thoughts on Halloween

This morning, I talked to my Mom on the phone for a short time, and I mentioned that both girls were wearing their Halloween costumes today.  Our school is doing dress-up day today, plus all week in my music classes, parents have been bringing their children in their costumes.  I even created a Halloween-themed class for the week.*

After hearing this, my mom asked me, “Do you mind that I didn’t do Halloween with you kids when you were growing up?”

Because she didn’t.  We did NOT do Halloween.  Mom said that we weren’t going to celebrate the devil’s holiday.  We did not dress up, we did not get or give out candy.  If we were home during our neighborhood’s trick-or-treating time, we kept our lights off, our shades closed, and we did not answer the doorbell (if it even rang).  Some years, we went to see a movie – a special treat, rather than sitting at home not being part of trick-or-treating.  But, no matter what we did do, we most certainly did not celebrate Halloween.

Except for one year.

One year, we happened to be visiting my mother’s parents on a Sunday afternoon.  Also visiting Grandma and Grandpa were my mother’s brother, his wife, and their two daughters who were between me and my younger brother in age.  That Sunday afternoon happened to be the designated trick-or-treating time in that area.  Grandma (my other Grandma, not Grandma Violet) had candy sitting by the door in a big bowl and was giving it out to the trick or treaters who came by, so my aunt suggested that she and my mother dress us kids up and take us trick-or-treating.

I don’t know what my mother’s thoughts were, but all I know is that for whatever reason … she agreed!  She and my aunt rummaged through my grandparents’ basement and created costumes for us.  I think all of us kids were some variation on “farmers,” as my grandparents had been farmers all their lives until moving to the house where they lived at that time.  So, armed in makeshift costumes (I believe my aunt took makeup and drew beards on some of us to make us look more like farmers), and armed with some kind of bag (probably a plastic bag), we kids went trick-or-treating for the first time in our lives.

I don’t know how old I was, but I was probably around 10 years old.  It didn’t take me too long to figure out that it was fun getting candy!  Grandpa and Grandma lived in a subdivision that probably had about 100 homes in it.  As we went trick-or-treating, I remember wanting to hit all the homes we could in the amount of time we had left, as trick-or-treating ended at a certain time.  I don’t remember much beyond that, except for the fact that that was the ONLY time I ever went trick-or-treating in my childhood.

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When I had my first child, JJ and I had to make our own decision about whether or not to celebrate Halloween in some way.  When Lyd was one and then two years old, we just ignored Halloween completely.  But when she was three, friends on our street who have children close to Lyd in age invited us to go trick-or-treating on our quiet street with them.  JJ and I decided to do it.

So, it was only a day or two before Halloween when JJ and I took Lyd out to buy her a costume.  We went at night to our local Kmart, and walked into a well-picked-over and in-vast-disarray costume section.  I knew that I wanted a girly costume; nothing ghoulish or scary for blonde-haired, blue-eyed princess.  When we saw a pink butterfly costume in Lyd’s size, we knew we had a winner.  We brought it home, put it on her, and she was entranced.  She LOVED it, especially the wings.

When Halloween night arrived (here in CA, trick-or-treating is always done on Halloween night, no matter what day of the week it is), we grabbed a bucket from the sandbox for holding candy, and we went trick-or-treating with our friends and some flashlights.  JJ and I went with Lyd, and the friends who had invited us along came with parents and dogs in tow.  We were quite a group, and armed with flashlights, cameras, and high spirits, it turned out to be quite a good time.  Trick-or-treating offered us the chance to meet neighbors we hadn’t met before, and we adults often chatted with the residents of each house long after the kids were ready to move on.  It was neighborly and fun, and although we were the only trick-or-treaters who came through on our street, we had a very good time.

We’ve done that same thing every year, although the last two years, after doing our quiet street with our friends, I’ve taken Lyd and driven a mile over to our good friend from church’s house to take her trick-or-treating on that street.  There’s always been lots of kids with their parents out trick-or-treating, and it always given us a good haul of candy.  😉  This year, Lyd’s good friend who lives on our street is going to go with us over to that street, so Lyd will have a friend to trick-or-treat with.

And, this year, Curious J is coming along.  We were given a few hand-me-down costumes from a friend, and they fit J perfectly.  She wore her kitty costume to class today, and was entranced by the fact that the costume had a tail.  She looks darling in it.  I’ll be sure to bring along her stroller for trick-or-treating, as I don’t think she’ll be able to do all that walking on her own.  But I’m looking forward to giving her her first trick-or-treating experience this year.  Lyd is dressed up as a princess, of course.  She has a pink Sleeping Beauty gown that she accessorized out with the pink tiara, clip-on earrings, necklace, and ring that I gave her for her birthday.  She is truly a pink princess.

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So, what are my thoughts on celebrating Halloween, and how do they differ from how I grew up?

Well, I don’t think Halloween means what it used to.  Just like Christmas has (sadly) lost much of its original meaning through secularization, I think the same has happened to Halloween.  It’s more of a secular, non-religious holiday than it used to be.  For little kids, Halloween is simply about dressing up and getting candy.  That’s it.  There are no undertones of anything spiritual.  Yes, there’s people who like to celebrate the “dark side” of Halloween, but I’m not comfortable doing that.  I doubt I will ever be one to decorate my door with skeletons or skulls or fake blood or tombstones or scary creatures.  That’s not me, I don’t want to focus on the dark side of Halloween.  However, pumpkins and candy and dressing up in fun costumes — I’m okay with that.

So, we’re doing just a little bit of Halloween at our house.  I still feel strange “celebrating” Halloween, but with each successive year, it feels less strange.  I felt decidedly wicked the first year we went trick-or-treating with Lyd, and I remember avoiding telling my parents what we had done.  But, my parents eventually found out, probably because we sent them a picture of their granddaughter in her pink butterfly costume.  😉  In fact, two years ago when Curious J was just a month old, Mom was here in California for trick-or-treating night.  She babysat J while we went out.  She seemed surprised when we informed her of our plans, but she didn’t argue or try to talk us out of it.

And, today, as I said at the beginning of this post, she asked me what my thoughts were on my childhood.  Do I mind that we didn’t celebrate Halloween when I was growing up?

I think that my mom did what she believed was best and most God-pleasing for her children.  It would have bothered her conscience to let us go trick-or-treating, so she did the right thing.  Times change, though, and holidays and customs evolve with every generation, and I am now quite comfortable with what JJ and I do with our girls on Halloween.

My only concern with how my family avoided Halloween when I was growing up is that I implicitly learned to judge people who did celebrate Halloween.  I felt that I was better than them because I wasn’t participating in celebrating the “devil’s holiday,” and I saw them as worse Christians than me.  Even when I was a grown-up going trick-or-treating with my child for the first time, I really did feel wicked.  I felt like I wasn’t being a very good Christian.  But, it helps to be married to a pastor, especially a pastor who doesn’t share the same view of trick-or-treating on Halloween that you do.  😉

So, around Halloween time, we do trick-or-treating, we do candy corn, we decorate pumpkins, and tomorrow we’re even (hopefully!) going to carve a jack-o-lantern pumpkin on our kitchen table.  We hope to put a candle in it, and put it outside our front door.  I’ve never done that before, so hopefully it actually works.  This kind of a Halloween celebration, I can feel comfortable with.

And I do like all the candy. 🙂

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Question: Did any of you have similar experiences regarding Halloween as I did growing up?  If so, how have your views on Halloween changed as an adult and/or a parent?  I’d love to hear your comments.  Thanks!

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