Underneath my grandmother’s piano.
Behind her couch, right next to the cabinet full of Little Golden books that my mother, aunt, and uncles grew up reading.
On the top bunk of the bed my father built for me.
Between the bushes at the public library where one of our churches held services for a year or two.
In a closet at a different church when I found a fascinating book about missionaries and decided to see if I could get away with reading it while Dad preached one Sunday night.
Inside the circular clothing racks at Walmart while mom looked for whatever it is parents need when they have three small children.
As a kid I knew all the best places to hide. I never had anyone to hide from in a dangerous sort of way, I just liked the feeling of hearing other people walk past me without noticing anything. It was quiet, it was peaceful, and I virtually always had something that I couldn’t wait to finish reading if I could find an environment with those qualities.
We didn’t celebrate Halloween for the first decade of my life due to my parents’ religious objections to it, but I was incredibly intrigued by the idea of walking around in a costume that ostensibly kept other people from knowing who you were. Until my parents changed their mind about dressing up for that holiday I found physical places to hide instead. Or at least that’s how I interpret my fascination with hiding spots now that I’m an adult.
The autumn of 1994 was the first time we were allowed to dress up for this holiday and go trick-or-treating around the neighbourhood. The only stipulation was that we weren’t allowed to have violent, gory, or satanic costumes.
I remember packing in as much Halloween fun as possible over the next couple of years. Very soon I’d be too old to trick or treat, and I wanted to savour the time I did have left for that particular ritual.
What amuses me as an adult is how little Halloween has changed. People still bemoan the violent and sexual content of the costumes. Some folks still believe that there are razor blades and drugs in the candy. And the holiday is still about what is hidden and what is revealed.
But for one day of the year most people feel total freedom to express themselves. Some do it by picking costumes far more revealing or
controversial than they’d normally dare to wear in public. Others use Halloween as an excuse to hide their true identities. They might dress up as someone unrecognizable or pretend to be someone who doesn’t actually match with their values.
Some of the people I’ve met up here who don’t celebrate Halloween. Most of them didn’t grow up with the holiday and weren’t emotionally attached or repelled to the idea. I’d guess they see it the same way I think of Eid, the Chinese New Year, or Hannukkah. I know they exist and can provide a very brief explanation of what they’re about, but I don’t celebrate them.
A handful of very conservative and traditional Christians up here still think of Halloween as an objectively harmful celebration. They have the right to believe that, but I do quietly shake my head at some of the consequences they fear.
This year more than ever, I suspect that everyone’s reactions to Halloween say far more about their personalities and quirks than they do the beliefs that supposedly are the basis for those opinions. Tell me how you feel about it – fearful, irritated, excited, bored, or itching for an excuse to wear something far more revealing/violent/scary than you’d ever wear the other 364 day of the year- and I’ll assume that’s how you approach life in general.