There is much talk about Halloween this year.
In the church, the talk swirls around what to do with a holiday that falls on Sunday. I particularly like this well-written post on Times and Seasons.
Do we trick-or-treat? Do we turn on our porch light and welcome others to our front door?
In Utah, where there is a large body of LDS members, the whole lot can shift easily to Saturday night.
Outside of Utah, however, it is a different story. We live on a cul-de-sac with some wonderful, strong, religious families. Our Sabbath observance, however, is much stricter than theirs. So what to do?
One of the great things about our church is that we are given remarkable latitude to decide for ourselves. We don't have a church leader telling us over the pulpit what we can and cannot do on Sundays. There is no list of Seven Deadly Sabbath Heresies.
So each family makes a very personal decision as to what Sabbath day observance means. I'm sure we've all seen this as we've gone into each other's homes on Sunday. Some watch football and do homework; others stick to reading religious materials and listening to MoTab.
In our family's case, things have evolved over time. At one point we made a rule that there was no playing outside on Sunday. After a few miserable months of ping-ponging around the house, we said, "For crying out loud, we have four boys who just sat through three hours of church." We threw open the doors and set them free.
Most Sundays we take a long walk around a nearby lake. We talk about this grand earth our Heavenly Father made, just for us. We talk about how to reverence nature.
We pull out a large church bin of felted Book of Mormon stories and Friend magazines. Seth holds weekly interviews with each boy and leads a wildly popular "Daddy school" on gospel principles. The reward for correct answers is chocolate chips.
More than anything, we've changed to focusing on the do's rather than the don'ts. We want our kids to remember Sunday as something special. This means we invite families over to share in a good meal. We write letters to friends and missionaries. We read and write in journals on a blanket in the backyard, or put on skits in the basement. We home teach and visit teach. We keep it quiet and simple.
So we come to this year's Halloween. As I've said before, I'm no big fan of the holiday. For me, the highlight is visiting with neighbors. It's the one day out of the year when the entire neighborhood emerges in a spirit of fun and friendship. Our ward trunk-or-treat will give the kids their fill of costumes and candy, but it won't strengthen our relationship with neighbors.
So I've thought a lot about what to do this Sunday. I've thought about what will happen if we shut off our front porch light and allow Halloween to pass by our door.
All this thought brought me back to a summer I spent interning at a magazine in Washington, D.C. I worked in an office with two other women, one of whom was my boss. The other woman loved listening to music while we worked. After the first day, my boss leaned over with a concerned look on her face.
"Are you okay with this music?" she asked. I told her it was fine. This went on for a week.
Finally one day while the other woman was out of the room, my boss blurted out, "So, I thought Mormons weren't allowed to listen to rock 'n' roll or dance or anything."
As someone who loves music and dancing, I got such a kick out of that experience. I've had people ask me before if we celebrate Halloween. The answer is yes, yes we do.
Which means even this year we will turn on our porch light and welcome the neighbor kids. We'll let our own children decide whether or not they want to visit the dozen houses on our street.
It will still be the Sabbath. We will still be faithful Latter-day Saints.
Only this time, I'll be wearing a gorilla costume.