A story of a Pumpkin

We’d been married for several months when our first Halloween rolled around. At the Seminary apartments we lived in, we shared a porch with another young couple who were finishing their religious studies that year, and one day our neighbours put a Jack-o-lantern outside their door.

We got home from wherever we had been that evening, and there it was, grinning wickedly between our door and theirs. My religious soul was offended, how could someone studying to be in the ministry be dabbling in such a occultist celebration? And the smiling pumpkin sitting on our shared porch could make people think that we celebrated this evil day as well, inviting trick-or –treaters to our house.

And so, I strode up the steps to our door (long modest skirts swirling around me) and I turned the pumpkin so the carved features were now facing their side of the porch. Now no one would think that we approved of this sort of thing. My husband and I smiled, we didn’t want any evil spirits haunting our home, surely this couple would get the hint and get rid of the jack-o-lantern.

But the next day when I walked outside, the pumpkin had been turned back, facing out towards the street again. So I turned it around again, so that it looked like a regular pumpkin. Just your average fall decor here! None of that “Halloween” stuff at this house! This continued for several days. We turned the pumpkin, and they would turn it back. We moved the pumpkin to their side of the porch, they moved it back to the center. It was starting to get frustrating, evidently they were not catching the hint.

One day when I walked out on my porch, I noticed the pumpkin had a piece of paper taped to it. It said simply, “Do not touch the pumpkin.” We were not deterred in the least! This was our porch too! So my husband drafted a note in reply, explaining the alleged “pagan and therefore satanic” origins of Halloween (or as it should properly be called “Sahmain”) and we were not interested in inviting evil spirits into our home, so we did not appreciate them putting their pumpkin so close to our door. We left the note lying on top of the pumpkin, and the next day the evil jack-o-lantern had been moved to the other side of the porch. Victory!

Six years later, we have a Jack-o-lantern sitting on our porch.

This didn’t happen overnight. Back then Halloween was a very scary night for our fundamentalist Christian souls. It was the high holy day for witches and devils, and participating in that sort of “satan worship” would only lead to bad things. For several years we left the house on Halloween night, or at least pulled the shades and refused to open the door. Only two years ago I answered the doorbell and explained to an adorable little pirate and his mommy that we did not celebrate Halloween. But last year was different.

We had started asking lots of questions about everything, so naturally we questioned our position on Halloween too. What were we really afraid of? Were we afraid of the little kids in cute costumes? Was a large gourd with a face carved into it really that fearful? Were we afraid of Evil Spirits? Actually, not really anymore. In questioning God, I started to doubt the existence of Satan as an actual being, and either way I had stopped experiencing my “spiritual” panic attacks. So we decided that it was OK to give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

I don’t think I will ever be on board with how some have emphasized gore and horror on Halloween. I see no reason to celebrate some of the worst elements of humanity. But I now understand Halloween as a silly, spooky day, where kids get to have treats and exercise their creativity in putting together a costume. Halloween is just one more opportunity for custom, traditions, and family togetherness.

So yes, we have a pumpkin on our porch, and a bowl of candy ready to give away, and a very excited Pirate, Princess and Fairy to take out for our first ever Trick-or-Treat. And if someone answers the door and says “we don’t celebrate Halloween” I think I’ll just smile and nod and say “been there, done that.”

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02614822971755761394 Rebecca

    Sounds like our story. I grew up not celebrating Halloween. I started to lighten up about it in college and seminary. And as a pastor's family, we realized we would be missing opportunities if we didn't give kids candy for Halloween. That would be a real lack of hospitality and would make our small town feel like we didn't care about them. And when our daughter was born, we decided we would let her be cute things for Halloween. Why let the devil have that day? We are free in Christ and can enjoy the fun parts of Halloween. All days are God's days. I still don't like the yucky, scary stuff but I think we can enjoy the make-believe and silly stuff. We have a jack-o-lantern now too. And we are Lutheran, so we also have one carved in the shape of Luther's Rose!:-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Me too, me too! The whole "high holy day" thing – it was scary! Now, my family was okay with pumpkin carving (just so the faces were happy, not scary) and we went to our church's "harvest fest," but we still stayed far, far away from Halloween proper. And now, I get to go trick or treating with my little one. Yay!

  • http://www.liberatedfamily.com Rebekah

    Great story. Wonderfully refreshing. Growing up Halloween was off/on discouraged. But now I appreciate it. Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons and Halloween is another fun part of it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04738076740941616678 Rebecca

    My heart is smiling at the joy that you are in store for this evening. Have a fabulous time with your children!

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Aw, your kids must look so cute! Halloween is such a thrill when you are little, you are creating wonderful memories for them.

    I'm with you about all the gore stuff though. As a kid, I always liked the "scary" Halloween stuff that was obvious fantastical–ghosts, ghouls, etc. because my friends and cousins and I enjoyed creating this fantasy world and creeping ourselves out with it. But the increasing preoccupation with horror that has to do with violence and torture? That stuff isn't fantasy, it's reality. I don't get it and it disturbs me that people find that entertaining. I worked at a refugee shelter for a year. I recommend anyone interested in torture do the same. They'll hear plenty about it there.

