I’m a Priest Who Kinda Likes Halloween

This is a post that has been bouncing around in my head for a while, not quite sure how to express it. As a priest, I get this vague feeling sometimes that I’m not supposed to like Halloween. Not that it matters, or that anyone cares very much. But this year, as I stood at a bake sale with my fleet of Halloween-themed cupcakes and cake pops, I decided I felt like explaining.

There are plenty of things about Halloween that make me ambivalent. I’ll not go into them, because I do not wish to judge others for their choices in things that aren’t that important. (Unless you’re being unsafe. That’s not cool. Be safe.) And I’m thankful to visit and bless people, even if they called me for an exorcism because they watched too many horror movies and need to get their boiler serviced.

But, on the whole, I like it. I have liked dressing up for Halloween since I was a little kid, and my mom made me a turtle costume from cardboard and styrofoam. Those memories come back when Stringbean spends a month perfecting her robot costume – she only needed me for the duct tape.

I first started appreciating Halloween deeply, though, when Jared and I were playing Dungeons and Dragons regularly in seminary. After our group had been meeting for a year or so, we started to realize that all of our characters were our shadow selves, in some kind of jungian sense. Whether we were the warrior of justice that no one took seriously, the thoughtless meat tank, or the bard who stood at the back and led without anyone knowing, there was some hidden aspect of ourselves that our characters were helping us process.

For me, my character helped me process the crushing grief and anger that tied me in knots for those first two years of grad school. I’d had three miscarriages in just over a year, and I was kind of done with feelings, but trying to study to serve the church anyway. My character was a halfling who had lost her whole family, and dealt with it by becoming an assassin, living in that true neutral space where morality and order are a shrug. When I realized what my subconscious was doing with my character, I didn’t try to change anything, but I watched. When I saw her making some choices that revealed she didn’t see the whole world was all dark, that was one of the elements that moved me toward growth.

On Halloween, eleven years ago now (!!) our DnD group dressed up as our characters. It was pretty weird for me, inhabiting that space, letting that inner space be on the outside. But it also felt like a hug.

That’s how I feel about Halloween. It’s a time to get out our shadow selves, our dark sides, and give them a big hug. To say to those parts of us that we struggle with or don’t like, you are part of me, you are here, it will be okay.

For too many, the church and the priesthood have been a gated community, that say to all marginal and disapproved things, you are outside. Halloween is in the realm of the Not Acceptable. I just don’t live in that space. That’s not how I was raised* or educated or taught to be a minister. We’re drawn to dark things for a reason, because part of us lives there. Those parts are loved. So, so much. And valued. Just the way they are. Sometimes those bits need to change, to keep from hurting themselves and others. But that doesn’t change how much God loves them.

Now I’m getting weepy. Pretty silly for a post that started out as an excuse to show you pictures of cupcakes. And pretty esoteric for a holiday that’s mostly about dressing funny and hitting up neighbors for a shocking quantity of candy. But these are the real reasons why I like Halloween. All the other stuff – the Jack o lanterns, the games, the costumes, even the candy – to me, they mean that hug. That’s the upside-down shape of the universe, as profound and ridiculous as it gets. Enjoy your chocolate, kids, and don’t forget to brush your teeth!

*That is how my dad was raised, which probably has a big something to do with all this. Thanks for kicking that stuff to the curb, Dad. And for all the trips to theme parks, and nights watching Tim Burton films. [And thanks Mom for the 6am picture, and alllllll the costumes!]


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