When I was a kid, my mom used to have a cloth Frankenstein that she would hang on our door for Halloween. He wasn’t a scary monster. He was crossed eyed and had a big grin on his face. Instead of terrifying villagers he was giving candy to a pair of trick or treaters. One October morning, a couple of Jehovah Witnesses came walking up our driveway. They never made it to the door. Through the open window my mom could here them praying for our “demon house.”
I used to love Halloween. It was the perfect holiday. You get to dress up and get candy. What else do you need? I was never in to scary aspect of Halloween. I was never into scary things period. I would get nightmares from watching Scooby Doo. It didn’t matter that, at the end of the episode, the “Swamp Ghost” turned out to be Old Man Henderson- I would still get freaked out. Come to think of it, the fact that the villain was actually a grown man that wanted to terrorize children, is actually scarier than the whole ghost thing.
I loved dressing up for Halloween. The costumes were more than outfits to me. I wasn’t dressed as Batman, I WAS Batman.
I, like most kids, loved dinosaurs. So naturally, in kindergarten, I wanted to be one for Halloween. My mom took my bother and I to K-mart to find us a costume. After digging through countless catalogs in the fabric department I finally found my dinosaur costume. We weren’t poor growing up. I never really wanted for anything, but occasionally things would be too expensive to buy. Things like my dinosaur costume.
We weren’t gonna buy a dinosaur costume, mom was gonna make one. My mother owned a sewing machine. That is about the extent of her needle working experience. Mom sat down with a bunch of green and purple fabric and made me a dinosaur costume. It was a cheap knock off version of the one I saw in the store. In fact it embarrasses my mother to think back on how it looked. It was a one piece costume that was bright green. Purple spikes were attached down the back, running to the tail that was filled with stuffing. On my head I would wear what could only be described as a bright green hat with matching purple spikes. None of this mattered to me. I loved my costume. I was a DINOSAUR!!! I would stomp around the house, a roaring prehistoric beast that wore sneakers. (Mom couldn’t figure out how to make the feet) Even now, I look back at that costume more fondly than any of the other ones in my short lived career as a trick or treater.
I didn’t know it then, but I didn’t have many more Halloweens left. I grew up Methodist, but sometime between 1st and 2nd grade we became Southern Baptists. (Which is more of a lateral move when you think about it.)
One of my first introductions to the church that I would attend well into my adult life was the “Fall Festival”, a fun filled evening billed as “an alternative to Halloween.” Instead of dressing up and going door to door for candy, kids would dress up (as bible characters) play games and get candy.
The first year we went to the Fall Festival, the Livengoods didn’t get the memo regarding biblical costumes. I had already picked my costume before being invited to the festival. I wanted to be a character from Ducktales. On one particular Halloween themed episode Scrooge McDuck and pals went to Stonehenge. There they met a friendly druid. That’s what I wanted to be. Not the wealthy duck, but a druid. Looking back, the so called druid actually resembled more of a monk, but he called himself a druid, so that’s what I wanted to be. I walked the halls of the Southern Baptist church with a black hooded sweatshirt on, almost covering my white painted face. I passed Jonah, Mathew, and the two lions from the ark. They were all very friendly and when they asked what I was I proudly told them “I’m a druid.” After an entire night of telling people that I was a “high priest that prayed to nature” my family got put on so many visitation and prayer lists that the pastor almost taught a sermon about us.
At some point it becomes necessary for a child to stop trick or treating. Nobody wants to be the kid that’s a little to old to be dressing up like Darth Vader on October 31st. Worse yet nobody wants to be the teenager that goes out trick or treating every year sans costume. Unfortunately for me I didn’t get the chance to commit either one of these holiday faux pas. I was forced to retire from the trick or treat game a little early.
Little did I know, My Halloween days were numbered. One night my parents went to a Bible study. This was nothing new, we were constantly at some sort of Bible study. This study, however, wasn’t like the other ones. Someone popped in a video tape. This tape explained Halloween’s roots. It talked about pagans, Satan, and demons.
My parents came back from this bible study changed people. The video opened their eyes. Oh how foolish they’d been. How could they have not seen the truth? By dressing up like a Ninja Turtle and asking for candy at the neighbor’s house I was actually worshiping Satan. Every time I reached into my candy bag for that small fun sized bag of skittles I was losing a fun sized piece of my soul. Oh I could pick out a costume if I wanted to, but it would be the one I would wear hell.
About two weeks before Halloween a parental decree went out. We wouldn’t be trick or treating. The unthinkable had happened. Halloween was canceled. I couldn’t understand it. How can you cancel a holiday? We celebrated all the other ones. Why not this one? I remember asking my mom why we couldn’t go trick or treating. My mother, to her credit, decided to be completely honest with me.
My mother decided this was a good time to explain the concept of Satan to me and my brother. Now every kid in the world has a frame of reference when it comes to the devil. He’s the guy that shows up on your shoulder and makes you do bad things. What kids do not have a frame of reference for is Satan. Satan, Lucifer, the fallen angel this goes a little beyond red tights and a pitchfork. Mom explained how Satan was real, and he could get me. By enjoying all Halloween had to offer I was inviting him to come after me. She didn’t present Satan as a spirit or even as an idea, but as a real person who might jimmy the lock on my window and come into my bedroom. This terrified me worse than Scooby Doo ever had.
I asked mom if we could still carve pumpkins. She said no because apparently Jack-o-lanterns are the faces of demons. Oh great now every time I walk home from the neighbors I can look at their front porches and see the faces of evil demons staring back. The holiday that, for me, was always about dressing up and candy had finally become as scary as it was intended to be.
There was no appeal. No course of action I could take to reinstate my favorite holiday. My brother and I would never again trick or treat. We would go to the Fall Festival of course, but there we couldn’t dress as Superman or G.I. Joe. One year My brother was a large cardboard version of the ark while I was a roman solider, complete with a scrub brush attached to my head. Another time my brother was a giant foil covered Star of Bethlehem. That year I was Samson. With my long black hair and pencil thin mustache I looked more like Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride than the Old Testament hero. I recently stopped by the Fall Festival. Apparently the church has eased up on it’s “Dress like a Bible character policy.” I saw just as many ghouls and goblins as I did Canaanites and prophets.
I eventually got over the death of my holiday. After all, I got to get candy at the church and my parents eventually allowed my brother and I to continue carving the faces of demons into pumpkins to put on the porch.
Currently I don’t really celebrate Halloween that much. I don’t dress up and go to parties or bars. I don’t decorate. I do however, buy the best bag of candy I can find and give it out at my apartment. Every time the bells rings I jump up to give candy to all the Dora the Explores, the Pokemon, and the Darth Vaders. I’m glad to support fun holiday traditions. And I still have yet to see one Satan worshiping Ninja turtle.