My humility restrains me from being too frank, but I was rather delightful. As difficult as it is to believe, some people hate delight in all its splendiferous forms. For instance, when I was a pastor, about forty percent of the church would actively enjoy my ridiculousness, another fifty smiled politely, but weren’t sure what hole in which to place my particular peg, but the last ten vigorously opposed my frivolity as their given spiritual work.
(I’m getting to Halloween)
Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about: My friend and I once invited ourselves to the after-party of a religious event. A vaunted religious celebrity had found a chair on the back patio, and his hipster disciples gathered round, yea, verily with cigars and tumblers of whiskey they did gather round him. With dreams of guest blogs and speaking invitations, they leaned in close while my friend and I tossed bean bags at a hole in a box several yards away. When we laughed—the unfettered, blissful laugh of the redeemed, I might add—they gave annoyed glances that seemed to wonder what fool had invited us.
(I bet those guys didn’t like Halloween.)
Recently, I went through a traumatic decade or so where life seemed to have decided I needed a good trouncing or three. I still consider myself joyful, but I haven’t recovered to the point where it shines as it once did. The jokes don’t come as fast, the belligerent optimism is blunted. But it’s all still in there. Hibernating, I suppose. I think that’s why I like Halloween so much.
(I told you I’d get to it.)
Halloween reminds me of a child who once won his church’s costume contest dressed as the devil, and didn’t wonder if God might think that inappropriate. The one who couldn’t wait to stick his fat little hand in a bowl of eyeballs (or peeled grapes) in a dark room. Who is still charmed at the sight of the right combination of orange and black, and seeing those peanut butter chews he didn’t care for, but still reminded him of this time of year.
When I was that age, Christmas was my favorite holiday. Later, it was Thanksgiving. More recently, it’s Halloween. I’d never really thought about why until I started writing this. But I think I know. Halloween can be bottled joy if we let it. If you don’t get bogged down in Druid this and Satanic that, it can be the one day of the year where it’s fine to break loose and laugh at all the demons, rejoice in imagination, and pat death on the head like the stuffed trophy kill it is.
As Christians, we have seen death die on a Sunday morning at the sound of a stone rolling away. Its echo at the end of our lives has become a song of final victory. The skull on my face jeers at fear, the creepy crawlies titter at fear. The world opens its doors and we skip and laugh and dance for all to see. But we believers should dance the hardest, skip with the most fervor, and laugh so loud it’s contagious. Because others might be trying to escape on this day, but we are free.
So, should I Halloween? I don’t know about you, but I have to. You might not like that. You may think I’ve gone too far. I hope at least some of you do. Because maybe—fingers crossed, knock on wood—that means that boy I used to be—the one who chortles at funerals, and is too much full of joy—is finally ready to come out and play once again.