I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian church that can be best described by saying that although there weren't snakes involved in Sunday services, there were probably at least a few people who wouldn't have dismissed the idea out of hand. They did just about everything else: speaking in tongues, prophesying, faith healing, falling down to the ground "slain in the spirit," and a signature dance move that my friend Ashley at Big Top Family, who also had a weird upbringing, calls "grapevining for Jesus."
As a result, you can add Halloween to the long list of strange things about my childhood. I remember a few typical late-1970s Halloweens collecting candy as Wonder Woman or Dorothy before my parents started attending their church, but after that, the hammer came down. Around late September of my second grade year, I started chattering at the breakfast table about what I might want to be for Halloween, and my father announced without fanfare that I would not be going trick or treating. He told me that he and my mom had learned at church that Halloween was a throwback to pagan festivals that glorified the devil and featured human sacrifice, so we would not be celebrating it ever again. I clearly recall completely losing my tiny mind at that point, because WHAT ABOUT THE CANDY? WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CANDY?????
Of course, the church had an answer to that, because even they realized that you couldn't take away kids' candy and still expect them to love your religion. God is powerful, but not THAT powerful. As an alternative to Halloween, the church had an "All Hallows Eve" party where kids could go to play games and get candy, and I'm sure there was some kind of praying and singing involved. You could wear costumes, but they had to be Bible characters. In a word: lame, especially if you were a girl. In retrospect, I wish I'd insisted on going as Jezebel, or maybe the Whore of Babylon from the book of Revelation. Hindsight is 20/20.
Meanwhile, all my friends were running around the neighborhood after dark in packs, dressed as devils and vampires, collecting full-size Snickers and having a great time. My hymn-singing Halloweens sucked by comparison, though not as much as the more recent iteration of crazy-church Halloween co-opting ideas, like the "hell houses" where churches scare kids to Jesus by showing them people pretending to be dead from some combination of premarital sex, abortion, drugs, devil worship, secular humanism, and gayness (never, mind you, from starvation, tainted water, or suicide due to anti-gay bullying, but potato, potahto). So it could have been worse.
Now, as a mom, I love doing Halloween with my kids. Tweak is going as Darth Vader this year, and Tink will be Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. They will go around the neighborhood and collect way too much candy, return, sort their loot, and chalk it up as a good time. Interestingly, my parents think the kids are cute in their costumes and don't have a word to say about whether I should let them trick or treat. I'm baffled that they ever saw evil in innocent childhood fun, and maybe they are, too.
It's part of our nature to wonder about the things that go bump in the night, and making fun of those things by dressing up as them is a pretty healthy way to deal with that fear. For me, while I wouldn't say I'm haunted by my religious upbringing, it definitely gave me some baggage. So this Friday, while I'm helping my kids put the finishing touches on their costumes and dressing my dog as an ice cream sundae, I'll be sticking a thumb in the eye of a mindset I've rejected. I may need to eat extra candy, too. You know, just to make sure I get my point across. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.