeting early years of innocence and tenderness, I determined to be vigilant about bathing them in beautiful images, lovely thoughts, and good ideas while insulating them as best as I was able from the scary, ugly, evil realities of a broken world.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.Phillipians 4:8
I’ve loved this tradition we shared, not because it’s better than anybody else’s but because it was ours and it was special and it was good.
This year, I texted the family chat and wished everybody a happy All Saints Day. I told them who I chose as my heroine of the faith this year and why.
I asked them who theirs were.
I texted again telling them that in my heart, I’m sending each of them their favorite candy. Crickets.
Sometimes it’s hard to let a good thing go.
To end a tradition.
To wonder if they’ll forget.
To hope they’ll remember.
To acknowledge that the season has changed.
To bless the leaf that first budded, then offered shade and life giving carbon dioxide before coloring our world all golden as it died. Sometimes we’ve got to just watch it float away from the tree, held by invisible arms as it dances gracefully toward the ground. To say it aloud like a benediction, “To Everything There Is A Season.”
One thought on “Who Lived a Sweet Life for Jesus?”
What a great tradition! I never much liked the church holidays around Halloween. Reformation Sunday and it’s hymns always seem so labor intense. But your All Saints Day is a reminder to remember and celebrate all those who have gone before us, labor with us, and still hope for restoration to come.