I have seen Halloween experienced (or not) from many interesting perspectives throughout my life.
A few years ago we moved in to a neighborhood that throws a big shebang every year at Halloween. The Home Owners Association figured out that Halloween is the only time the majority of neighbors are in town / at home. (The school year has started, November and December holidays haven’t started yet …. ) So at this point in my life, I’m enjoying the Halloween spirit. it wasn’t always like that for me, growing up in Christian Science. Also, there hasn’t been a consistent set of “rules” as far as I have seen, from 40+ years of watching Christian Scientists talk about their own concepts and experiences with Halloween.
When I was a little kid, I sincerely don’t remember anything Halloween oriented. I don’t know if my CS nurse dad shielded me from it? Or if our neighbors were poor like we were, so no one celebrated it? Perhaps it wasn’t the big deal then that it has become since the 80s? I do remember a few Christmases. I have no memory of Halloween from those ages.
The first Halloween I remember, I was 10 years old. I wanted to dress up like Tinkerbell. I put on a green shirt and cut something up to be my skirt. It was cold out, so I put jeans on under the skirt. I knew it looked silly, but I figured it would be ok. I cut huge pieces of cardboard added some aluminum foil and string, and I made myself fairy wings! I felt like I was a successful Tinkerbell.
My step mom told me it was cold outside and I couldn’t wear just the tshirt. (Wait a moment, “matter isn’t real,” so I couldn’t “catch a cold” unless I was afraid of that, right? So – why did I have to wear that coat and ruin my costume?) So she made me put on my white winter coat that had blue patterns on it. So, basically, I was a girl wearing jeans, a white jacket, and huge aluminum foil wings. I hated having to wear that jacket. It completely ruined my costume. But at least I was proud of the fact that I made shiny silver wings, and they actually held up & looked good!
My best friend came over and we walked around the neighborhood and said, “Trick or Treat!” and got candy from neighbors. I got home and had maybe 30 pieces of candy. I sorted all my candy in to piles and I honestly feel like I didn’t quite know what to do with it. I had been so sheltered growing up with just my dad. My “candy” was dried fruit. So I didn’t quite know what to do with these colorfully packaged things. Smarties were something I’d never seen before and they were so pretty – rainbow colors, but they tasted like chalk. I remember that part.
My step-mom of course hid the candy because she didn’t trust me with it. She would bring it out every now and then and let me have 1 piece. I thought this was incredibly stupid. Why hide it? Matter isn’t real. We were taught in Sunday school to “take no thought what ye shall eat….”
I of course found the candy. It was always in a drawer somewhere. Or in her closet. So I ate a piece here and there when I wanted one. And, eventually, it was thrown out. Whatever.
Between ruining my costume and taking away the candy, she definitely made sure to take the fun out of Halloween.
My first Halloween Encounter from a Radical Christian Science perspective.
I was told of a Christian Science lady that I know. She is such a creative person! Super fabulous and a lot of fun. Very much in to costumes and theatrical shows. She and her husband used to tour around and do such fun shows. She absolutely hated Halloween. She hated it so much, in fact, that she would turn off all the lights in her house on Halloween night, sit in the dark, and refuse to come to the door. Every year!
I couldn’t understand why this creatively fabulous woman that loved and entertained children, would turn off her lights and hide on a night when kids like to wear costumes and pretend to be something they are not. It was such a contradiction to me. To each their own, I suppose.
Another Radical Christian Science Perspective on Halloween
I knew a school teacher. She is also a Christian Scientist. Last I knew, she was teaching at Principia. That was at least 20 years ago now.
She also hated Halloween, and wouldn’t let her kids (both were younger than I was) celebrate Halloween. She would keep them home. As far as I know, they didn’t even know Halloween existed – probably the way I had been raised when I was just with my dad.
I never talked with her personally about this. So, all of this is conjecture on my part. But, I am assuming these are the quotes she heard from the Christian Science perspective, that made her draw this conclusion.
From the Bible:
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – II Tim: 1-7
Fear not, for I am with you. I am your god. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41: 10
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. – Psalm 23: 4
Draw near to your god and he will draw near to you. – James 4:8
And from various writings by Mary Baker Eddy including Science and Health and also Prose Works:
Health is not a condition of matter, but of Mind.
Disease is an experience of a so-called mortal mind. It is a fear made manifest on the body.
When fear disappears, the foundation of disease is gone.
Christian Scientists, be a law to yourselves that mental malpractice cannot harm you either when asleep or when awake.
It was scientifically demonstrated that Leprosy was a creation of mortal mind and not a condition of matter.
And this particularly long-winded and confusing sentence I still can’t understand but can quote without looking at it:
“Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious, as life eternally is can destroy any painful sense of or belief in, that which Life is not.”
From what I understand of these quotes, I believe she felt that if she fostered fear, then disease would happen to her, her kids, her family. If she encouraged Halloween, that was encouraging fear. As I have said in previous blog posts – in Christian Science, our thinking is given so much power, that what we think manifests itself in our personal reality. We had to constantly “stand porter at the door of thought, admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results.” – Science and Health, page 392. If we let in a concept of fear, we are inviting bad things to happen to our body.
