It is only September. But my daughters have already started decorating for Halloween, baking all things pumpkin-spice and even wearing costumes. Yes, they post photos of themselves going grocery shopping while wearing wolf ears. They dress the kids in skunk and lion costumes when they come to visit. They have carved their pumpkins already.
I don’t really understand their obsession with Halloween. When they were young and I was an insecure homeschooling mother, I followed the fold who said Halloween was evil and that my children would become possessed if they celebrated it. So I downplayed the season, decorating with colorful leaves, mums, happy scarecrows and pumpkins carved with bright smiles.
“Mom,” the kids would say. “You know this is the way they decorate in nursing homes?”
Each year I made costumes for my kids to dress up as saints for a party with their homeschooling friends. Some of them were pretty cool, if I do say so. Then I modified their costumes for trick or treat.
“What are you, little girl?”
“I’m a nun.”
“Oh! Weren’t you a nun last year?”
“Yes, but now I’m a different nun.”
Yes, we did trick-or-treat, one loop around the neighborhood because more would be greedy, and who needed that much candy? I was always afraid one of my mom-friends would see us and take me aside for a gentle conversation that always began with an impossible question:
“Are you sure you are doing everything you can to protect the souls of your children?”
No, of course not. Is anyone sure of that?
Each year we had our clandestine celebration of Halloween. I made feeble efforts to justify it as an ancient Christian festival that, like Christmas, has been hijacked by the evil one. However, I never really liked the holiday even as a child. I never enjoyed horror movies, even the old classics with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. I am not a fan of pumpkin-flavored anything. Other than “Monster Mash,” there aren’t really any songs that can get me through the season like the music of Christmas.
But these are part of the attraction for my daughters. They wait eagerly for the latest horror flick. They spend their meager incomes on giant inflatable dragons, life-size skeletons and mechanical ghosts for their homes. This may mean they can afford only a single strand of silver garland from the dollar store when Christmas rolls around, but that’s okay. They wear costumes to work. They plan lavish Halloween parties and invite their friends (and, yes, their parents). To my knowledge, no human sacrifice has ever taken place at any of those gatherings.
Don’t be afraid
The magic and whimsy others see in Christmas, they find in Halloween. Their artistic sides love flamboyant costumes and makeup, the chance to step into another personae, to express themselves without feeling judgment. Perhaps they use this frivolous holiday to face their own mortality without fear.
Maybe if I had been less afraid of the judgment of others when I was a young mom, less afraid of being afraid, I would share their enthusiasm for October and its spooky excitement.