Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Is Not My Thing

Flog me if you must.

I know this holiday picks up popularity like a runaway snowball. Lately it's not just about costumes and treats, but massive amounts of decor, and even lights. It thinks it's competing with Christmas. But to me it's not even in the running.

It started when I was, um, two. My mother made me an adorable clown costume, and my 4-year-old cousin dressed up like a black cat. Scared me half to death. For years I would bury my face in my mother's skirt whenever we turned to that photo in the family album. Something about seeing my favorite cousin dressed up as a spooky black cat gave me unbearable creeps.

Then in elementary school I was the pathetic nerdy kid who would not, could not go to the Sixth Grade's spook alley...even as a fifth grader! And now I sit back in disbelief as my kids beg to visit such Halloween offerings as "Castle of Chaos," "Scream Asylum," and "Nightmare on 13th."   I seriously don't understand the appeal.  My problem with Halloween, in a nutshell is that I simply DO NOT LIKE TO BE AFRAID. In fact, I take refuge in this scripture: "For God hath not given us the spirit of FEAR, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)

My biggest aversion to Halloween came the year we had a stillborn baby.  Nineteen days before Halloween. I was suffering under the weight of this lost child, and could not fathom why anyone would want to celebrate death. Turn their yards into graveyards. Dress as the Grim Reaper. Fill the world with blood and gore. Just the sight of it all made me sick. All this death and decay did not contribute to "a sound mind."  That year I dressed in black, but couldn't bring myself to don a costume. My closest friend somehow knew how this whole October thing was affecting me, and showed up at my house every afternoon so I wouldn't have to be alone in my grief. She literally got me through the month (and the holiday of horror) by giving me one thing to look forward to every day. Her presence.

That is as cold and dark as Halloween ever got for me. And I hope I never have to go there again.  

I have one really wonderful Halloween memory that I want to share with you, though: Our first Halloween in Pasadena, when our oldest was about two, we took him trick-or-treating for the first time to a little activity at our church called Trunk-or-Treat. This is all the rage now, but was fairly new at the time, designed to provide a safe place for children to trick-or-treat from car to car. We took Joshy out in his adorable dinosaur costume and started making the rounds to the various trunks with our plastic pumpkin (which we had seeded with a few morsels from the treats we were giving away from our own trunk that year). At the very first trunk a cute young couple oohed and ahhed over his costume, and then dropped a tootsie roll into his bucket. Now, you have to picture yourself as the mother there for this brief instant: I watched with sheer amazement as Joshy then reached into his bucket and PULLED OUT A TREAT FOR EACH OF THEM.

As a young mother, I was thrilled to see our child wanting to share rather than take. No one had briefed him on the rituals of trick-or-treating. What we saw was a natural response from his naturally giving heart. It was a moment I'll never forget.  A window into this little boy's heart. Which I still see as very grateful, generous, and giving. Even at seventeen.

So forgive me for not having  a skeleton on my porch, or orange lights lining my roof. I do not like to be afraid. But be sure to stop by for a homemade cookie or a handful of treats. Because I really love to give.


Heather of the EO said...

What a great post, lady. I love it. I'm not a huge fan of Halloween myself. I get the fun of dressing up, but I just don't get too excited. Because something in me just feels unsettled about the darkness that lies behind a lot of it.

I'll be a good sport, but I don't have to LOVE the day :)

I get so excited when you post, just so you know. You are just such a great writer and thinker, expressing yourself so well.

Thank you,

Heidi Ashworth said...

I love this post--even though I love Halloween. I agree that it is getting out of hand, and I have often wondered how my best friend felt when we went to the haunted house a few months after her parents were killed in a tragic accident (now I know but she never said anything)but the Joshy story is the best! Thank you!

Melissa said...

Halloween is not my cup of tea, either. We don't decorate at all and I'll be darned if I put any effort into my children's costumes (luckily we have lots of princess-wear and that suits them just fine). My favorite part of Halloween is eating all the chocolate my oldest gets because she is allergic to it.

Melanie J said...

