Navigating faith, love, and life in the Netherlands

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Halloween in the Netherlands



It's almost that time of year again...time for Halloween.

A time of trick or treating and going to neighbors or family (or Trunk or Treat)...
Cute costumes for kids....
Pumpkins with faces or other figures carved into them...
Candy, candy, and more candy...

Oh, sorry.  I got distracted there.  I thought we were talking about Halloween in the US.


Let me start again.  Time for Halloween in the Netherlands...

Zombies, skeletons, ghosts, and witches
Pumpkins with faces
Haunted houses or walks
Blood and guts

Yes, we have all of that in the US too for Halloween.  The thing is, only the scary parts have been exported to the Netherlands.

My brother and I

The Christian reaction

Many Christians I know have been posting articles on Facebook about how terrible Halloween is.  How terrified kids can get.  How Christians should have nothing to do with it.  How it's only about blood and guts and death.

I will admit that yes, we have these arguments from Christians in the US too.  And yes, there is a connection between Halloween and some pagan festivals, but also a connection to All Saints' Day on November 1.  (Go ahead and research it, I'll wait.)

However, Halloween is one of those cultural holidays that has drifted farther and farther away from these ideas.  (For example, think about how Santa, Rudolf, Frosty, and all those other things distract from "what Christmas is all about.")

I miss the non-scary parts of Halloween.

As a kid, I grew up trick or treating.  Because we lived in the middle of nowhere, my mom drove us around to family and friends.  We would visit her cousins, my great-aunts and great-uncles, and usually ended up at my grandparents' house.  Sometimes we would go to a nearby neighborhood where we could walk down a street or two and have that experience.

I remember dressing up as a pumpkin, Snow White, a "walking dictionary" (I attached various definitions and reference books to my shirt), a "blushing bride," etc.  And yeah, there were those - especially the older teenagers that were still out trick or treating - who had scary masks and costumes.  A lot of houses also decorated with fake skeletons and fake spiderwebs.

Cheburashka (Soviet cartoon character)
At KCA, we had what was called Fall Festival.  Everyone - parents too! - got dressed up and came to school on a Saturday for a costume parade, games, and snacks.  I remember they also always brought in loads of leaves to put in the entryway. Here I saw some of the coolest costumes.  Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Barbie still in a box. Billa Man. Korean students in the traditional Hanbok dresses.  Avatar. Vintage 80s skiers.

During Fall Festival, we kept the costumes and fall fun, but without the negativity and darkness.

In recent years, I've seen several articles online encouraging Christians to participate in Halloween.  (Hold up! Don't shout at me yet!)  It's a low-threshold way of meeting the neighbors, getting to know them, and sharing Christ's love instead of hiding away in your bunker.  I'd love to try this!

Looking ahead...

I wish there was a way to have this middle ground here in the Netherlands.  

I so wish I could take our kids trick or treating, just to have the experience a time or two.  We have just moved to a new neighborhood, so I'm curious if anyone does trick or treating here.  I would want to wait til the kids are a bit older (they're 2 1/2 years old and 5 months old), though, so I can help explain the scary bits.  

I'd also like to host a fun costume party at our house around the time too - a sort of mini-Fall Festival for school and church friends.

And just as in America, I would probably hide some of their candy from them.  Would I eat it all? That's to be determined. :)