Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Day Casper Died :: My Twists & Turns with Halloween

{This post originally appeared here on October 24, 2013. It seemed like the right time to unearth it.}

The details are a bit fuzzy, but I once Halloweened as Casper the Friendly Ghost.  His apparition "body" was tied around my neck in the form of a plastic barber’s cape; his face clung to mine via an elastic band. I saw the world that night through his two little slit-eyes, and I have to say, it didn’t look so bad. There may have been some scary stuff happening around me, but I was too preoccupied with my pillowcase loot-bag to notice. Halloween was fun, never mind the fact that it got a little stuffy and humid behind my molded plastic mask.

One year later, someone jammed the brakes. And by someone, I mean dear ol’ Mom and Dad. In one fell swoop, Halloween was nixed, along with Smurfs, Rainbow Brite, Care Bears, and Scooby Doo. All the fun stuff. I’m not gonna lie, it hurt.

But I trusted my parents – I still do, and when they said Halloween was devil worship and Care-A-Lot was the veritable portal for New Age Mysticism, I believed them. Plus, they had a point; Fred, Daphne, and the gang did make it seem like violence had no permanent consequences.

So, we embarked on a unilateral boycott of All Things Halloween, which reached a fever pitch around 1987 when even participating in the school party felt a little too close to the fire. I stayed home from school that day and went Christmas shopping at the mall. It all made perfect sense.

I didn’t give it another thought until 20-odd years later, when I found myself with a husband and assorted small people, one of whom once shrieked with glee, “Calvin, it’s the Arthur about Halloween!”

For all of my collective years spent in denial, it’s time to sort this out a bit. Here’s where I am so far:

1) Halloween is kind of creepy.
2) But, I'm not sure it does anything to further God's kingdom when the Christians lock their doors and pretend they aren't home. (This is an actual thing I've done in past years.)
3) Also, holding a Not-Halloween party, complete with costumes and candy, is actually sort of like celebrating, uh, Halloween.
4) "Pagan" holidays aren't automatically sanctified when they're held in a Fellowship Hall.
5)  And dressing up like Bible characters? Lame and confusing.

"Nice robe! But weren't you David last year?"
"Uh, I'm clearly Moses."
"But you have a staff..."
"Dude, it's a rod."
"But it's curved..."
"Look, my dad wouldn't let me cut the straight limbs, okay? Dang you, Martha! You're such a    know-it-all!"
"I'm not Martha this year. I'm totally Mary. I've matured."
"But you're carrying a little bottle of olive oil."
"It's perfume. Duh."
6) I think Halloween can be "celebrated" with as much innocence or pagan fervor as we wish. Sort of like Christmas.
7) A pillowcase full of free candy? Come to Mama. No, really. Give me your candy already.

I don't know, maybe it's time to put the "allow" back in Halloween.

Then again, I've got zero practice making costumes and I'm way too cheap to spring for Plastic Casper.

So maybe we'll just wing it again and let the stale gummy bears fall where they may. 


  1. ""Pagan" holidays aren't automatically sanctified when they're held in a Fellowship Hall." (Well, maybe it's called a Reformation Day party!) I clearly remember a chapel at our Christian school in which the speaker denounced Scooby Doo because there were ghosts. Clearly, he hadn't watched long enough to see the mask pulled off and to hear, "And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for you pesky kids!"

  2. I used to not want to celebrate Halloween because well, we live in the Bible belt and it was preached against... but then I thought that if the pagans can take Christmas, cant we take Halloween? twisted logic probably but I cant deny that Im a goth girl so Halloween is my favorite... we don't do anything scary or spooky, just the fun stuff.... and I also think a lot of Christians miss out on a lot of God's character if they only think of Him as God of the sunshine and rainbows... He is also the God that creates the night and the moon and the spiders and the rain - just because we don't necessarily like it, doesn't mean that its a bad thing... Jesus suffered a lot as a human, and when we don't recognize the darker part of God then I think we miss out on a lot

    of course that's all just my 2 cents.... and Ill take any excuse to dress up in a costume and get free candy

  3. Oh Halloween (is capitalizing it too respectful? Or disrespectful?), the undue waffling you cause! Growing up, my mom sewed each of my siblings and me a costume every year. I have vivid memories of picking out the pattern at Jo-Ann Fabric and waking up almost every morning to the sound of her sewing machine for the first two months of school. So there's that sweet memory. Then Jesus entered my parents' household, and Halloween (along with Harry Potter) was on the chopping block. It was nixed pretty quickly, but I was in high school at the time and didn't really care.

    Then there was the first halloween that my husband and I were dating. We spent all day thrift shopping and put together some awful costumes with the intention of going to a party, but then we found a smoke machine in the garage and decided to not go out and just fill our apartment with chemical smoke and play with lasers instead.

    I'm not sure if any of that is hallowing or hindering, but it has formed some lucid memories in my brain, so it can't be worthless. I guess my current conclusion is: it's all about the condition of the heart. You made me laugh this morning, and your heart is absolutely in the right place. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I don't think that there is anything wrong with Halloween fun! And free candy... Yummy. I always make my first batch of chili on Halloween. Now that the kids are grown, I look forward to seeing my grands all dressed up. It's the only day of the year you can dress silly and get away with it. I think it is all in what you make it. I believe in Jesus and I still like Halloween!

