Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Take Back the Day

With Halloween rapidly approaching, I thought it was only fitting to write a few (hundred) words about this controversial topic.

I have heard one major debate against the celebration of Halloween among Christians. Many refuse to partake in the day in any way, shape, or form stating that it is a day of the devil, and should not be celebrated. I dare ask, what exactly makes it the day of the devil? It really wasn't until relatively recently that it became a day where satanists worshiped Satan. And why is that? Could it be because more and more Christians have removed themselves from the day all together?

Allow me to elaborate. I feel that by stepping back, and refusing to participate at all in a day, just a day that the Lord has blessed us with, is basically handing that day right over to Satan. As a result, the day has become more and more gruesome, and horror-filled. There are many aspects of Halloween that, as a parent, make me cringe. I hate that I have to change the channel or turn the TV off every time a Halloween-specific ad comes on and my children become scared. I hate that we had to avoid half of Wal-Mart a few weeks ago because of two life-sized, scary looking, robotic figures that were absolutely terrifying to our son. But how much worse can it get if we, as Christ's followers, continue to turn our backs on this day?

Did you know that the origins of Halloween did not at all begin with Satan? It actually has it roots in many areas and traditions and one of them is Christianity. Today's Halloween is primarily a combination of the Celtic festival of Samhain, and the Anglican Church's celebration of All Saints' Day. Samhain is an Irish term derived from Old Irish, meaning "summer's end." It was meant to celebrate the end of the lighter half of the year and beginning of the darker half. This was a good time for harvesting, and became associated with food and harvest parties as well. Now, this is where it does get a little sticky. The Celts believed that the joining, so to speak, of the worlds allowed spirits, both bad and good, to pass through. The tradition of the disguises began as a ritual of dressing like the bad spirits so that they would think you were one of them and not harm you.

The Trick-or-Treating began with the Scottish tradition of children going to houses and shops and doing a trick, such as singing a song or telling a joke, to get a treat. That didn't even become popular in the U.S. until the 1930s, and it wasn't until much later that it took on the meaning that we know today as children pulling pranks on homes that don't give them treats. The dressing up and going door to door dates back to the Middle Ages when poor people would ask for food in exchange for prayers for the dead. This was known as All Souls' Day.

None of this is to say that Halloween is a completely harmless day. I believe that without the proper spiritual guidance and an understanding of the history behind the traditions of the day, it can lead to bad things. However, to step back from it completely, I feel, simply leads to confusion. There are many days and many things in which we all participate that are not necessarily biblical.

Both Easter and Christmas have traditions rooted in Paganism. Most obvious with Easter is the Easter bunny. Rabbits were a pagan symbol of fertility. Eggs are also an obvious symbol of fertility, and since birds lay eggs in the spring time you have your very logical combination of the Easter bunny and its eggs. As for Christmas, The Romans believed the evergreen tree to be a special plant of their sun god. They would decorate it during the winter solstice to remind themselves that spring and summer would return. The date of Christmas alone was taken from the celebrated birthday of the Persian sun god. It is believed that the Pope, sometime around AD 320, declared it a day to celebrate Christ's birthday because he was tired of their futile attempts at stopping the sun god's birthday celebration. Scholars believe that Jesus was actually born sometime in the spring.

I'm not really here to give you a history lesson on these three most traditional holidays here in America. You can find all of this information yourself. I merely wanted to make a point. What if the Pope at that time had declared that no one participate in any of the traditions and festivities of the sun god's birthday? Would we all be shut ins to this day on what we now lovingly know as Christmas? I'm not saying that they should be dressing up as witches and goblins and ransacking the neighborhood trick-or-treating. But do something. Find a tradition and make it your own. Host a dress up party at your own home where the kids can participate in a safe environment. Include God. Don't just hand the day over to Satan. I don't think that Jesus would want us to shield ourselves completely from a day in which we could be spending quality and creative time together as a family, and reaching out and loving others. It's true that I don't like what Halloween has become, but we, as Christians, should take back the day! It is still a day that the Lord has made! What are we truly gaining by not allowing our children to be cowboys and princesses for a day?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Feels Like Home

I had the chance to visit North Carolina for the first time since we moved back north, two years ago. I don't know why I always say that, because I wasn't really visiting the state. I was visiting my sister, but I guess I have so much love for NC that I felt as though I was visiting her too. I can't explain the feeling I got last week every time I drove around the Charlotte area, but every time I hit those familiar roads, the chorus of Feels Like Home by Chantal Kreviazuk ran through my head over and over again. Why? Why would the one place where I lived the shortest amount of time hold so much sentimental value to me? My sisters are no longer that close to Charlotte (though certainly closer than Buffalo), I definitely have more family closer to us in Buffalo, and more friends, but I can't seem to shake the feeling that Buffalo is just another temporary stop. To look at our apartment here one would think we are quite settled, but that is just my extreme hatred of living out of boxes (which I've done many times). I have actually never felt settled in Buffalo. In fact, in a total of five years here I have lived in seven different places.

If it's possible to fall in love with a city, I fell for Charlotte back in high school. My older sister moved down there just north of Charlotte in the late 90s, and the very first time we visited I was hooked. I am a country girl through and through, but Charlotte is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. At that time though I couldn't really tell you why I loved it so much, but I told everyone I knew that someday I would live there. I guess it wasn't surprising to anyone that when a friend of mine called me after I graduated college and told me she had a job opportunity for me in Charlotte, and she needed a roommate, I jumped at the chance.

Charlotte was where I truly learned to live on my own, became an adult, and started my family. It held my first real job, the first apartment I really paid for myself, our very first home as husband and wife, and our first child. Charlotte managed to grab all of those life changing moments in three short years, and Charlotte grabbed my heart. People like to say, "Home is where the heart is," and I agree. Wherever my family is, will always be my heart and therefore, my home, and I don't know what God has planned for our future, but if given the chance, I would return to Charlotte in a heartbeat. If home is where the heart is, then Charlotte will be my forever home.