Halloween and Un-Halloween


I really loved October 31 when I was a kid because my family celebrated Halloween by uncelebrating.

Growing up in an apocalyptic religious cult means holidays are … interesting.

Halloween was the devil’s holiday. Obviously.

There would be no costumes. No trick-or-treating. No jack-o-lanterns. Not even a “harvest party.”

Even so, I lived for Halloween.

My best friend’s family would come over with candy and snacks and her crew and my crew would pile into the downstairs living room and play Candy Land and drink sparkling cider.

Our house was built into a hill, so the downstairs lights could be on without anyone knowing we were home. Upstairs would be pitch black to keep all the trick-or-treaters away.

We would even go completely silent if we thought we heard someone coming down the driveway. It was like we were hiding from warlords instead of cute 4-year-olds in tiger costumes and princess crowns. Heaven forbid they ring the doorbell and their evil-doing might seep under the door and into our house where the holy people were busy eating candy corn.

If, for any reason, you needed to get something from upstairs on Halloween you had to do so in the dark. I loved making excuses to go upstairs and sneak around like a spy, but the minute I thought I heard something outside I’d freeze. It was as if just hearing someone knock on the door on Halloween was going to bring down God’s judgment. The game was equal parts terror and fun.

Downstairs the adults made the secret party fun enough that the kids didn’t even consider what they might be missing outside.

It doesn’t bother me that I didn’t celebrate Halloween or have a harvest party in a church gymnasium. I genuinely loved our Un-Halos Eve party. And I never had to plan a costume to survive Pacific Northwest Octobers. The only thing I ever remember being bummed about was not having the pillowcase of candy to last all year long.

As an adult I am baffled by my parents’ fear and their absurd way of coping with it.

Nearly 20 years after my last bunker-spy-hideout-party it finally occurred to me that my very religious parents were literally hiding their light. They were so afraid of evil ideas creeping in that they turned the lights off in the house and let it go dark. The hypocrisy sits in piles so thick you could practically reach into the candy bucket for a fistful.

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