I did not have the average Halloween experience of dressing up, trick-or-treating, and making myself sick eating all the candy I collected. Halloween was not a holiday celebrated in my immediate family when I was growing up. My mom has a few pictures in scrapbooks of my cousins and me dressed up like Disney princesses and bright orange pumpkins one Halloween almost two decades ago. It was so long ago I do not recall the event. The pictures are the only such memories I have.
My family's choice not to celebrate Halloween started when I was about five years old. My parents were new believers in God, and the small Baptist church my family attended had hired a new pastor. In the fall of that year, the new pastor explained his views on Halloween to my parents and a few other families in the church. He believed it was a satanic, sinful holiday that should not be celebrated by Christians. He was apparently very persuasive and won my parents over. From then on my younger brother and I were not allowed to dress up and go trick-or-treating on October 31 with our friends.
At first I was a little disappointed and even got angry with my parents. I remember the night my mom told us we would not be trick-or-treating any more.
“This year we are not going to dress up for Halloween,” my mom explained, anxiously anticipating our reaction.
“Why not, Mom?” my brother whined. “Everyone else gets to do it.”
My mom went on to discuss what the pastor had said about Halloween being evil and how we are not like everyone else. She ended her spiel, “We love God and are going to set a good example by not supporting this holiday.”
“That’s just stupid,” I said with my stubborn attitude, and that is how I felt for a while.
I never truly understood why my parents thought Halloween was a bad idea, because I was so young. I just knew that it was something everyone else did, but we did not do, which is a little frustrating for a five year old. But I also knew my family was not the typical family. We did not do a lot of things other families did, like attend high school football games every Friday night or go see movies at the local theater. Instead we went on our own adventures, camping at the lake, shooting guns at the creek, and playing endless card and board games at my grandparents’ house. I enjoyed the things that we did and always felt like it was everyone else who was missing out.
Soon I began to feel the same way about Halloween. At school I would see my friends dressed up like Power Rangers or kitty cats, but I would be in my regular clothes.
“Why didn’t you dress up?” my friends would ask.
“I am not allowed to wear dress-up clothes at school,” I would reply, which was true.
It was not that we were not allowed to dress up. I played dress-up all the time with my brother and my friends. We had a huge trunk filled with old flashy prom dresses, my dad’s old police uniforms, and lots of superhero capes and masks, though we never had anything scary. It was the meaning behind Halloween that turned my parents off, the gory costumes, horror stories, and witchcraft associated with the October night. Because of the negative connotations, we did not dress up and show our support of that holiday.
Even though we did not get to dress up and go trick-or-treating, I always thought our Halloween nights were the best. We created our own holiday. It was the one night each year my entire family would watch a movie together in our pajamas, which meant lots of laughing and quality time with the people I loved. Each year, my family would turn out our house lights, pop popcorn in the microwave, and watch a movie that would make us all laugh in our small quiet living room. We would ignore the knocks at our door and pretend not to be home. I found it very entertaining that I could ignore kids standing outside my house looking for candy.
We continued our celebration throughout the remainder of the weekend. We would visit my grandparents’ house in the country and have dinner with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins outside on a picnic table, celebrating the last days of fall. The crisp fall air would blow the orange and brown leaves, which we raked up in piles and jumped in.
We always bought little round pumpkins, and after dinner we would paint them with bright colors and happy faces to sit on our porches and greet visitors. My brother always painted a Batman pumpkin, and mine resembled Miss America with caked-on makeup and big hair. Chocolate ice cream was served after dinner back in the house.
After our ice cream had time to settle, it was time for the games. The adults would play “big people” card games such as spades and pitch. We kids longed for the day when we would be old enough to join the big people table, but for then we played our own version of Monopoly and a few rounds of Slapjack. On our way out the door my grandma would hand us a small bag of candy and tell us to have a great week at school. After a fun weekend like that we knew we would.
I am very thankful that my family was different from everyone else. Halloween was just one of the ways that we were set apart. I learned through it all that I do not have to be like everyone else. I am a unique person with my own passions and abilities. I do not have to do things just because my friends are doing them. It is OK if I do not want to dress up and go trick-or-treating. My life is my own to live, and the memories I make will last a lifetime.