I like the imaginative side of Halloween but the feelings you express are exactly the same ones I have about horror movies, so I get it.

My older son is also one who loves giving out the candy instead of getting it. I could talk him into maybe one round of everyone else's trunks and then he wanted to stay at ours and just pass stuff out. He loved giving it away and when our bowl ran out, he started digging into his own bag.

And yeah, that made me feel really good.

Jessica said...

This is so great. YOu are so right about why in the world would we celebrate death. I can't imagine how that must have felt after such a sad loss. What a sweet story about your son! And a great ending to this post!

That Girl in Brazil said...

Wonderfully written.

I love Halloween, but mostly just cuz I love to dress up - nothing scary. I bury myself during the fight scene in Newsies - I just don't do violence and death.

I'm sorry about your associations with the holiday - I'd probably feel exactly the same. Glad you had a friend to get you through it.

Eowyn said...

Oh Oh Oh!!! Can I bring my kids to your house.

I actually just put up on part of my post the reasons I don't like Halloween and why I've particularly hated it this year, although I don't have nearly your reasons.

I'm still trying to figure out how to talk my family into celebrating it wome other way.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

Great post as usual.

Okay, now I'm laughing about your comment on my BOO after reading this :-)

I have a confession, I don't have Halloween decorations this year. Not a single strand of orange light...I think it's because now that my kids are teenagers it's not that big of a deal anymore. BUT I've stocked up on loads of candies!

*MARY* said...

The only reason I like Halloween is because it means we're getting closer to the ultimate holiday, my birthday! (and Christmas)

Luann said...

That story about your sweet son is wonderful! Not only was it remarkable moment of innocent charity on his part, it is telling of the kind of mom you are in noticing the significance of that moment. Great post.

For the record, I am nuts for Halloween. Not for its gory side, but for the way it brings out creativity and imagination.

Kazzy said...

I can't stand the gory stuff either. It goes against everything that makes me happy. Hate scary movies, etc. But because I have always had my kids go the "fun" route on Halloween it isn't too bad. I will be having fun tomorrow at work as a Greek goddess, I must admit. :)

Brillig said...

Okay, that's the cutest thing I've ever heard (the Joshy story, I mean). So, so sweet.

I can't imagine going through such a painful tragedy right before Halloween. That would definitely change the way the silly creepy death-celebration things feel.

As for the rest, though, I can't relate. Oh, I HATE being scared, but I've never been easily scare-able. When something does scare me, it scares to the depths of my soul, and I really have a lot of trouble coping. (Sometime I should tell you the story of Brian, when we were dating, hiding in my closet in my apartment and dropping a glove from my closet onto the floor and then. When I went over to the closet to inspect why such a strange thing would have happened, he jumped out at me. And I screamed. Like, SCREAMED. It took me a WEEK to stop shaking. Ummm... Okay, I think I just told the WHOLE story. So much for "sometime I should tell you the story." I just did.)

But haunted houses, scary movies, and even that torture chamber wax museum in London have never had any effect on me. But costumes and make-up and crazy decorations comprise so much of who I am, and who I've ALWAYS been (theater major, remember?) Therefore, Halloween has always been one of my faves. Second only to Christmas.

Holy crap. This comment is longer than many of my EMAILS to you, which are known for being long-winded...

Kimberly said...

My feelings exactly! Freakishly so!

We turned it into a Fall Feast this year and had friends over. Served homemade cookies and wassail after. It was lovely.

We took the spook right out of it.

Mrs4444 said...

Hmmm. Can't say I relate; I LOVE being scared (except for tonight, as I watch the election returns). Scary. (Not sure how you lean, but I had to say it.)

Kate said...

Just a note, you'd mentioned perhaps wanting to participate in Family History Fridays over at my blog . . . I had an unscheduled break last week, but this week it's back up and "runnin'" :)
Feel free to use my FHF header if you wish as well! :)
Happy Friday!

Heidi Ashworth said...

Are you just having a lovely rest? Miss you!

Anonymous said...

Halloween isn't my thing, either!

It's absolutley nuts in this area.