Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Won't Someone Please Think of the Candy?

Tonight's cocktail is a pumpkin martini, because it's almost Halloween, y'all! You can get the recipe here.



Although I have been Jewish for almost 20 years, I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian church that can be best described by saying that although there weren't snakes involved in Sunday services, there were probably at least a few people who wouldn't have dismissed the idea out of hand. They did just about everything else: speaking in tongues, falling down to the ground "slain in the spirit," and a signature dance move that my friend Ashley at Big Top Family, who survived a similar but even weirder upbringing, calls "grapevining for Jesus."

As a result, you can add Halloween to the long list of strange things about my childhood. I remember a few typical Halloweens collecting candy as Wonder Woman or Dorothy before my parents started attending their church, but after that, the hammer came down. Around late September of my second grade year, I started chattering at the breakfast table about what I might want to be for Halloween, when my father announced without fanfare that I would not be going trick or treating. He told me that he and my mom had learned at church that Halloween was a throwback to pagan festivals that glorified the devil and featured human sacrifice, so we would not be celebrating it ever again. I clearly recall completely losing my tiny mind at that point, because WHAT ABOUT THE CANDY? WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CANDY?????

It looks so lonely.
Of course, the church had an answer to that, because even they realized that you couldn't take away kids' candy and still expect them to love your religion. God is powerful, but not THAT powerful. As an alternative to Halloween, the church had an "All Hallows Eve" party where kids could go to play games and get candy, and I'm sure there was some kind of praying involved. You could wear costumes, but they had to be Bible characters.



In retrospect, I wish I'd insisted on going as Jezebel, or maybe the Whore of Babylon from the book of Revelation. Hindsight is 20/20.

Meanwhile, all my friends were running around the neighborhood after dark in packs, dressed as devils and vampires, collecting full size Snickers and having a great time. My Halloweens sucked by comparison, though not as much as the more recent iteration of crazy-church Halloween co-opting ideas, like the "hell houses" where churches scare kids to Jesus by showing them people pretending to be dead from some combination of premarital sex, abortion, drugs, devil worship, secular humanism, and gayness (never, mind you, from starvation, tainted water, or suicide after being bullied for being gay, but potato, potahto). So it could have been worse.

Now, as a mom, I love doing Halloween with my kids. Tweak is being Darth Vader this year, and Tink will be Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. They will go around the neighborhood and collect way too much candy, return, sort their loot, and chalk it up as a good time. Interestingly, my parents think the kids are cute in their costumes and don't have a word to say about whether I should let them trick or treat. I'm baffled that they ever saw evil in innocent childhood fun, and maybe they are, too.

It's part of our nature to wonder about the things that go bump in the night, and making fun of those things by dressing up as them is a pretty healthy way to deal with that fear. For me, while I wouldn't say I'm haunted by my religious upbringing, it definitely gave me some baggage. So this Friday, while I'm helping my kids put the finishing touches on their costumes and dressing my dog as an ice cream sundae, I'll be sticking a thumb in the eye of a mindset I've rejected. I may need to eat extra candy, too. You know, just to make sure I get my point across. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

10 comments:

  1. Growing up I had a few friends that did not celebrate Halloween and I always felt bad for them. For the same reason, what about the candy!! I"m so glad you have a fun halloween tradition now for you and for your family. Enjoy!

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    1. Thanks! My kids are back and forth on whether they'll let me wear a costume. I really want to wear my disco jumpsuit, but apparently it's too embarrassing.

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  2. If I loved you any more, we would have to get married! Seeing as how that's just not going to be okay with Todd, I will have to settle for calling you my "sister from another mister." Our similar backgrounds are how we found each other, and that is a product of my upbringing that I wouldn't change for anything. This was funny, insightful, and so well-written. You complete me!

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  3. This reminds of the year (second grade) that my "best friend" became a born again christian and didn't go trick or treating. She also went around to the whole class and told everyone that I was going to hell and that the devil would take my soul because I was Jewish. Weird - because this was Long Island, so it's not like I was only Jew around. Needless to say, she was no longer my friend after that. And I got all the candy I wanted that year :-).

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    1. I bet your friend was just jealous about the candy. I'm pretty sure that there were exactly zero Jews in my elementary school in rural North Carolina, but if there had been, I shudder to think what people might have said to them. They love their Jesus down there, but they don't so much focus on the fact that JC would have been a member of the tribe.

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  4. Now I know where you got your grape-vining mad skilzz! It also explains all the "halleluhiah'ing" done at the same time. Wow - you are a forgiving soul, my dear. Its scary how easily so many folks are manipulated by fear.

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    1. I think a lot of it was a product of the place and time. Late 70s/early 80s in the Bible belt was a weird time, and the euphoria in that kind of worship is pretty heady. Plus, when you're a kid, you don't have a good benchmark for what's normal.

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  5. Sorry it took me so long to get here but it was worth the wait. You are so good at weaving the funny, the serious, the crazy, and the WTF together into a great read. Have fun with your darlings this Friday.

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    1. Thanks, Pattie! There is just so much WTF in the world. Someone has to make it funny, right?

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