My relationship with Halloween has evolved over time. I remember my brothers bringing home bags and bags of candy after scouring our East St. Louis neighborhood with friends in the 1950s. I also remember hearing my sister tell of our Mother doing a hilarious imitation of Charles Chaplin at a PTA meeting, complete with twirling cane and mustache. But I was shy, and by the time I came along, “trick or treat” held no interest for me personally. My sole memory of costume fun was wearing a sari to school on costume day and being thrilled when my teacher pretended she didn’t know who I was. (We had had a missionary from India visit at church and she taught us all how to drape a sari.)
As far as the scary part of Halloween is concerned, as a child prone to nightmares, I wasn't much for thinking that being frightened had anything to do with having fun. In fact, I distinctly remember the very last time I attempted to walk through what was called a "fun house” at a carnival. My poor brother had to reverse our way and find our way back OUT when I refused to take another step forward. I was old enough to know that that hand sticking up out of that grave wasn’t real. I knew the entire thing was “pretend.” I didn't care. That was my very last voluntary experience with "fright night." After that, my carnival participation was limited (by me) to the ferris wheel and the merry-go-round for a very, very, long time.
As a young parent, what to do about Halloween confused me. I didn't want my Christian faith to be a list of "what we don't do because we are Christians," but I also didn't want to be involved in "the other side" of the spiritual realm I very firmly believe exists. My children dressed up as cowboys and princesses and we "trick-or-treated" on our very safe and boring block where no one put out lighted skulls or set up speakers so they could broadcast shrieks and moans into the night air. Now I get to go to “Boo at the Zoo” with my grandchildren. It’s an un-scary dress-up night populated by fairies, princesses, and super-heroes.
Dress-up isn’t just for kids, ya know. I cannot provide the identities of any of these women, because I want to live to be 61. But we had fun celebrating my fiftieth birthday, and I hope you do, too, whatever your decision about October 31.