Halloween is one of those holidays that can be an issue for Christian families, trying to reconcile the general evil and darkness that pervades the season with what is truly exciting activities. I mean, what kid doesn’t like dressing up as his or her favorite character and get a haul of candy on the same day? But all believers have to wrestle with their level of participation in this season.
Carving pumpkins is a standard Halloween tradition, but one that has some not-so-fabulous roots from a Christian perspective. Our family, however, has adopted an alternative practice that turns carving jack o’lanterns into a very teachable moment, and has now become an annual illustration of the saving work of Jesus’ salvation in us. We tell a story as we carve them, that goes a bit like this:
1. Sin – The pumpkin is just like each of us, and the state of our heart before we gave our lives to Jesus. There’s nothing clean or nice in us, just like the icky guts of a pumpkin. Not sure about you, but my kid’s noses turn at the sight and feel of a pumpkin’s innards! Easy illustration.
2. Salvation & Forgiveness – It’s a lot of work to clean the inside out of a pumpkin, and not a pretty process. Same with our hearts. But Jesus died & rose again, making a way for us to experience radical change, and be clean from the inside out.
3. Change & Regeneration – We don’t just keep the goodness of what Jesus has done for us hidden inside. It shows on the outside, how we act, even visibly by the joy on our faces! Lots of pumpkins are made to look as mean and evil as possible; ours big, toothy smiles. After all, Christ gives us life and life abundantly, and joy! Psalm 16:11.
4. The Holy Spirit – Just like the disciples experienced in Acts 13:52, we have joy, and we are filled with the Holy Spirit. The illuminating power of the Spirit fills our hearts and minds, and shines bright so others can’t miss it! We let the candle inside the pumpkin symbolize this.
You can develop this as simply or in detail as needed with your kids, depending on their age and understanding. Just an encouragement not to hold back though: my wife and I are continually amazed at the perception our 4 year-old daughter has in spiritual matters, even the things we expect to not quite make sense yet. It’s simple faith, even when she asks questions. And that’s dialogue that we love to have, especially in helping kids understand why as Christ followers we might treat things a little differently than everyone. Even pumpkins.