This Christian’s response to Halloween

It’s the 31st of October, and I’ve got something big on my mind – the final settlement of my birth home in Singapore, the flat my mother and aunt grew up in. But to the rest of the western world, it’s about something far more entertaining – Halloween.

Australia isn’t real big on the Halloween shindig. Part of it is due to the Aussie aversion to anything they perceive as overtly American, and part of it just got left out of its immigrant DNA way back when British settlers arrived, all newly buttoned up and Victorianised. As to its origins, there is a little argy-bargy there too. Some say it was a pagan festival made Christian (like Christmas and Easter – which also have debatable origins, by the way). Others say both early Christian and pagan festivals co-existed before they got merged when Christianity moved through Europe. Mostly out of expediency, because both festival dates were so close.

The name “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. “All Hallows Eve” was eventually contracted to “Hallow-e’en,” which became “Halloween.”

As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with indigenous pagan cultures and confronted established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched that new converts found them to be a stumbling block to their faith. To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in “Christianizing” a pagan ritual—the ritual was still pagan, but mixed with Christian symbolism. That’s what happened to All Saints Eve—it was the original Halloween alternative!

Why am I telling you all this? Because this morning, Arddun finally got to wear her Spider Witch costume – the one with the pointy hat. It’s Halloween dress-up at school today, not that Arddun would have understood its debated Christo-Pagan origins, nor cared. If Spider Pig

  • was a costume that sold in Big W for $12, and
  • included a pointy hat

Arddun would have gone to school as Spider Pig. Because that would have been funnier. And I like funny.

But today, she went to school as a pink spider witch.

Arddun dressed as Spider Witch

On Facebook today, I’m getting a weird mix of Halloween costume selfies and groupies, and a couple of rather upset feeds decrying this pagan festival and its growing encroachment into Australian culture. And while the former is largely to be expected and can be quite entertaining, it’s the latter types that are perplexing me.

Because they seem to be saying – repeatedly – that as a Christian mother, I’m being spiritually remiss in allowing my daughter to participate in these festivities.

I’ve thought about Halloween in passing through my Christian walk, and I’ve had at least three years to think about my convictions on the subject in earnest since I became a mother. So yes, the decision to get Arddun a Halloween costume was hardly a flippant one.

Of course, there are a few elements to Halloween (as it tends to be celebrated) that I take issue with. The sexualising of costumes as children get older, for instance. The fact that Halloween adult parties can rapidly descend to drunken debauchery in certain circles. The greed and sense of entitlement that can come about. (Had quite a few kids expect candies from our house, but didn’t think to prepare a trick when we didn’t have any. They just wanted the lollies and were miffed we were such killjoys. Actually, we forgot.)

The thing is, all of these are within the parents’ control – certainly in the very early years. As with anything, moderation and consistent teaching are required. Manners when approaching someone’s home. Stranger danger and safety. Values surrounding modesty while still maintaining fun. Arddun is not going trick-or-treating this year because I think she’s still too young to be exposed to that many lollies. But that’s a personal judgement call. I think it’s actually a wonderful way to foster neighbourliness, and she’d love it. And maybe we’ll do it next year.

The verses that many Christians often quote to underline the evils of Halloween are as follows:

There shall not be found among you anyone…who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord (Deuteronomy 18: 10-13)

Except why limit that to just Halloween? Don’t we need to be vigilant at ALL times? In such an overwhelmingly secular society as Australia, the religious/pagan element of Halloween has been neutered by supermarket commercialism. And yet, think of other forms of literature we’ve exposed our children to.

  • Harry Potter (witches and wizards, spells, Dark Lord with No Nose)
  • Sleeping Beauty (one really ticked off sorceress or fairy)
  • Snow White (witch/sorceress)
  • Hansel and Gretel (witch)
  • Cinderella (fairy godmother with fashion spells and lousy curfew)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (vampires, ghouls, monsters, werewolves, you-name-it-they’ve-covered-it including bringing Buffy back from Heaven)
  • Frozen (Elsa’s floaty arms are pretty spell-binding.)
  • Lord of the Rings (Sauron, wizards, elves)
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Christian allegory with… a white witch)
  • Enid Blyton (witches, wizards)

Ironically, the only times I’d encountered anything remotely resembling Deuteronomy 18 was when I did door-to-door evangelism in Singapore, and knocked on the doors of a few bomohs and Chinese mediums. Believe me folks, it wasn’t Halloween – it was broad daylight – and there were no scary costumes or candy. But my skin prickled and my hairs stood on end in a way I’d never experienced before. Nor ever want to again.

My faith in Christ is my victory. In Him, there is no darkness and I am under His protection. If I honestly believe that – and I do – then I believe that I can cautiously and intelligently allow my daughter to enjoy this day of dress-up, just as I’ve allowed her to read about Hansel and Gretel, and pretend to be Elsa making a magic living snowman. All while still teaching her who God is.

