I Unabashadly Wish You a Happy Halloween!

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.         


  1. Seth Rogers says:

    Just don’t eat all the leftover Peanut Butter Cups in one go when less trick-or-treaters show up than anticipated.

  2. Have you ever heard a talk on the evils of Harry Potter? Now that’s scary.

  3. Watch the heroes battle the vampires and win..

    I have to confess that I prefer horror movies where the evil guys win. Twisted. Samarra climbing out the well and coming through the TV? Awesome.

  4. Karen, you’re right on about the ridiculous portrayals of Satan and the oh-so-spooky occult. That stuff is best left to Saturday night live. It’s Dante who puts Satan in the elaborately worked out depths of hell. In the scriptures, Satan just roams the earth (well, in Job, he’s portrayed as a member of God’s court–I’ve never really gotten that one from a doctrinal point of view).

    Trunk-or-treat is the best, though. Giving candy away to children that you know, or whose parents you know, gives Halloween a nice community feel that is lacking in my neighborhood where nobody knows anybody else and I don’t recognize more than 2 or 3 of the kids who come to the door.

  5. Oh, I forgot: Happy Halloween to you, too.

  6. Nothing gets kids more interested in playing with a ouija board than telling them that they shouldn’t play with a ouija board.

    Karen, that’s funny, I has this same thought just yesterday after listening to a wonderful and well-meaning Y/M leader teach a group of priests about chastity. His lesson could be boiled down to a few simple sentences, like: “Whatever you do, don’t do this! Or this, either! And don’t even think about doing that, ever!” If those 16-18 yo young men weren’t interested in sex before the lesson, they certainly were after it.

    Halloween is fun, but the most fun part for me as a kid wasn’t the costumes, it was the grocery bags full of candy. Once, my stash lasted until past Christmas.

    Bryce I.,

    Yes. And yes, it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

  7. Seth: clearly, eat all the peanut butter cups in several goes. prolong the magic.

    Bryce & Mark IV: I’m fascinated by the Harry Potter stuff. Ultimately I think evangelical focus on it has hurt them in so many ways…

    Ronan: you freak…get with the program…leave those scary movies alone and watch something uplifting (like Johnny Lingo–which isn’t scary at all). :o) You probably let your kids watch Harry Potter too. Anglophile.

    DKL: I’m with you on the community thing. I had such a great time–something about bonding with people outside the normal church conversations. Interesting point about Dante. One glaring black hole in my literature background…I’ve never read it. My only exposure is through art and second hand.

    Mark IV: I’ve been in some chastity lessons like that. Didn’t help get my mind of things so much…not particularly helpful. I wonder if someone could trace the path of involvement with the occult, if it wouldn’t at some point go back to the “it was forbidden at church” kind of reasons. Interesting.

  8. One of the nice things about the LDS Church is that people don’t get all wrapped up about Halloween or Christmas or Harry Potter being evil or furthering Satan’s secret plan to seduce the unwary. It’s nice to just enjoy holidays or movies like anyone else. The fact that Mormons can dress up like ghouls in their own church parking lot says something about the self-confidence of the average Mormon in their beliefs. None of the anxiety and insecurity that drips from most Evangelical psyches.

  9. I intensely dislike Halloween, but not because of any religious reasons. I just think it’s annoying that people dress up in silly outfits and its stressful gathering costumes for the kids. Not to mention the fact that I have to pretend that every obnoxious child who shows up at my door asking for candy is cute.

    Today at work everyone is dressed up in ridiculous outfits, and we are going to have packs of children from attorneys at our firm roaming the halls today at the firm to get candy (my kids included). Unfortunately, accommodating these kids right during the middle of the business day is not billable time. If I wanted to spend my (otherwise) billable hours looking at kids, I would take the day off and take my own kids to the zoo.

    Oh, well. At least my children have a blast. I guess that’s all that matters, right? So I’ll put on my best face for them. What the heck- they can’t read the bloggernacle anyway…

  10. I love Halloween–even (or especially) the dark side. I hope it sticks around in the millenium.

  11. Halloween is my favorite holiday next to Christmas. I never end up dressing up or even really decorating, but I always want to.

    I used to live in a small town, and we had some Christian neighbors who didn’t approve of the ghosts-and-goblins/evil thing. So they handed out homemade cookies with crosses on them that said, JESUS LOVES YOU.

  12. Jordan, I like you, and I’m even sympathetic to your point of view, but for some reason I’m picturing you right now as a slightly balding, stooped man with a pince-nez and an ink-stained green eyeshade, perched on a stool looking over his time journal and checking things off: “Billable. Billable. Not billable. Billable.”

