Having recently spent time in my beloved Beijing (and thanks, by the way dear BJ for having horrible air most of the time I was there, but then deciding to clean up your act about the moment my plane took off. But I digress.). Where was I? Oh yes, having recentely spent time in Beijing, I am struck afresh by how much of life happens on the streets.
Breakfast stands pop up.
Fruit and veggies to be sold.
Poop (some might say a little too much life).
Dancing, badminton, car washes.
Life, life, life!
Without garages to pull into and the high value of private space, there is a level of engagement that is different than life in the West.
People, we have an opportunity this Friday night to get out there and mingle with our neighbors. One of my very first blog posts encourage people to “Take back the streets.” In part I said:
I have mixed feeling about the “Fall Festivals” that have become the norm at many churches and other places of gathering. Part of me applauds the church looking for ways to be a haven and being willing to open their doors instead of close them. But another part is kind of turned off by the withdrawal and segregation. It’s the ONE night a year in America where we are socially sanctioned to wander around our neighborhoods, knock on each other’s doors and greet one another. The ONE night. And what have we done, we have said safety is more important than engagement (I told you, you might not agree).
The main push back I have gotten is over the origin of Halloween. I really never intended to take a massive stand on Halloween. The truth is I care about relationships and finding connecting points. I don’t know much about the origins of Halloween and, frankly, it doesn’t really interest me because I believe nothing, absolutely nothing is beyond the hope of redemption.
Do bad things happen on Halloween? Sure. Do bad things happen other night of the year and in the name of evil. Absolutely (and tragically so). Do I ABHOR the evil perpetrated against children or cats? Big fat yes.
But as one who bears the Image of God, I also bear the image of fun and creativity and playfulness. Of connection and joy and giggles. Of memory building and traditions. Do I delight that God made us in His image? Bigger, Fatter Y-E-S.
Now, can you just tun off your lights and not engage on Saturday night and still be an Image Bearer? Of course. And that’s fine!
However, if you’re looking for some creative ideas for Saturday, here are a few I’ve heard:
1. A group of teachers in China live in a building shared with graduate students. They hung up a sign explaining about Trick-or-Treating and asked students who would be willing for foreign children to Trick-or-Treat to hang up one of the provided pumpkins.
2. A family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania hands out hot dogs to those passing by their house. This year they wrote to a record label and and pitched the idea of Christmas Music CD’s being handed out with hot dogs. The record label LOVED the idea and sent 100 of David Crowder’s CD. My friends are not all that taken with Halloween, but they are taken with their neighbors and with Christmas. I only wish I lived closer because who doesn’t love a hot dog on a cold night?!
3. A church in Denver held their Fall Festival on Sunday night to free up their congregation on Halloween.
4. My sister and her family have started leaving a bowl of candy on their front porch so no one has to stay home. We get to wander their neighborhood as a family connecting with neighbors and fellow Trick-or-Treaters. (And this year for the first time ever Del, Elizabeth and I have a themed costume we’ll do together! Can’t wait!)
Engagement can come in many forms, be creative. Find one that works for you, your stage of life, your family and your personality.
I’d love to hear more ideas of ways you have found to engage and connect with folks. Anyone else planning a costume for this year?
Susan Gaines says
I really do like your thoughts on the subject in terms of connecting. One thing I don’t like is scary costumes on others that frighten small children dressed in princess, pirate, super hero costumes. Loved the hot-dog set up. I like the idea of setting a fire pit in the driveway and inviting friends over to sit with you to watch the parade as they help themselves to candy. So glad you’re back and look forward to more thoughts.
Helen schleicher says
Thanks for your thoughts!!! However, we are older and do leave our home on Halloween.. We will in a neighborhood that is very unfriendly and really don’t care to know these people… However, when we were growing up after our tricks and treats were over we had a big bonfire and and roasted wieners and the whole neighborhood made all kinds of food…Of course we did not want to miss that part of Halloween. Enjoy your blog Amy….Mother of Denise Banker in China..
Helen schleicher says
Thanks for your thoughts!!! However, we are older and do leave our home on Halloween.. We live in a neighborhood that is very unfriendly and really don’t care to know these people… However, when we were growing up after our tricks and treats were over we had a big bonfire and and roasted wieners and the whole neighborhood made all kinds of food…Of course we did not want to miss that part of Halloween. Enjoy your blog Amy….Mother of Denise Banker in China..
Katherine Haire says
Great comments on community! I can’t wait to hear more about your time in Beijing. Covering you as you wade through all the emotions (joy, grief etc) that a trip “home” can stir up.
Kelly Chripczuk says
I agree, Amy. I really don’t like Halloween – I’ve never liked being scared for fun and find so much of it ugly, but we always participate because it’s one of the ONLY times that people in our old neighborhood would all be outside. We now live next door to a little development – I don’t think we’ll get any trick-or-treaters (yeah! I won’t be spending $20 on candy!) but I think next year we may hand out candy at a neighbor’s house in the development just to be part of things and get to know people.
I also feel like it’s such a great opportunity to be creative and do something fun with my kids (when I can get past the stress of costumes). My daughter and I had fun making an inexpensive owl costume this year.
I also thought that about churches doing their own thing – I wonder how many outsiders really come or whether it just becomes one more way of staying “safe” and segregating?
Judy Bonnell says
I haven’t done this, but I heard of someone setting up the garage like a barn with bales of hay, etc. and serving hot apple cider. Sounds fun and a good way to get to know neighbors.
I really, really like this idea! And our garage is still empty enough to do it!
Thanks for sharing, Amy! I wholeheartedly agree. Our views were shaped early on this – not because we wanted to take a stand one way or the other, but because Halloween happened to be our unbelieving neighbor’s favorite holiday of the year. Of course we were going to their party! Of course we were going to dress up, and trick-or-treat, etc. It was our way to step into their family’s world and love on them/ not judge them. It was always a win. Next house, next town…same thing. Our closest neighbor’s were wired the same way. Of course we would go to their party, wear the costumes, eat the freaky Halloween foods and develop those bonds with them. Amen, sister. Keep on!
Thank you for this, Amy. You’ve put my thoughts on the subject into words here. When it comes to culture, we can choose to embrace it, reject it or redeem it. I agree with you that absolutely nothing is beyond redemption, including this wacky American holiday. We’re still sorting out what that means for our family. We were blessed by the gift of a huge pumpkin and made memories carving it with our kids last night. We attended our local expat club’s Halloween party and we’re having trick or treat for our team kids for the first time ever (which can perhaps grow into something bigger to engage our community with a little more planning next year). I’m looking forward to seeing how the locals in our neighborhood react to a bunch of foreign kids parading around in costumes. It will be a connecting point, for sure!
Amy, I wanted to tell you about another way I’ve seen Halloween redeemed. In my hometown, the youth group goes trick or treating for canned goods to donate to the local food bank.