The best part of Halloween as a kid was the candy. All year my parents would put restrictions around eating candy, and warning me against cavities and tooth decay. Then Halloween would come! It was like a free pass one day a year to eat more candy than anyone should. The rules would go out the window!
The second best part of Halloween was dressing up. I distinctly remember, when I was 8, dressing up as David (with a robe and a sling) and thinking I was a shoo-in for the costume contest at my Catholic school. I was quite confused when a witch won instead. C’mon! I was a Bible character and nuns were judging! A witch?! Really?!
I eventually outgrew the idea of Halloween costumes like everyone else I knew. As a teen, Halloween was childish. It wasn’t cool at all.
Then, at some point, it became a thing again to get dressed up and go partying on Halloween. This time the annual free pass wasn’t candy; it was sin. There is a hit horror movie, The Purge, where one day a year everyone can get away with any crime they want. Halloween seems to be that in regards to modesty. People, even “Christians,” take it as permission to sin by showing off our bodies and/or indulging in others who do the same. I haven’t seen The Purge, but I’ve seen many young adults look for that occasional permission to indulge the desires of their flesh.
This isn’t a post about how Halloween is evil, or demonic. Halloween is what you make of it. As I said, for kids, that usually means it’s a fun way to get lots of free candy.
For many adults, though, it seems to be more about eye candy.
It’s a trend that was highlighted (and made fun of) by a Subway TV commercial in which a woman said she had to stay in shape for all the revealing Halloween costumes, like “attractive nurse,” “spicy Red Riding Hood,” and “foxy fullback.” A radio ad I heard (unrelated to Subway) joked about how all the costume choices were, let’s say, “sexy” (the word they actually used was “slutty”). Instead of just a firefighter costume, it was a “sexy” firefighter. Instead of a gorilla, it was a “sexy” gorilla.
So what’s the problem with that? Well, there are a couple of things I can think of.
First, there seems to be a trickle-down effect when it comes to children’s Halloween costumes. I don’t know if it’s because kids want to copy the costumes they see on adults, or because the costume makers find it easier to just scale down their sizes. All I know is that I’ve seen some children’s costumes that start to mirror the “sexy” costumes common among adults. Which is disturbing, because there is no circumstance under which a child should be associated with “sexy.” My 5-year-old will not be a burlesque dancer or a French Maid for Halloween, and I’m sad to see those as options in the costume aisle.
It doesn’t surprise me when adult nonbelievers dress in revealing costumes, or go to parties where that is celebrated. Before I understood what Jesus had done for me, I did the same. I remember the unofficial contest among women of who could “dress up” wearing the least. I recall one Halloween event at a club in Uptown where girls' tops were simply painted. That's right: their costume was paint.
But Jesus changed me, I repented, and that’s not where you’ll find me these days. See, it’s a different matter when you say you’re a Christian, and claim that Jesus is the Lord of your life. Because Jesus says that lusting after someone who is not your spouse is a sin (Matthew 5:28). It’s also not exactly loving to cause or encourage someone to sin in this way (1 Corinthians 8:9; Mark 9:42), and we’re asked to dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9).
Most days, most people do dress modestly, and don’t go to naked-and-painted clubs. But it seems like on Halloween we “purge.”
How to Choose
I’m not saying you can’t wear costumes on Halloween or go to parties with friends. I’m just encouraging some common sense. You want to dress up as a police officer? Great! But in case you haven’t noticed, police uniforms don’t actually include miniskirts and bare midriffs.
What’s sad is that we’re to the point where, particularly for women, it can be hard to find costumes that aren’t focused on being “sexy.” Subway was accused of being sexist for their commercial, but I’d say they were just reflecting reality. A reality we should seek to change.
So, you may have to get creative. You may feel like you’ll stand out because you’re not scantily dressed, and everyone else is. To which I’d say: perhaps you’re supposed to stand out. Maybe this is a chance to set a good example for younger girls, or witness to friends that there is a different way.
Besides, it’s Halloween. It’s not like you want to dress just like everyone else.
What are you doing for Halloween?
(With help from Kevin McConaghy)