The Bizarre Halloween Controversy

creepy, graves, gravestonesEvery once in a while as a kid, I’d encounter other children whose parents made mine look lenient and laid back. There were only a few instances like this in my childhood, but when they did happen, they were always a surreal surprise. Halloween was one of those instances.

My parents never expressed any qualms about “letting” me celebrate Halloween by dressing up and trick-or-treating. Their only stipulation was that I couldn’t wear “dark, evil costumes.” Basically, anything dead or supernatural in an evil way was off limits. No sheet ghost costumes or horny devils for me. I didn’t usually find that terribly limiting. Over the years, I went as a fairy, a surgeon, a wrapped present, and Padme from Star Wars.

In high school, it was a big deal that after years of begging, my mom allowed me to dress up as a witch. (The reason she let it slide was primarily that I wanted to go as Elphaba from Wicked, who’s technically not an evil character.)

I thought this was pretty strict. Until I heard about my friend’s parents.

I didn’t really encounter this much with the Catholic kids I knew, but some of the kids I knew from other forms of Christianity were completely forbidden from celebrating Halloween. I remember trying to invite a friend trick-or-treating and being told she wasn’t allowed to celebrate Halloween AT ALL. No costumes. No candy. No jack-o-lanterns.

Years later, while I was in college, I used to tutor kids at an after-school program at a local church. Halloween was coming up in a week, and one of my classmates asked if she could bring in Halloween themed treats to celebrate: lollipops decorated to look like ghosts. The woman running the program said it was OK, but my classmate was still a bit anxious. On the ride back she said, “I just want to respect their faith. I know some parents are really not OK with Halloween.” All this after she was told it wasn’t a problem. Clearly, for this classmate, Halloween had been as controversial a subject as Harry Potter was for me growing up.

Image result for halloween town

While, again, my Halloween experience wasn’t terribly restricted, there was still this restriction on “dark, evil” costumes, and the more I think about it, the more I think I know why.

I wasn’t allowed to watch the Halloweentown movies as a kid because there’s a scene in the first one that briefly features a pentagram. My mom saw it and freaked out. It’s a kids’ movie on Disney Channel, but according to my parents, it could lead me to “the occult.”

I don’t see a lot of people talking about this, but Christianity supports belief in many supernatural creatures. Catholicism is just as guilty of this as other denominations because Catholics do believe in possession by spirits, and Catholic priests can and do perform exorcisms.

My parents have believed in ghosts–yes, dead-people-roaming-around ghosts–for as long as I can remember. Case in point, when we moved from my old house to our current one, they found out that the family that lived here before us had lost a daughter very young. I don’t know how it happened, I just assumed it was to some kind of illness. My parents swear to this day that they saw the little girl roaming around the house as a ghost. They went to a priest for advice, had the house “blessed,” and the ghost “left.” Part of the process of getting rid of this ghost was naming the little girl. I think they named her after a virtue like “Hope” or “Grace” or something. Anyway, she’s “gone.”

If you believe in this stuff, then it’s a scary part of your reality. It’s supernatural. It’s hard to understand or control, so you want to protect your children from it, the same way you’d try to restrict their viewing of violent or sexual images. So you ban things that talk about it, except from a Christian perspective. C.S. Lewis is as overtly Christian as it gets in his supernatural stories, so The Chronicles of Narnia are OK, but Harry Potter? It paints a pleasant image of magic and witchcraft. What if it makes children try to get involved in this “very real” thing?

Fortune tellers and psychics were always off limits for me when I was growing up, not because they’re scams, but because those people “could be communing with evil spirits.” I was told as a child that if I were to touch an evil object owned by a psychic, I could become possessed by a demon.

Yep, demons. It’s incredible my parents don’t have shotguns filled with rock salt.

Were you allowed to celebrate Halloween? What are your thoughts about the holiday? I’m especially curious about how you feel about the holiday in relation to religion.

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

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6 thoughts on “The Bizarre Halloween Controversy

  1. I’m pretty sure that the majority of the anti-Halloween crowd doesn’t even realize that they’re calling the holiday they’re so against by a name of Christian origin.

    I’ve never understood the psychic thing. (Which I first learned about in the context of anti-Pokemon fundamentalists.) Psychic powers are pseudoscience (and a scam) when presented as real, and science fiction when part of a story; they have nothing to do with the supernatural.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rock salt doesn’t affect demons, you need holy water for that! Rock salt is for ghosts. 🙂

    I recently watched most of the series “Supernatural” and in that fictional world, all that stuff not only exists, but behaves in predictable ways, and you can test it. Anybody could throw holy water on a demon, or borax on a leviathan, or salt on a ghost, and you would see the same result every time. No vague guesswork or odd “feelings”. I think I need to write a blog post on this subject.

    My parents were liberal protestant (Presbyterian) and had no problem with all the Halloween stuff. We tended to look at the fundies who thought all that stuff was actually real as kind of misguided and missing out on the fun.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oops. I haven’t watched the show in a few years. To be fair, my parents believe in both so I guess they both work. That’s a great point about the predictable behavior of the supernatural beings on the show. You should definitely write that post!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I never got to go Trick-or-Treating until I was in my teens. My mom thought that Halloween was when scary, eeeeeevil witches gathered together in covens to be evil, or something. We did dress up and pass out candy to people that knocked on our door. And our church had an “autumn festival”. Witch costumes were definitely off limits, though.

    So, go figure, my entire family became Harry Potter fans when that started to be a thing. My mom had to read a book called “What’s a Christian to do with Harry Potter?” before deciding it was okay. I guess she mellowed out a bit around the time I was in high school. Unlike my older brothers, I didn’t have to hide that I played Magic: the Gathering in high school. And even Dungeons and Dragons became somehow acceptable before I graduated.

    I totally believed magic was a real (and eeeeevil) thing until I became an atheist, though. It seems incredibly silly in retrospect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s great! I had a similar experience with my Dad and Harry Potter. He thought the books were like psychic’s objects and contained “evil spirits,” until one day he saw one of the movies on TV and said, “hey, I like this” and now he really likes the movies. I think the conservative freakouts about various things happen in phases. While the rest of the world goes through various trends and fads, the religious world goes through mini freakouts over innocuous things. I noticed that my parents let up on their restrictions on Harry Potter right around the time when their friends were starting to freak out about other things and hadn’t talked about it in a while.

      Liked by 1 person

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