In October a young kid’s fancy swiftly turns to thoughts of treats. With four young kids in our home, you can guess what’s on our minds lately. At our house we celebrate a thoroughly domesticated Halloween, with no concerns about satanism or sugar, just plenty of candy corn and friendly ghosts and homely, homemade costumes. And trick-or-treating. But this year the calendar plays a trick on us: Halloween falls on a Sunday.
We observe the Sabbath in a fairly rigorous but, I hope, joyful and worshipful way: we commune at Church, and we rest, read, play, walk, bike, share food and music, and make occasional family expeditions during the rest of the day. We don’t shop, swim, sport, party, or work (beyond the necessities) on Sundays. This is a fairly arbitrary regimen, and other Christians surely draw their lines in different places, but that’s how the Sabbath visits our home. We want Sunday to be a day of joy for our children, but we also want it to arrive with a reverent presence.
So how does trick-or-treating fit in? On the one hand, it’s a lot like a party with costumes and candy and lots of raucous, secular fun. Some families in our ward have decided that they won’t trick-or-treat on the 31st, and are planning a substitute costume-and-candy activity on Saturday night. That’s a sabbatarian position I can respect.
But I think there’s a communitarian argument to be made in favor of Sunday trick-or-treating. If the Sabbath is a day set apart for the Lord’s work, then strengthening community ties of trust and friendship should be a priority. And when it comes to family-inclusive, community-building rituals, it’s hard to top trick-or-treating. Walk with the kids through the festive streets, exchange happy greetings with friends and acquaintances of all ages and backgrounds, visit the best annual Halloween displays on the block—and do it all in the embrace of a protected, set-apart time when the rules of daily life are suspended for a joyful period not unlike, dare I say, the Sabbath itself. Halloween is the most neighborly of all American holidays, transforming even the most backyard-oriented subdivision into a lively front-porch community, at least for a night.
So I’m not sure what we’ll do. Both positions recommend themselves to me—and in the end, of course, it’s not a decision of huge moral importance. But it does raise interesting questions about the meaning of Sabbath observance, and, beyond that, about the proper relation of Christian observance to the larger community. Comment on the larger issues, by all means, but what I really want to know: will you trick-or-treat on the 31st?