“Halloween” - the word evokes visions of creative costumes, fun parties, and plastic bags filled with sweets.
The holiday has a different meaning for me. I grew up knowing it as “The Devil’s Holiday.” Most children my age had a hard time understanding this. They had never heard of real witches, paganism or cults. How young I was to be educated in such things!
I had a pretty non-traditional childhood. Not only did I spend my first eight years of life living "on the road" so to speak, my parents also became very conservative Christians during that time.
They were lost souls searching for something in a scary world. So when they met some friends who belonged to a conservative evangelical church in Colorado, they learned the Bible and wanted to do everything the "right" way.
This newfound faith meant a very restricted upbringing for their eldest daughter (me). I had a LOT of rules.
I wasn’t allowed to get my ears pierced (a true devastation to a 7-year-old girl!). Attending a school dance would mean closeness to boys and hearing secular music. I couldn’t listen to B104 or any other secular radio stations – only Christian rock. And forget make-up and nail polish!
But worst of all was my restriction on celebrating Halloween.
When we finally settled down in the East Penn School District I was eight. My parents joined a new church – Macungie Baptist – and decided it was no longer acceptable for us to celebrate Halloween, for it was the “Devil’s Holiday” celebrated by witches, pagans and heathens.
Halloween became a true nightmare for me, but not due to ghouls and goblins. I dreaded the day for other reasons.
As October approached, friends would discuss their costumes and plan their trick-or-treat routes. Parties would be planned during school. I knew I would have no part of it.
Instead, I was made to sit in the library reading the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records while my costumed friends enjoyed spooky music, snacks and fun Halloween games.
My parents were steadfast on their belief. I know they felt sorry for not allowing me to enjoy the fun, but ultimately they thought it was for the best. They tried to ease the pain by offering alternatives like bags of candy, a night of bowling with friends, or a party at the end of the school year.
As time passed, so did their fundamental conviction. As my younger brother and sister grew older, my parents became more lenient and less bothered by the holiday. I was jealous that my siblings were able to have fun when I hadn’t been allowed.
Having gone through this experience hasn’t changed my perception of Halloween any more than understanding its history. I have no hard feelings against my parents. They thought it was for the best. Everyone needs to believe in something.
As a parent, I like to consider Halloween a time during which children and adults have the opportunity to be creative, to be something different even if it’s for just a few hours. I don’t see anything wrong about that.
Having my own children gave me the opportunity to be a kid all over again. Now I am making up time for the years I missed.
And secretly, I can’t WAIT to go trick-or-treating this week!