Yup, that’s me. Backslider. Depraved. Worldly. Actually, the “backslider” label may be inaccurate. You can’t backslide into new territory. No, this is much worse. Tumbling headlong into sin is more like it.
When I was a kid, living on one of a trio of Christian communes in Northwest Ontario, we did not do Halloween. We regarded those who did with a sort of fascinated horror. Christmas and Easter were Paganism-tainted, worldly holidays which we also did not celebrate – along with birthdays – but those at least were fairly innocent and had a religious slant. Halloween had no such excuse. It was, to our sheltered eyes, the embodiment of Satan-worshiping evil. I mean, those kids actually dressed as ghosts, goblins, and witches. They were practically inviting demons to possess their souls.
It started slowly: “gradualism,” the preachers of my youth would say (probably are saying right now, if any of them see this). Living in Anchorage, Aaron and I would buy candy just in case trick-or-treaters came by. We didn’t want to disappoint any kids, after all. Then, when I started teaching, I saw how much my students loved Halloween. I didn’t want to disappoint them, either, and since other teachers were allowing costumes on that day, I did too — and bought a green-feathered witch hat which I donned each year so as not to appear unpleasantly strait-laced. Then, Niko arrived, and we were given the cutest little Winnie-the-Pooh costume for him. Who could resist that? The following year we actually purchased a dinosaur costume; last year, a robot. And this year, we entirely succumbed.
Three nights ago, we dressed both of our innocent children in Disney-inspired costumes and joined friends (one of the nicest families I know, who are — incidentally — faithfully church-attending people) to trick-or-treat in their neighborhood. It was…well, fun. No goblins assaulted us. No witches hexed us. Not a single soul became demon-possessed. In fact, everyone we met, at homes and on the street, were remarkably polite and kind.
We had a tense moment when we encountered a snazzily dressed skeleton with a cane and top hat, his skull leering menacingly. The little boys, aged four and three, froze as Baron Samedi and his family approached. His wife poked his arm. “You’re scaring those kids! You have to take your mask off!” “Oh, no!” he said with genuine concern. “No, I don’t want to scare anyone!” And despite the effort he’d exerted to make a convincing Baron, the skeleton immediately pushed his mask up to the top of his head, transforming from a dark lord of death into a cheerful man in a colorful suit, smiling sheepishly at us. He kept his mask off the rest of the time we were out.
No, we weren’t hauled off to the realms of death. We weren’t lured into a Satanic ritual. We just enjoyed the fresh air, collected treats, and walked to a nearby church for their Halloween/harvest festival. The boys went crazy in a bounce house while the babies stared at the crowds with wide eyes. And on the way home our family stopped for groceries, where cashiers and customers ooooh’d and ahhhh’d over the fairy princess and little pirate. Our kids were just as innocent, but better-exercised, at the end of the night as they’d been before donning their costumes.
Yes, this year I embraced worldly depravity with a will. And as I watched my son marching up to the doors of strangers with his lantern-lit pumpkin basket (courtesy of our generous friends) glowing bravely, I was so glad I did.