Also, here’s a really sensible take on Christian responsibility during Halloween.

Categories: Looking Around and Looking Within | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flawed Mommy Love

The past month has been a jumble of fragmented thoughts and intentions, made all the more woolly by chronically interrupted sleep. I try not to squint at people when they tell me – hohoho – to enjoy all the sleep I can now – hahaha – because I will be getting none of that when the baby arrives – heeheehee.

Bullcrap. I’m already sleep-deprived. I haven’t slept deeply before 4.00am in a month. Every night, I fall into this weird shallow sleep punctuated by bouts of punchbag-in-reverse from Boy Blob, and the constant niggling sensation that my bladder is crying for help. When I finally do rouse myself at some unearthly hour and zombie-amble over to powder my nose, I tumble into bed straight after for some serious zzz, only to be awakened by a cheerful toddler re-enacting the wake-up scene from Frozen not 3 hours later. Verbatim.

Yet the skittles of thoughts I’ve been meaning to string together in the one post – or several – remain. I am convinced there is a common thread, although I haven’t found the time to sew.

There’s the skittle about these two women I’ve met – one with seven children, and one with six. I know not where their strength comes from, if not from God. The former homeschools all of them, as her husband is with the ADF and they move every so often. He had been posted overseas recently for months at a stretch, so she held the fort solo. SOLO. Now they’re moving yet again, and are planning a house build at their new destination. The one with six children still manages to find time for the gym. And has her children in bed by 6pm every night (although the older ones get to go to bed by 7pm). Both of them have five boys.

And it’s hard not to look at these surprisingly sane, grounded women and not marvel at their competence. It’s hard not to think about them and find yourself conflicted in your deep admiration for their ways, while simultaneously bashing yourself over your own underwhelming energy levels. I know they do it because they first want to, and then because they have to. When you are a conscientious mother, you find the strength and the will to carry on.

And then there’s the other skittle about these other two women whom I’ve never met, but whose lives touch people close to me. And these two women have many children. And they are struggling. Mental illness can be so, so debilitating. It can snuff out maternal instinct in its black hollowness. So all-consuming a vacuum that there is little oxygen left for love of themselves, much less the children who suffer in their wake. Made all the worse by a crumbling married life, an obtuse community, and just plain lousy choices and willpower. They love their children still, but it ain’t healthy no more.

There’s the skittle about crunchy and silky parenting, and how everyone in parenting land can be prone to getting a leetle beet crazee when it comes to defending their art and science of Bringing Up Junior. And really, most of us are just trying to do the best parenting we can in the best way we know how. Even if we sometimes want to crash tackle someone else’s methods to prove it. Until I became a parent, I had no idea how easy it is to irrationally process every (perceived) criticism of my parenting method as a direct measure of my love for Arddun. I also think that’s why Mommy online forums can be such toxic places, and why I’m mostly leery of them.

(As it turns out, I’m also 80% Silky, with a sprinkling of granola. I think my stout stance on vaccination irrevocably left me out of the Crunchy loop. Oh well.)

And finally, there’s that skittle about Boy Blob and my Arddun, and how I cannot fathom how my life will change. I love Arddun truly, madly, deeply – which is why my heart squeezes at the knowledge that I will be breaking this all-consuming only-child bond in order to make a new one. I have only been an only-child. As such, I have only known the love of a mother of an only-child. Sure, I’ve observed other family units with multiple children and am convinced they love their children deeply. But I’ve only known the love of a mother of an only-child. And with Arddun, I love her as my one and only.

There is a guilt that threatens to eat away at me with every fleeting week that passes us by. Let’s make the most of our precious time together, just you and I, I try to tell myself – except my body is now cumbersome and I cannot walk too far. I shouldn’t behave like this is the end of something good, except it is. I have loved growing up with Arddun these 3 years and counting. I should behave more like this is the beginning of something better and richer, because it is. Except I don’t know how.

And yet I am convinced that my heart will expand twice as big to love twice as large and twice as deep and twice as hard. It is the only explanation that will comfort me, as much as it confounds me. The heart cannot be thought of as a fixed-sized receptacle or a finite bankroll of warm-fuzzies. Rather, I like to think it expands with the using. It gets bigger, the further you venture in. Kinda like a TARDIS.

Oh, the imperfect love of a relatively new mother. Still brimming with hope and doubt and everything else in between.

Categories: Looking Around and Looking Within | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

A photo an hour – 6:43pm

Waiting for Tony at PappaRich

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Categories: Moments and Milestones | Leave a comment

A photo an hour – 5:41pm

Surprise visit from me during home time

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