My Grandma was born on October 31st. I grew up knowing Haloween as the candy holiday where I got dress up and then go to my grandma’s for her birthday. A strict Catholic, she loved the holiday but always got up first thing the next morning to go to mass for All Saints Day.
My happy childhood memories of Halloween blossomed into terrible experiences with the holiday, later seeing it as a time where everyone around me got drunk and dressed like vixens with their boobies hanging out. They smoked funny things and lost themselves in a holiday that seemed designed for kids...and I felt left behind.
Actually, in those days I felt left behind in general. I eventually found peace and satisfaction in the identity that was mine and always had been: as a daughter of God, saved by grace and loved by the greatest savior imaginable. I was in love with Jesus, and finally my life made sense.
It wasn’t until later that I was forced to learn about the hideous awfulness of Halloween. I was a 911 dispatcher and on that evening there was more vandalisms and fire crimes than any other night of the year, even New Years Eve. We had to watch training tapes about Satanists and they made me aware of the rituals that were held on this night. I’d have rather remained ignorant. I couldn’t imagine subjecting my own tender children to going out on this night, and so I did what any reasonable, threatened mother would do: I took the holiday away from them.
I wish I could say it was the first time I overreacted. It wasn’t. I was a classic overreactor, and the memories of me losing it over this pitiful day make me wince in embarrassment.
As a Christian, I also was thinking that if October 31st was the devil’s holiday, how could we celebrate it? In our social circles the day was kind of a taboo subject, seen as Satan’s High Holy Day when all demons were unleashed into the air to wreak havoc on our unsuspecting children.
Back in real life, my kids just wanted to trick-or-treat. All of their other friends were doing it and they wanted to dress up, go to houses and get candy. Looking back, I see that they were waiting for me to say “I’ll go with you we can go to a few houses in your costume.” They also loved me. When I posed the “reality of what trick-or-treating really was”, they decided it was easier to acquiesce than to argue with me. Even my kids didn’t have the vocabulary to say “I don’t want to worship Satan, I just want candy, mom.”
I look back on all of this and think that I failed my kids.
I failed them for outlawing the holiday instead of remembering that there was a genuine fun-ness about it. I failed them for forbidding trick-or-treating; for teaching them (prematurely) about the wicked origins of the day and all that I saw happening at the 911 center. Most of all, I failed my kids because I caved to peer pressure. It was really my Christian circle that made me feel as if there was only one choice- becoming an opponent of the holiday and all it stood for. I had no middle ground and my decision to ban the holiday was final. I had not been given divine wisdom after I prayed; this was my own idea, not God’s.
Today, I apologize to my kids. They really have a lot of grace for me and they forgive me readily. But they can remember my fanaticism and I don’t think they got through it unscathed. So when they tell me about the ways they are planning to celebrate, I am happy that they can tell me with no fear of judgement or condemnation.
In the end, I think I have been forgiven more than I will ever forgive. I have been loved more than I will ever love...despite all of my faults I am still their mom and they still love me.
After all, God redeems everything.