  13. Brother Tom says:

    Dave: One of the nice things about the LDS Church is that people don’t get all wrapped up about Halloween or Christmas . . .

    Well . . . my Father got worked up about Halloween. He never allowed us to go trick-or-treating. For one, he felt that the parading of the pagan and occult was inappropriate. Also, we were poor and I think he was self conscious about his kids going around begging for candy. We also couldn’t hand out candy. Halloween at our house involved turning off all the lights and pretending we weren’t home. That, or we would actually go out to a movie as a family. This was one of the few days of the year we would actually go out together.

    So I kind of feel the same way Jordan does. I go through with the Halloween thing for the sake of the kids. My four-year-old is upset that I won’t dress up, though. He insists that I’m going to be Rolie Polie Olie for Halloween.

  14. Bryce:

    That was funny. Perhaps on the next installment of bloggernacle trading cards…

    Seriously though, despite the impression to the contrary, my life doesn’t turn by “billable, non-billable.” But there are things I would rather do with my non-billable time than cater other people’s children demanding candy at my office, if that makes sense and pretending to like my co-workers costumes.

  15. Oops- major run-on sentence there…

  16. I love Trunk or Treating in the Church parking lot. Its so much fun. We even invited some of the people on our street to come. I see no issues with being LDS and having fun on Halloween.

    Looking forward to raiding my kids candy when they go to sleep……

  17. Whoa, I’m going to have to reconsider my stance on Halloween. Hugo Chavez says it’s part of our culture of terror. Isn’t there a war on terror or something? I can’t support that.

  18. Dave:
    What part of the country do you live in? In Texas, my wife was forbidden to have a trunk or treat for primary by the bishop who said “we will not celebrate Satan’s holiday” in all seriousness.

  19. Scott:

    Your wife’s ward is not representative of Texas in general, unfortunately. Not that I agree about Halloween being “Satan’s holiday”- it’s most certainly not that. But unfortunately, I had to suffer through a ward “trunk or treat” just this last Saturday- right here in Texas. Staying home was not an option for marital harmony.

    So LDS “trunk-or-treats” in Texas is alive and well. Let the good times roll…

  20. There is a ward in DFW TX were the bishop thinks that Halloween is evil. When the ward was split last October the new bishop of the 2nd ward re-instated trunk or treat. Then all the first ward people showed up at the 2nd wards truck or treat!!!!!

  21. Aaron Brown says:

    You misspelled “unabashedly,” Karen. (Who do you think you are … Nate Oman?)

    Yes, I know I’m an ass.

    Aaron B

  22. 20 BCC commenters before someone caught me. Now that is scary.

    And thank you for the comparison to Nate… :o)

  23. I don’t dress up because I never take the time or money to prepare properly for Halloween. But I enjoy observing all those who do.

    On Saturday I got shamed into helping to decorate for the ward Halloween party. I wasn’t going to go and the activities committee couple (who are my good friends) said to me: “We’ve worked so hard! Won’t you come?” So I went. I ended up doing a lot of decorating and learned a few things.

    I also snuck off with some fake (but very realistic looking) spider web material and put it on the door with some black plastic spiders.

    Weird how doing something goofy like that brings me joy. It’s a fun thing to see and I’m sad I’m going to have to take it down soon.

  24. Susan M, if I were trick-or-treating, I’d rather get a “Jesus Loves You” frosted sugar cookie from an evangelical than a soy raisin granola bar from a health nut. I’m just sayin’.

  25. Ew, that’d be like getting a “trick,” not a “treat.” Who would be so cruel?

  26. OK- Halloween was not as bad as I thought. It was actually pretty fun! Hopefully I will remember that going into it next year.

  27. See Jordan, you were seduced by the dark side. Was it the chocolate or the cute kids?

  28. The fact that it was not as stressful as I thought it would be. Our house has been a disaster for the last two weeks as we have been painting the inside, and I was embarassed for anyone to see the inside from the door as they trick-or-treated. I also was not sure how the kids would behave. But everything was great- all the kids looked very cute (and I am sincere here) and the candy was also very good.

    But don’t count on me dressing up any time soon…

  29. I live on a large lot that allows us to grow our own food. To me, the worldly traditions seem expensive, insincere and a total waste of time and energy. We raised rabbits, and guess what we had for Easter? You got it…the Easter bunny! And for Christmas? (We are also priviledged to hunt here) Yep – venison – Thanksgiving? A plump, home-grown turkey. I am in a quandary about Halloween though…because there is no standard cutsie fallacy steming from this holiday to dispell. I wonder why that is? Maybe because none is needed. We are already buying into the dark side. Why instill little deceptions to make it acceptable, when everyone has bought into the real thing?