Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween as a Christian who cares about the environment - or why I'm still trick or treating despite the good reasons not to

As a Christian who cares about the environment, I have very good reasons for not participating in any Halloween activities.

From a Christian perspective, Halloween is not exactly a godly festival. Many people have suggested that Christians should have nothing to do with it. While I don't think we need to be legalistic about these things, I can understand the warnings. Furthermore, I find it quite sad that the religious day of All Saints Day (or All Hallows) has been reduced to an emphasis on Halloween (Hallow E'en or the day before All Hallows Day). So many of our religious days have been commercialised, losing the original religious purpose of them.

Halloween also isn't good from an environmentalist perspective. Even if we ignore the problem of so much non fair trade chocolate being given out, the high packaging of much Halloween goodies is terrible. Yet while the environmentalist in me shudders at bags of goodies that seem to have more plastic than sweets, the mother in me realises the practicality of having individual packaged goods, especially when children might be receiving sweets from people they don't know. And then there's all the various Halloween paraphernalia, most of it made from cheap plastic that is designed to be used just once and then thrown away. Halloween is not an environmentally-friendly time.

However, despite these very good reasons for not having anything to do with Halloween, my boys will be trick or treating and I will be handing out sweets to the kids that knock on my door. And the reason basically boils down to connecting with the neighbours. And there's very good reasons, from both a Christian perspective and an environmentalist perspective, for investing in neighbourly relationships.

From a Christian perspective, we are to love our neighbours. Now while I do believe Jesus expanded our concept of neighbour to be much broader than just the people living next door to us, it starts with the people who live around us. How am I to love my neighbours if I don't know them? How am I to show care and concern for them if I never speak to them?

From an environmentalist perspective, there's also good reasons for getting along well with the neighbours. When you know your neighbours, you have more opportunities for using less of the world's resources. You can borrow garden tools and other items, instead of going out and buying your own. You can share trips to the shops or carpool to work. You can ask for an egg, instead of driving down to the shops and buying a whole carton for the cake you have already started making.

In today's western society, we seem to be less and less connected to our neighbours. I am lucky that I do know my neighbours. (Living in the same place for 15 years and walking everywhere helps.) But still, I tend to see them when I run into them, rather than actually making the effort. And part of me wonders whether it will always be this way. Some of my neighbours have lived here for 50 years. Eventually, they will either move or die, maybe to be replaced with people who have no neighbourly sentiments at all.

Trick or treating provides my children with the opportunity (and the motivation) to talk to these neighbours while they still can. They can knock on their door, walk around the neighbourhood. For some of my neighbours, it's the only time when my children will actually speak to them. It also gives me the opportunity to show my generosity to the other kids in the neighbourhood who knock on my door.

And some of you may have already realised that I don't need Halloween to talk to the neighbours. I could take around Christmas goodies. I could go door-knocking for a charity. Or I could just make more of the effort to knock on their door and say 'Hi'.

But you know what? Halloween is fun. I love seeing all the children dressed up. I love looking at the street and seeing all the children talking together and comparing goodies. I love the fact that my boys are having fun without a Playstation. And I love seeing their excitement when they come back and tell me what they've received (and often the conversations they've had).

And sometimes we need to have fun. I think a view that people often hold about both Christians and environmentalists is that they're the people with a lot of rules. And rules are good. They help remind us of what's important. But sometimes I think we need to relax those rules. And sometimes those rules stop us doing things that are equally as important.

So my kids will go trick or treating and I'll hand lollies out - and I'll probably feel a little bit guilty, both as a Christian and an environmentalist. But I'll do it anway and I'll remind myself that neighbours are important too.

Happy Halloween (whether you agree with it or not).

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