To illustrate this concept, I was taught a folktale style story during Christian Science Class Instruction, that a Christian Science sailor on a submarine was lying down in his bunk one night, thinking about what it was like back home at that time of year. It was autumn, and he was dreaming about the pretty fall colors his family must be experiencing. He remembered how the last time he had been home, during the fall, he had gone on a hike with his family and gotten a huge bout of poison ivy. Then he fell asleep thinking about this experience. Mind you, he was deep under water, in a submarine. He woke up the next morning, covered in poison ivy. He went to the ship doctor. The doctor examined him and said he didn’t have any poison ivy remedies on board. The doctor said, “you need to get rid of this the same way you got it, or we are going to need to get back up to the surface and take you to a hospital.” So the man had to go back to his bunk and pray to remove his fear of the poison ivy. Miraculously, he was cured.
This story teaches Christian Scientists that whatever we are afraid of WILL manifest itself on our body.
Principia College’s version of Halloween
When I was a student at Principia College, one of the men’s dorms threw a spectacularly scary haunted house every year. It was great fun! The main living room had students hanging from the rafters – they looked as if they had “hung” themselves. (I noticed they had their feet actually on a rope, so they were not actually in any danger.) I remember the basement one time had students in the laundry room, pretending they were eating bloody things, and on the wall was a sign that said, “Taco Hell.” I thought this was hysterically clever, but believe me, it was scary. Friends of mine would lie down outside during the haunted house experience in a temporary, man made pond, under a temporary board. They would squirt water from a hose at visitors to the haunted house. It was designed to feel like the visitor was walking through a scary, dark swamp. Every year, for several days, this men’s house would host the haunted house with new scary exhibits. I enjoyed the haunted house, as did the rest of the student body at this Christian Science college.
My own family’s haunted houses
Every year, my siblings and a neighbor would create a haunted house for Halloween. They had great fun! I think they decorated with spicer webs, sound effects, kids in costumes (whatever they were going to be that year – vampires, mummies, ghosts, zombies….) yelling, “boo!” and saying crazy things. One of the kids would walk the visitors through our basement and out the back door. The neighbor and one of my siblings would jump out at appropriate times. They did this every year. It was just a lot of fun too.
One year, my husband and I got inspired and set up a haunted house in our own home. We changed the dining room in to a creepy, bloody story area with things to put your hands in. Going up the stairs, we would tell a story. Getting to the top of the stairs, the my kids would be in their themed rooms. One was a vampire in a graveyard (the gravestones were made of juice boxes – it really wasn’t scary, but it was fun), and the other child was a skeleton. We put a huge spider web and plastic spiders all over the room. Again, not scary, but a lot of fun.
We told a scary story about the previous person that had lived in the house, and then, after visiting the kids’ rooms, we “spotted” the ghost of the previous owner of the house, and had the kids run screaming out of the house. Some of the neighbor kids loved our little haunted house so much that they brought their friends and other friends and visited it over and over. Sadly, one neighbor girl was very scared that the previous owner of the house was going to “come get her.” So, we had to comfort her that while the previous owner DID exist, our next door neighbor had known her and that she was very nice.
I felt horrible that I had instilled fear in this little child in the neighborhood. Her mom didn’t seem to mind and thought it was amusing. But, being a staunch Christian Scientist, I figured that doing scary haunted houses was a bad idea, and I shouldn’t continue this. So, we haven’t had one since.
Now that I am definitely out of Christian Science, and our neighborhood has this huge shebang every year, we love dressing in costumes and going to the parade and neighborhood bar-b-que. We have done this for a few years now, and enjoy it every time! Our neighborhood decorates more for Halloween than they do for Christmas! The entire neighborhood, it seems, gets in the spirit of Halloween, one way or another.
This year, we are coming up with the idea of how to turn part of our new home in to a new haunted house. One small section will be a non-scary part for the toddlers and their parents to go through. And the rest of the space will be scary. I’ve actually been researching props and things online for a few months now, and spent time thinking about it for over a year. I think it would be very fun!
What is most fun, though, is knowing that I can’t possibly, through a haunted house, actually inflict any people with an actual disease. That’s a completely ridiculous notion! I mean, really! Imagine: “hey, I made a spider out of a black balloon and black crepe paper. I used string and made a spider web for the spider to be on. I am using a fan to make it look like he is moving. I turned off the lights and am playing that song, ‘Purple People Eater.’ And, because you think it looks real, you will contract malaria or some other spider-given disease.”
That’s completely ridiculous – that my silly antics could cause any sort of disease in a person. Yet, Christian Scientists pray CONSTANTLY every day, to overcome this idea. I remember being in plenty of elevators, hearing people talk about their diseases, and I would have to mentally pray strongly so I couldn’t contract whatever disease that was. Even if it was something like a miscarriage. I wouldn’t want to experience one of those, but if I heard some woman talking about hers, I would have to pray to literally protect myself from also having one. I am not exaggerating.
image via https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a2/Jack-o%27-Lantern_2003-10-31.jpg