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I grew up in a small town. Like, they just built a high school 4 years ago, it doesn’t have a post office so our mail is addressed to the next town over, we don’t even have a Wal-mart small.
Gholson, Texas is just in between Waco and West, Texas. The population hovers around 1,000, but you’d never guess that. During my years in elementary and middle school, my class size ranged from a low of 16 kids to a whopping high of 23.
It was one of those towns where everyone knew everyone else. While there were only 2 gas stations, there were 4 churches: the 2 black churches and the 2 white churches. The “black churches” were the Baptist church and the Pentecostal church. I went to the Pentecostal church.
If you aren’t familiar with the Pentecostal church, more specifically The Church of God In Christ, it is the epitome of the black churches you see on television. Women in skirt suits and dresses with big hats, shouting, singing and even speaking in tongues.
Growing up, we went to church 4 times a week or more; twice on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and sometimes on Wednesday.
I didn’t own my first pair of pants until I was in high school because according to the Church of God In Christ, pants are men’s clothing, and according to the Deuteronomy women aren’t to dress in men’s apparel as it is an abomination.
We weren’t in a cult or as extreme as say, the Duggar family, who practice arranged courtship and no kissing before marriage (although I did have a pastor tell me before you shouldn’t kiss before marriage because kissing was an “upper persuasion for a lower invasion”). But Halloween was considered a taboo holiday because of its connection to dark topics like ghosts, monsters and demons.
Halloween wasn’t the only “normal” American holiday tradition we missed out on.
I was in the first grade one Christmas when we were told to go outside and close our eyes because Santa was making a special early delivery to our classroom. But ONLY if we closed our eyes. I didn’t close my eyes.
The little girl next to me was very upset about this and told me I wasn’t going to get anything from Santa. I told her, “Santa isn’t real.” This did not go over very well.
She probably thought I was just being a jerk, but I’d been taught my whole life that Santa wasn't real. Christmas was about the birth of Jesus. I still got gifts, we still had a Christmas tree, it was just that in my family, Jesus was the reason for the season.
Similarly, we were allowed to have Easter egg hunts at church after Easter service, but nobody ever mentioned a bunny.
But the only holiday I was really fascinated with was Halloween. It looked so fun. Halloween nights for me usually meant eating whatever candy was left from the school parties and watching Disney Channel movies like Halloween Town.
Considering some kids in my church weren’t allowed to watch things like that (most parents banned things like Harry Potter), I didn’t feel too bad.
There was no trick or treating on my street. Out in the country, most houses were separated by at least half an acre of land. We didn’t buy costumes. Early on in elementary school, I remember having to write what we were dressing up as for Halloween to put up on the activities board and I’d always put the thing I wished I could be.
The only year I dressed up before I turned 18 and left home was when one of the women in the neighborhood had a “saint’s party” for the kids on Halloween. A saint’s party was basically her way of cutting us poor church kids a break and letting us enjoy the holiday without actually enjoying the holiday.
We were allowed to dress up as Bible characters, eat candy and play in the field in between the church and my grandmother’s house. The two most popular costumes were Mary and Joseph. Considering how long the Bible is, there was not a lot of originality.
My first year of college, I was determined to celebrate Halloween and actually dressed up as a devil. Take that, childhood!
I didn’t do anything too crazy. I went to a party in the clubhouse of my on-campus apartment and pretty much just sat there alone. It wasn’t until my second year that I mastered the art of the Halloween party.
Today I pray and believe in God but I think the last time I went to a church for anything other than a funeral I had a panic attack.
I see how certain biblical scriptures led my church to forbid Halloween, but even as a Christian, I personally find a lot of it a tad bit extreme. Putting a sheet on a 6-year-old and calling him a ghost is no more embracing devil worship than letting him play cops and robbers is telling him to embrace a life of crime.
If I decide to have kids, I’ll let them celebrate Halloween, but I probably will skip the Santa Claus lie.
Being the kid in the super-religious family who was only allowed to wear dresses, didn’t get to celebrate Halloween and went to church 4-5 times a week wasn’t so bad. Yes, I did have moments where I experienced what we now call FOMO, but it wasn’t unbearable. I spent my childhood being the weird little church kid and I still had an amazing childhood.
But let’s be honest: Halloween is way more awesome when you can enjoy liquor and candy.