The last time I celebrated Halloween was 1988. I was 4 years old and dressed up as Big Bird. My family did the traditional thing: dress-up, go door to door at night, say “trick or treat,” get candy, repeat, come home, spill the candy, compare with siblings, make candy trades, begin eating candies, get scolded by mom for eating too much candy, get candy taken away and told it will be rationed over the year, argue about how un-fair that was, get a spanking, get sent to bed, sneak out of bed at 1am, eat more candy, get a stomach ache, realize mom was right, sleep in the next morning because I was sick.
Pretty standard stuff (or at least standard for us).
However, gearing up for Halloween 1989, we had to have a family meeting. My parents gathered their 4 children (ages 5-9) in the living room in September and told us we will no longer be celebrating Halloween. Why? My parents, specifically my mom’s, conscience was bothered by the whole event. Of course we didn’t participate in the gory, gross, celebrate death side of Halloween, but that was not the whole reason. She didn’t like the selfishness it produced in her children. “MY costume, MY candy,” etc.
Of course, at 5 years old, this was a bummer. I had a whole childhood ahead of me to enjoy this holiday of candy and dressing up. But now, it was over. I am sure I thought in my little mind that my childhood was over. And I guess to a point, it was. We never dressed up for Halloween again. We never helped out at school for Halloween parties. We never bought candies to pass out. We never answered to door when every little princess, Ninja Turtle, Power Ranger, or Harry Potter would show up.
Sounds sad, huh? I am sure some who are reading are quite shocked by this. But, read carefully the next sentence.
Halloween was the best night of the year!
Did you get that?
Halloween was the BEST night of the year!!!!!!!
How in the world could I say that after my description above? Let me explain.
My parents gave me a gift every Halloween: the gift of enjoying family. You see, we did celebrate, we just didn’t do it in the same fashion as everyone else. Halloween in the Peterson house was celebrating our being together as a family, and we did this through games and fun. The night was filled with Board games, electric car racing, and playing cards. Accompanying these were laughter, fun, and energy of the 6 Peterson’s playing off each others jokes, wise cracks, and just plain silliness. There were times all 6 of us would be on the floor, rolling and crying because someone had a punch-line at the right time, and it could only result in abundant laughter.
Little Jedi’s, Pirates, fairies, and Peter’s Pan’s would ring our doorbell, but we never noticed. Our time was too precious. We were with each other. We, on Halloween night, the night of much superstition, candy, and trick-or-treating, the Peterson’s were a family, in the way that God set up families; to enjoy each other, to encourage one another, and to know that when you go to bed at night, you fall asleep with a deeper understanding of what God meant when he calls us His children, i.e. part of his family.
Halloween can mean all kinds of things to others, but Halloween to me means I am loved by parents who are sensitive to their conscience‘, who love to be with the children, and who desperately want to be separate from the pattern of this world.
What do I do now for Halloween? Nothing. I still don’t “celebrate” Halloween. Not because I believe it is wrong or sinful. I believe that is a matter of conscience. I do nothing, because I don’t see value in it. Others may and that is their decision. I would rather stay home with my family, and enjoy them. For now, that is with my wife. We have no children, but if we did, I think I might carry on the tradition my parents set. Maybe I’ll even invite the grandparents over so they can join in the fun.
Thank you, Mom and Papa, for the gift of family that you gave to me every October 31st.