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  • Writer's pictureJayma Anne Montgomery

THOUGHTS ON CHRISTIAN PARENTING DURING HALLOWEEN (PART I)

Our best friends are the proud and surprisingly chill parents of seven. I have been given permission to refer to them at Austin & Monica Disney. Regardless of the fact that we have collectively been besties for over 15 years, I have been continually impressed and delighted by the sheer quantity of their children ever since they hit child #4. What’s even more surprising than this, is their ability to parent them all relatively fairly while carefully attending to the individual needs of each child. For instance, their fourth child started public school first grade this year. It was not an easy decision for them to make but they have taken great care to attend to his academic and social needs. Last week, his class hosted a pumpkin patch surprise event at his school. The parents were asked to attend the morning event dressed as scarecrows who would surprise their child with a pumpkin. Now, if we had four children, I probably would have struggled to even want to attend this event in the first place let alone bother to get into costume. Not the Disneys. Despite having kids in four different schools this year, they came through with style and enthusiasm. I mean, this costume makes MJ's scarecrow in the Wiz look sad and sorry. Behold Austin the Scarecrow.






When Monica and I were discussing it, she mentioned that the process of even entering a Halloween store to purchase it was a rather terrifying one. This was the single scarecrow costume that they could find that didn’t appear to be a deranged murder-minded scarecrow. I probably wouldn’t have even entered the store. Amazon may be a retail Behemoth that has strategically monopolized many different markets, but they are convenient, quick, and able to spare me from entering the seasonal aisle at the grocery store against my will. Also, I really need their platform to sell my book so...Amazon is a must-have for me right now as a working mommy striving to become bi-vocational. Several Marco Polo monologues ensued and thus my decision to camp out on this topic today.


Halloween can be a time of great internal conflict for Christian parents. Some of us don’t appear to have any conflict about it but I would venture a guess that most of us harbor some whether we show/admit it or not. We want our children to participate in fun activities at school and create cherished memories with their friends. But we also want our GOD to be pleased with the way that we are raising them and the early picture that we are helping to paint for them of what it means to lead a faithful Christian life in America. It probably goes without saying that Halloween was not a thing in Jamaica in the 1980s and I’m pretty sure it still isn’t. The Waterhouse district in Kingston was an extremely dangerous place but I enjoyed somewhat of a protected status as a young child being raised by an elderly couple who were loved and revered in the community, even by gangbangers and lunatics. I have talked a bit about the violence I remember witnessing in Gunlust and a History of Violence, but I suspect my mind has mercifully continued to repress the vast majority of it.


After I immigrated, there were a lot of stimuli that I found jarring, TV shows and movies in particular. It took me over a year to fully grasp that Shere Khan and Gargamel were not immediate threats to my safety. Once I fully grasped the difference between fantasy and reality, I was able to begin enjoying most children’s programming. From the time I first experienced Halloween at six years old, I never enjoyed it. I found it strange, confusing, and genuinely scary at times. I didn’t understand why people enjoyed it but I wanted to make friends so I participated in the Halloween parades at school and trick-or-treating. As our family became more settled into the local Assembly of God church, I began to hear more specific teachings about it. I understood it to be “the devil’s holiday” and a “celebration of evil.” I was given the distinct impression that real Christians didn’t and never have celebrated the holiday and that the thing to do was to create alternative safe, wholesome environments to be in where kids only dressed like Bible characters or in non-spooky costumes. And so, because I didn’t enjoy being scared like many of my friends did and because I didn’t want to participate in anything evil, I stopped dressing up and sat at the picnic tables with the Jehovah’s Witness kids during the Halloween festivities. I wouldn’t say that I was sad about it, just increasingly confused with each passing year by all of the spectacle and wondering if I was making the right call or not. My parents always left it up to me, although, it was quite clear to me that my Mom preferred that I not participate.


Then came the Hell Houses and Hell plays. I recall attending my first one in middle school. These things were elaborate productions featuring scene after scene of people dying unexpectedly and then going to heaven or being cast into hell depending on if they had confessed Christ as Lord or not. I think these plays frightened me more than any haunted house or over-the-top yard decoration ever did. They always did a scene with a kid around 12 years old dying and then going to Hell because they were at “the age of accountability” (which I’m pretty sure isn’t found anywhere in the Bible). My ears would be ringing with the sounds of a child the same age or younger than me screaming at the top of their lungs for their parents to save them as they were dragged off the stage by several demons. The parents would always be saved and end up in heaven. I was later told that the child had never seen the demons in costume before the night of the play, so most of the time, those screams were real. It was awful. I genuinely hated it.


Over the years, the decorations and costumes have only gotten more elaborate. For some people, it's purely about creative expression and light fun. For others, there is a hint of spookiness with a ton of playfulness. But for many die-hard Halloween lovers, it's about the gore, the deeply unsettling, and doing whatever it takes to evoke sheer terror. This is what will ruin an otherwise pleasant hayride or a haunted house for me. I suspend my disbelief without even realizing it and one of my many phobias (spiders, tight spaces, pitch-black spaces) combined with genuinely grotesque dramatizations (people being electrocuted or decapitated, masked people grabbing at your arms and legs, maniacal clowns using real chainsaws to cut through skeletons and life-like mannequins, people writhing around in straight-jackets while strobe lights are blinking) and all sense of fun and enjoyment flees my faculties rendering me an irrational, emotionally devastated mess.


Stay tuned for part II later this week!


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