I love Halloween. I love dressing up, I love seeing little munchies dressed up, I love scary movies, I love the silliness of it, and I love–love–copious amounts of the bewitching substance known as chocolate. Love it love it love it.
But I’m a Mormon, so should I feel guilty? Is loving Halloween one more arrow in my quiver of badness and unorthodoxy? Is this holiday just too pagan for the saints?
We had our ward Halloween party on Saturday night. Trunk or treating is new to me–and apparently is a bit of a contest. My friend and I went scary–pretty much the only ones in the ward that did so. Scary sound CD, rubber bats, black light, and dry ice with glow sticks in it. Oh, and snotty goo stuff mixed into the candy cauldron. And candles, I even lit candles. (We were in the parking lot, so I felt justified in this bit of madness….) The kids loved it–we had a crowd surrounding us, squealing at the snot goo, and I was actually scared some kid was going to stick their hand in the dry ice pot or get their costume lit on fire. Kids are dangerous…
But were we the dangerous ones? Is embracing the "dark" instead of the playful side of Halloween antithetical to our spirituality? During my growing up years, I remember several mutual activities (particularly at youth conference for some reason) focused on the occult, and avoiding the occult, and it kind of scared me. Frankly, I’m a bit of a scaredy cat to begin with, so it doesn’t take much, but I think the scariest "ghost stories" I’ve heard were in the context of the church, and looking back, I find that to be almost abusive–grown ups scaring kids in some kind of authorized way.
Now that I’ve been on this long and winding road for awhile, I think that pre-occupation with the occult is a bit of a red herring. Nothing gets kids more interested in playing with a ouija board than telling them that they shouldn’t play with a ouija board. Nothing gets them talking about evil spirits more than a YW lesson discussing it. I don’t think that kids necessarily need to be convinced of the reality of Satan in that kind of dramatic way. It’s the everyday reality of Satan that is dangerous…that’s what they need to be taught to look out for. Turning the t.v. on late at night is all it takes to convince me that his subtle message is spreading everywhere, and finding plenty of fertile ground. This is the battle that’s scary to fight–the one where our own pride gets mixed up with sensuality and pop psychology, and we justify ourselves in making bad decisions, falling in line with the world in an inexorable journey to self deception and tragedy. This is the real live ickiness of evil, not the snotty Halloween goo that we scare ourselves with once a year.
So, I think one reason I like Halloween (besides the chocolate) is that it’s a way to innoculate myself–face fantastical fears and conquer them. Watch the heroes battle the vampires and win..watch the plucky kids save the day…trick or treat on a dark and stormy night, then return home to warm apple cider. The much scarier battle starts the next morning, just as it does every day, making my way through a world that has little respect for my spiritual decisions, and contains endless tempting diversions–much less recognizable foes, but ultimately, so much more dangerous to my spiritual health.