October 29, 2014

Why I Am So Fond of Halloween

Costumers in bar, Halloween in New Orleans. Jesus!
Costumers in bar, Halloween in New Orleans. Jesus! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
October has been my favorite month for as long as I can remember, and I always look forward to Halloween even though I haven't really celebrated it since college. I recognize that the appeal of Halloween for me today comes mostly from a combination of nostalgia, the long awaited change in the Mississippi heat, and the many horror films one can find on TV. The terror some Christians experience in response to Halloween is just an added perk.

What I most remember about Halloween from my childhood is the palpable sense of excitement that was always in the air. Sure, some of this happened around Christmas too but nothing to the extent of Halloween. First, there was the planning that went into one's costume. What will I be this year? What are my friends planning to dress as? These seemed like such important decisions at the time.

Next, there was the anticipation building up to the day itself. In elementary school, we'd be permitted to wear our costumes to school on Halloween or the last school day before Halloween. Our teachers would be in costume, and the school would be decorated so much that the whole thing felt more like a carnival than school. Granted, this didn't last long, but it was sure fun while it did. I don't think anybody learned much of anything that day, but we all needed a break from the grind.

But most of all, there was Halloween night itself. I vividly remember the sense of excitement, so strong that it felt like electricity in the air. This eclipsed Christmas by a mile! Christmas was always so safe and predictable; on Halloween, one never knew what to expect. Anything could happen.

Halloween night was about danger, mischief, and the willful suspension of disbelief. Would this be the year the egg-throwing teenagers finally caught us? That always seemed to be a very real threat. Would the neighbor down the street top his amazing decorations from last year? We had a few families in the neighborhood that turned their front yards and/or garages into elaborate horror scenes every year with multiple actors, much like what one would find at a slick haunted house attraction today.

Halloween was the one night a year that it was okay to scare ourselves by pretending that some of the things most of us (though not all of us) recognized as fantasy might be real, even if only for one night. The shadows concealed terrible things, as the familiar landscape morphed into something else. We'd run from imagined monsters for the fun of it, and we'd do everything we could to frighten each other.

When I look back on these experiences, I can't help find myself feeling sorry for children who are intentionally deprived of them today because their evangelical Christian parents are worried that Halloween is too scary, too pagan, or simply to much fun. The experiences we perceived - rightly or wrongly - as potentially dangerous were some of the most fun and memorable. Sorry, but JesusWeen is a pathetic alternative to Halloween that in no way provides children with experiences worth remembering. Instead of trying so hard to ruin Halloween for others, it would be great if the evangelicals could take a day off from pushing Jesus.
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