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Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Here in the US Halloween is a major holiday.  People decorate their houses with carved pumpkins, scary decorations, and prepare for kids to go door-to-door begging for candy.  Haunted houses are popular and people pay money to have volunteers and professionals scare the bejesus out of them.  While not the biggest money-making holiday of the year, it's certainly one of the most popular ones.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  While I'm not into horror movies, I do like a good scare and spookiness.  I've always loved the classic Universal Studios monster movies.  I've been fascinated by werewolves and vampires, and at one point had a collection of over 200 vampire books.  I also like the idea of dressing in costumes, and continued to do so long after I stopped trick-or-treating.  In fact, my current enjoyment of cosplay at sci-fi/comic/fantasy conventions probably stems from my enjoyment of Halloween as a kid and a desire to do it more than one day per year.

I have some incredible memories from childhood Halloweens.  My mom would make many of my costumes and there were some creative ones.  I have pictures of me when I was about four or five years old dressed as a ghost, with a noose around my neck and the trailing end stiffened with wire to look like I was still actually hanging.  She made a great Dracula cape for me one year that I absolutely loved.  My parents always encouraged the fun part of Halloween, mixed with some of the spookiness.

One year my father hurt his ankle and couldn't go around the neighborhood with me and my mother.  He stayed at home but didn't want to miss out on the fun.  So he dressed himself in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, put on gloves, and a full head mask.  He sat in a chair near the door and would be perfectly still as kids approached, making them think he was a stuffed decoration.  As they got close or rang the doorbell he would jump up and scare them.  That was so much fun that both he and I did similar things over the years.

Another year, back in the early '80s, my father got together with some of our next-door neighbors and concocted a plan to make a "haunted woods".  We had a large are of woods between the three houses, and the men decided to make a truly memorable Halloween experience.  They made life-size mannequins of Dracula and Frankenstein's monster out of chicken wire and paper mache.  The build a life-size coffin for Dracula with a bat dangling from a motor, causing it to flap over it.  There was a grave dug into the ground with a rope controlled from my tree house, so that someone would pull the rope to open the grave when people walked by.  We had our family and neighbors as actors in some skits and scenes.  At the end there was a life-size witch on a broom that was hung from a pulley and rope.  She would be released to fly down over the people as they walked by, and my dad had a walkie-talkie in her so that he could stand behind a fence and talk to people as if he was the witch.  When people left our yard we had a full-size cast iron cauldron (something we had from my grandparents' home in the country) with water and dry ice.  The tray of candy floated in the bubbling, smoking cauldron, and most people were too freaked out by then to  bother taking their treat.  We had a blast, and repeated it another time.  All of it was free and just done out of our love of the holiday and a desire to have fun.

As a Christian I don't see anything wrong with enjoying a little scary fun at Halloween.  I used to write a more Christian-based blog and addressed this issue on a couple of posts there (here and here).  I won't go into the details again in this post, but if you're interested you can follow those links.  The point is that there is nothing inherently demonic or satanic about Halloween.  Sure, it can be that, but it can also be fun, simple, and child-like.  For most people it's just about having fun, dressing in costume, going to parties, and getting free candy.  

So I wish everyone a Happy Halloween!  Go out there, be safe, have fun, and eat more candy than you should!