Halloween has always been a hard thing in my house, because my birthday is on the 28th (yes, OXI day). I was almost a halloween baby, so I've always celebrated my birthday as everyone was gearing up for halloween. I think my parents did a good job of balancing things out-- she let me have parties with pumpkin plates and napkins, stuff like that. And my sister and I did go trick-or-treating, because my parents didn't want us to feel left out. But we were never allowed to have scary costumes. We were things like princesses and pumpkins, and, my personal favorite, a bag of M&M's.
I just have to relay a little story that happened at halloween two years ago... my husband and I and a dear friend of ours were in a party store just before halloween. We were just wandering around waiting for the restaurant next door to seat us (there was a 45 minute wait to be seated that night). We wandered through the costume section just as a woman and her two kids walked up to the giant wall where the costumes were hanging. There were pictures of each costume on a model, and the costumes themselves came in packages. The little boy was probably five and the little girl about seven. The girl picked out a snow white costume and the boy a costume of a soldier in fatigues (no gun). The mother OBJECTED to their picks. She gave the little boy a costume of the devil. Now this wasn't just any costume. It was probably the scariest one I've ever seen. It was truly demonic--- wrinkled, scary mask with the curled horns, etc. And she gave the girl a PROSTITUTE costume! Fishnet stockings, hot pink "leather" mini skirt, tube top, etc. I was appalled. I was even more appalled because the kids obviously didn't want them. They both immediately threw temper tantrums. But she yelled at them both and forced them to take them, saying that if they didn't wear those, they wouldn't wear costumes at all! My husband and Dimitri and I were standing open-mouthed watching the whole thing, our eyes as big as dinner plates. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Personally, I was horrified that the store would even sell those costumes in little kid sizes, but then this display was awful!!! I wanted to say something so badly, and I wanted to hug those little kids, and I wanted to slap the mother (God forgive me). The whole thing made quite an impression on me, which is why I remember it to this day. It was the perfect example of "what are we teaching our children!!??!!"
I don't have any problem, personally, with a halloween alternative for kids, such as a fall festival at Church. This way the kids aren't left out of the festivities (you have to admit that it IS fun to play dress up!), but the emphasis is on good fun, fellowship, community, love, Christ. No scary costumes, no ghost stories... At retreats I've done, we tell saint stories instead. Their much more captivating for the kids, I find, because they're true! And what better way to emphasize Christ and His love than telling stories of miraculous saints!?!