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I learned to like Halloween

During my childhood years in Montreal, I grew up hating Halloween. Why? Please allow me to explain.

My brother Kevan was not my favorite sibling; far from it. He would tease and taunt me at every opportunity, especially on Halloween if I was dressing up in a costume. I eventually learned as I got older to simply avoid the situation by getting dressed up at a friend’s. Another irritation for me was that Kevan was born on Oct. 31, which automatically put a dark cloud on the day for me.

Yet another Halloween irritant was the older tough guys lying in wait on various street corners. They just hung around looking for some helpless kid who had a pillowcase full of goodies. Now you see it, now you don’t!

Because Montreal is up north, by Oct. 31 the sun disappears early leaving the neighborhood cloaked in eerie nighttime darkness. The growing intensity of the evening shadows help make the “trip and take” maneuver easy for the gangs of lazy bullies.

When I was 6 or 7 years old, I started wearing a pouch beneath my costume to hide my carefully selected stash of the good stuff until I got safely home. It always worked. I simply diverted the attackers’ limited attention from my few pieces of Bazooka bubble gum or pieces of fruit to the other kids nearby with sacks overflowing with sweet and tasty goodies.

But the thing that stands out the most about what made Halloween a stupid holiday for me was the weather. In Montreal, most Halloween weather forecasts called for a cold front or a snow blast, or both. Why go to all of the trouble designing an outfit (with accessories) as well as getting the makeup just right only to have to put on a parka, hat, scarf, gloves and snow boots? It was crazy, but we did it anyway.

Fast forward to the year 1993. I was living in San Diego with a new wife, Kerry, and family. I regularly attended Horizon, a mega church pastored by a 30-something-year-old surfer dude. On Halloween they urged the neighborhood kids to create costumes, but not of ghosts or goblins, witches or warlocks, but instead shepherds and kings, and any other inspiration found in the Bible.

I was impressed and started liking the new Halloween. Instead of going door to door yelling “Trick or Treat,” the neighborhood kids were encouraged to come to the church campus and explore dozens of events that were planned, including hot air balloon rides.

In Tucson, NewLife Bible Fellowship created the same family-safe experience on campus and called it Trunk or Treat. Our parking lot would be full of cars with overflowing trunks open. Instead of going door to door, all you had to do was go car to car, or trunk to trunk. It was a huge neighborhood success.

My feelings toward Halloween continued to evolve over the years, and now I can’t believe the garbage I see on the shelves in big-box stores. Skeletons, werewolves, Frankenstein and the gang all waiting for you at the checkout line, tweaking at your impulse-buying gene. Some fall for it and some don’t.

First Presbyterian, our church in Jacksonville, has also created a family safe environment on campus, where anyone can partake. I’m seeing a trend develop. Maybe it’s time we consider changing the name Halloween to something more suitable and proper. Any suggestions?

Richard Hunter lives in Jacksonville.

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