  5. I straddled the Halloween fence when my girls were little. We didn't dress as anything nasty or scary, we didn't celebrate with eyeball punch and skeleton cookies. We pretty much took out the scary, creepy stuff and stuck with the good parts. They always dressed as princesses, (at their request) they went to school parties and trick or treated next door where the elderly neighbor would be disappointed if they didn't show and he always had full size candy bars and was super generous! Our church did trunk or treat, so they got to make the rounds, get the goods and even hand some out. They have told me numerous times they never felt left out of the fun. We just didn't make it about nasty stuff.

  6. I love your writing Shannon! I like your introspection and the way you process in your writing. It's very personal and is easy to connect with what you are going through.
    As for Halloween...when I was a kid we did it and it was always fun. We took our children (always where we knew people)until a few years after we accepted the Lord then did "harvest festivals" at the church we were at. It was a fun alternative but in retrospect growing up with Halloween and haunted forest adventures as a kid didn't make me want to go out and join a cult or worship the devil any more than listening to rock music. It's all in ones focus. We never thought about where it all came from, just that it was fun. Each of us has to do what the Lord puts on our hearts.

  7. Your article comes at such an interesting time. So many of the things you are going through are the very things I'm going through as well. My husband and I didn't celebrate Halloween growing up because of our church and my parents didn't want to be involved in Pagan holidays. We are celebrating it for the first time this year. We decided that as God's word says, every day is his, so we are going to do everything we can to bring honor to him. We have satchels of candy with a verse attached and we've talked to the kids about being sure they are polite and kind to everyone they see. I still feel weird about celebrating it, but I'm trying not to let my upbringing be the reason why I don't participate in things, but instead go to God's word and see what he has to say. Learning every day! Growing every day! And willing to change if God puts it on our hearts to change!

  8. We went through a similar journey and landed on being out in the community. It is one of the few nights people come out of their houses and they actually come to your door! The past 4 years we have been in our front yard serving hot chocolate and cider along with handfuls of candy. We do it as a family and let the kids run to a couple houses .
    We've loved it, but now that we live in a low income neighborhood we only had a handful of people stop by, so we are trying to figure out what this year will look like.

  9. I grew up in one of those households that turned out the lights on Halloween and there was absolutely no trick or treating. Sure I missed the candy and getting dressed up, but it was just something my family did not do. In later years, I waffled. I was in London studying abroad one October and ended up dressing up as Sporty Spice from the Spice Girls as part of a group. But for the most part, it was just something I didn’t participate in.
    About six years ago, I was living in North Carolina and attending a nondenominational church that held an annual fall festival on Halloween or thereabouts. One day the children’s pastor informed me that the Wednesday night childcare workers (4 ½ years with the 3-5 class despite having no children of my own) would be responsible for a booth at the festival. I went to two planning meetings and was feeling so sick over the issue that I had to respectfully decline to participate anymore.
    Ever since, I just kept my distance. I don’t question or cast doubt on those who want to participate. Just please respect that I choose not to participate.
    I think part of it is having consistency in my reasoning and beliefs. Just like I say I am pro-life because I believe life is sacred, I felt I had to change my opinion on the death penalty or risk being a hypocrite.
    In the same way, I am not going to argue that Jesus birth and resurrection are the origins and reasons to celebrate Christmas and Easter, not the secular or materialistic distractions that have become associate with them, and say let’s ignore the origins and history of Halloween and just focus on the candy and playing dress-up. It’s just a personal choice.

  10. I loved this the first time around and I love it just as much this year. Just read it out loud to my husband and we were both cracking up. Totally a chapter out of our own childhoods. : ) The 80s were such a weird, confusing decade for evangelicals.

  11. I am from the Uk and here Halloween has gotten really nasty. When I was growing up (am 30) it wasn't a big thing at all - probably only got brought over here to the uk properly from America about 10 years ago...
    But it is not about just dressing up here - unfortunately it's all about scaring each other and costumes are grim reaper, scary witches etc. Nothing innocent anymore :(
    My kids are too young to be aware of it yet (my oldest has learning needs) so we have chosen each year to ignore it here.

  12. Oh my! I had to laugh about this one! My parents were schizophrenic about Halloween: one year we'd pass out candy, the next we'd pass out tracts; we've stayed away from home to avoid trick or treaters and we've been the trick or treaters. I'm still not sure what I think about Halloween although I know I hate the blood and gore and seeming celebration of death that some people indulge in. I'm a big fan of candy and dressing up though so maybe I inherited my parent's confusing stance on the holiday.

  13. My childhood memories include my stance summed up neatly as... "I will sit this one out."
    But I have to share my friend's book review link because FALLING FREE is my favorite topic and all I want to discuss currently!
    http://divineorchestration.com/2016/10/31/falling-free/ A sample of Jasmine's words... "The best part is, Shannan doesn’t tell you what to believe: she simply shines provocative light through the lens of her own story. Much of this book left me squirming in my chair, because her assessment of her own heart is so revealing of mine. And while she does address her reaction to the conviction, her humor and humility remind us that we are all still falling, rather than floating to lofty, unattainable perfection."

    1. For what it's worth, we (accidentally, haha) sat it out this year, too. :)

      And thank you so much for sharing Jasmine's review! Thanks for the reminder to click over and read it in full. You guys are the very best!!!!

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