  • http://mollymakesdo.wordpress.com/ mollymakesdo

    I'm glad to hear you're letting your hair down a little – halloween was such a treat when I was little and to my little soul all it was about was picking a costume, pumpkin carving and plotting a plan of attack to get the best candy (heck my friends and I would gather afterwards and swap and share anything we didn't like!) and growing up in a more rural state it was usually the last real day for fun before the weather turned.

    For anyone who wants to keep a Chrisitian theme to the holiday there are so many other ways than just flat out ignoring it – like the other posters mentioned Jackolanterns can become great little build boards for an important symbol.

    Now that my little family is Catholic we'll celebrate Halloween/All Hallows along with All Saints and All Souls, but I'll also keep alive the spirit of the holiday as a last day of fun before the winter turns harsh!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01659200420621854710 Maggie

    Such an interesting post! I am in total agreement about how there are some part of Halloween that are too gory and scary. But it can be very fun when to celebrate the fun and silly parts! Hope you had a wonderful Halloween!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17825458003284098965 Scott Morizot

    Never been a year of my life I haven't celebrated Halloween. I strolled around with my young teen daughter and her best tonight as they went trick or treating in costume. Probably the last year for that and she's my youngest. We've bought our granddaughter her costume every year so far. (She turns 8 in a few days.)

    I've thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the American experience of Halloween. Trick or treating as a kid. The transition to teenage hood (and egg fights). Taking your kids as toddlers trick or treating for the first time. (Somewhere in there, the craziness of clubs on Halloween.) Watching a senior son and some friends tour the neighborhood trick or treating in crazy costumes before a Halloween party. Handing out candy to the parade of cute kids. It's a fun holiday.

  • http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org ‘Becca

    I love your pumpkin story!

    I saw an interesting phenomenon growing up in small-town Oklahoma: Almost everybody celebrated Halloween and knew it as a time of innocent fun, until 1982. Then everyone freaked out about the Tylenol poisoning and for some reason focused their worries on Halloween candy. At least half of families in my neighborhood stopped participating in trick-or-treat out of fear that their children would be given poisoned candy. Even my own very rational parents would not let me eat any candy until they had inspected every wrapper under a bright light!

    Over the remaining 8 years I lived in that town, worries about poison faded while more and more preachers began teaching, "Halloween is Satan's birthday! Only Satanists celebrate Halloween!" Trick-or-treating continued, but participation was much lower than it used to be, but people had changed their reasons for not celebrating. In 1984 the public school district banned any Halloween decorations or related lessons ("Wendy Witch has 3 brooms. Wilma Witch has 4 brooms. How many brooms altogether?") but we still had a costume parade, but the strictest fundamentalist kids were kept home that day. A few years later the public schools did not allow costumes to be worn to school or have any commemoration of Oct. 31.

    My parents tell me things loosened up again in the mid-90s. I still wonder what happened. Why did anyone connect the Tylenol scare to Halloween candy? The next year, did people remember fearing Halloween but forget what they were afraid of, such that the preachers "reminded" them of something they hadn't actually "known" before??

    One thing that disturbs me about evangelical attitudes toward Halloween is the Hell Houses some groups set up, to provide the "fun" of a Halloween spookhouse with a "Christian" message about how sinners will be tormented. It seems to me they have way too much fun with the tormenting!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02979828437531268794 Rebecca in ID

    Halloween is kind of an intriguing holiday. I still haven't figured out exactly what it is. I know it is the Eve of All Saints, hence its name All Hallows' Eve, but somehow it is also all tangled up with spooky stuff and trick-or-treating and dressing up. Maybe the spooky part comes from All Souls' Day, the day after All Saints? Anyway, it can be a lot of fun, though I stay away from the really gory or terrifying stuff, and my kids have a blast with it. When I was little my parents didn't celebrate it, though we did give out candy to anyone who knocked on the door, but over the years they loosened up, and now I think it's my dad's favorite holiday. I know that at some point it did become a big thing for Satanists, and I do believe Satan is real, but I don't think there is a call to be overly frightened of him, as though he could harm our souls without our consent. He is very bright, but he doesn't grab souls with smiling pumpkins or kids dressed as zombies. I don't think he has much to do with good clean fun like that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15377583333000789903 Mrs. Anna T

    As a Jew, perhaps I'm an outsider on this issue, but to me it seems many people who refuse to celebrate Halloween still celebrate Christmas and Easter, which also have pagan roots. In Finland people celebrate Midsummer (Juhannus), which also has obviously nature-worship-pagan roots. In fact there are few Christians who don't celebrate "pagan" holidays that were Christianized but still retain many of their pagan symbols (such as the Christmas tree or the Easter eggs).