I’ll say it right up front: this writing is not about the philosophical or biblical arguments for or against the celebration of Halloween. I’m not going to address that issue at all. But it was in reading several different folks’ thoughtful writings on that topic that my thoughts took a turn toward Halloween past. And I’m not referring here to the origins of the celebration of Halloween. As the Ghost of Christmas past said to Ebenezer Scrooge, “Not long past – your past.” Only in this case, of course, it’s my past.
I grew up attending a little church in the foothills of the Catskill mountains of Upstate New York. (And yes, “Upstate” is supposed to be capitalized!) Our church was small, only reaching three digits during VBS week. But we knew how to have fun. And my church had a Halloween party. I don’t think there was any concept of “redeeming” Halloween in anyone’s mind at that time. I’m not sure whether they thought of it as a church outreach, or just wanted the local kids to have a safe place to come that night, but they always had a party. How we looked forward to it! It had everything that could possibly be called “good” at such a gathering, and truth to tell nothing that I can recall of the bad. No ghoulish outfits were allowed, and no one wore them. I wore my dad’s WW2 Army uniform one year, with my hair stuffed up under the cap, and some mascared sideburns. My friend Cathy Hardman showed up one year wearing a striped baseball uniform, and when she smiled, she had a blacked out front tooth. Cool! There were hobos and scarecrows aplenty, and even the grown ups got involved.
We had bobbing for apples and relay races. Howard Schrumpf, one of the church men, could always be counted on to come up with some really fun games. And he did gospel magic, too, with ropes and things. He was really good! Some years we had hayrides, and there was always hot cider and donuts in the back room of the church.
My favorite Halloween memory is the time my dad decided to go as an old hag. A new string mop served as his hair, and I have no idea where he got the very generously sized clothes. What fun we had stuffing his chest and his backside with pillows! We had to stop and rest a couple of times, like when his “bottom” pillow fell out of his skirt, and we were too weak with laughter for a moment to help him put it back. He won the “Hardest to Guess” costume award that night – no one figured out who he was. (It helped that he had remained silent the whole evening, using sign language for whatever he wanted.) My wonderful daddy left me with many precious memories, and his night as an old hag definitely ranks right up there with the best. All these years later, it still brings a chuckle.
Yes, Halloween past – my Halloween past. It wasn’t a bad place to be!