By Clyde Davis: Local Columnist
In the town of Salineville, gateway to Ohio’s share of the Appalachian Mountains, where I served my student ministry internship, the main street of town winds from one end of the village to the other, east to west. Like the stream whose bed it follows. It was not surprising, then, that the Halloween parade, an event that signaled the highlight of fall and the beginning of the holiday festive season, would line up at Vern Gosman’s fuel station on the east end of town to begin. Flashlights, costumes, children and parents, and the occasional torch.
The march would conclude, some time later, in the parking lot of the hamburger diner, the name of which I do not recall, on the west end of town. There, prizes would be passed out, cider heated against the chill Ohio night distributed, and donuts handed over to anxious little hands.
In the church of Long’s Run, along the Ohio River valley, where I had the finest youth group that ever existed, back in the mid- to late-1980s, we would regularly turn the church basement into a haunted house for the smaller children. I guess I should clarify that “we” means myself, the youth leaders and the senior highs.
After the children had been properly spine shivered, we would have a “meet the monsters” party where the senior highs would come out and shake hands with the little ones, while everyone enjoyed sloppy joes and chips. I have a mental picture of the 230-pound football center, who loved being Dracula, picking up a 3-year-old, and the majorette, who delighted in being a good witch, serving pumpkin pie to toddlers. Dare you ask why I loved those kids?
In the town of Plumsted, not far from the South Jersey shore, Halloween was celebrated at the local lagoon. In truth this lagoon opened a chain of marshland that stretched to Barnegat Bay and the ocean, but that was more important during duck hunting season, which was soon to follow. For the time of Halloween, it was simply a great place to have a bonfire, cookout and small town party with costumes.
In none of these events was there any intent to invite the presence of evil into our lives. In none of these events was there an intent to do anything save the obvious — celebrate Halloween as a day, primarily for children but incidentally for adults, to have a great time.
There is religious significance, to be sure. The Christian celebrates Halloween as the day before All Saints Day. The Wiccan celebrates a day sacred to those who practice nature-based religions. A Wiccan is not a Satan worshipper, but is one who celebrates divinity as revealed in the natural world. The Christian certainly affirms that God reveals the divine self in nature, among other ways. Nothing of this has to do with giving oneself to evil. That is called Satanism.
Beyond and above this, which gets into more theology than I have room for here, is the celebration of Halloween as a time for children. I really believe that all honest religions, Christian, Buddha or Wiccan (to name a few), value their children and wish to provide the best for them. Providing the best, in this case, means allowing them to rejoice in Halloween, not making it a time for adults to debate.
Note that all of these examples, with which I opened my article, concern creating a fun atmosphere for children. Needless to say, I don’t believe little ones should watch horror movies, dress in fearful costumes or be told stories that will give nightmares.
I also do not believe they should eat all the candy they want. That is why God created grownups —to monitor those things.
However, let us not lose focus. Let’s not remove the fun for children that has long been a part of Halloween. What will you dress as this year? I can’t tell you my costume, but the opera won’t be over until I sing.