Growing up with conservative Christian parents was a tough time for many reasons. Things that most kids took for granted, like listening to Britney Spears, sex ed and watching the Simpsons were out of bounds. It was Christian radio, an embarrassed explanation of periods, carefully researched PG movies and an unshakeable feeling of isolation from my peers for me. To my parents (who I do love dearly, btw), the world was full of evil influences lurking in wait for the chance to corrupt their darling daughters. Obviously they needed to make we weren’t exposed to any of them. Near the top of the list of evil things to be avoided (just below abortion) was Halloween.
Instead of seeing Halloween as an excuse to wear costumes and eat candy as other kids my age did, my parents knew it was something far more sinister. To them, witchcraft and ‘black magic’ were real – so it was fundamentally un-Christian to celebrate it, no matter how lightly or jokingly. So while everyone else in my primary school classes attended Halloween-themed parties and went trick-or-treating in groups around the neighbourhood, I was doomed to sulking glumly by the window, watching my mother turn disappointed children away from our door. And it wasn’t just Halloween. Any literature or movie that ‘glorified’ the ‘dark side of the spirit world’ was forbidden. Harry Potter, Horoscopes, Goosebumps – even Bad Jelly the Witch were guilty of being evil channels through which the devil could poison our innocent minds. I didn’t even bother asking if I was allowed to watch Horror movies.
At first, I blindly agreed with it all – as you do when you’re very small and believe everything your parents tell you. But as I got older and the bans stayed firmly in place, the restrictions just made me want to see what all the fuss was about. In the later years of primary school I got out books with witches in them from the school library, hid them from my parents and read them in illicit fascination. When I was 12, my parents were just beginning to lax up the rules around sleepovers, and I was allowed to stay over at a non-church friend’s house for the first time ever (the result of extensive waterworks). This was, of course on the condition that no age-inappropriate movies were to be watched. Immediately they left, a dilemma presented itself: my friends had rented out Jeepers Creepers II – an R16 gore-fest which my parents would never approve of. I wanted to watch it SO badly but I didn’t want to break my parents trust (or go to hell). We watched the beginning (up until that bus scene), but I felt so guilty that I begged them to change the movie. They reluctantly put on another one, and I felt embarrassed for the rest of the night.
Another time, during my Church’s ‘Light Party’ – a ‘positive Christian alternative to Halloween’, my friend and I snuck off to go trick or treating in our angel costumes. Upon reaching an actual door, we were too filled with guilt to follow through on our devilish intention, and went back to the Light Party. There, we promptly hid out of view and bum-puffed a half cigarette we’d found on the side of the road. I’m not really sure if that last part is relevant, but the two memories are linked in my mind as defining instances of pre-teen rebellion.
Throughout my early high school years, going to sleepovers involved my parents checking with friends’ parents that no inappropriate movies were on the agenda for the night – a humiliating ordeal. Often, my friends’ parents took pity on me and hired R16 movies anyway – which I am eternally grateful for. This was a thing all the way up until I was actually 16 and legally able to watch R16 movies (by which time you don’t care anymore, obviously).
By the time I got to Year 12 and 13, I’d pushed the boundaries/let down my parents enough to eliminate most of the barriers to normal life. I watched whatever movies I wanted, stayed in class for sex-ed (which was woefully inadequate anyway), came to my own conclusions about religion (mostly a bs form of social control), and even did my Media Studies Scholarship essay on Horror films. I read all the Harry Potter books and watched all the movies, albeit at an age far too late to experience their full magic. #NotBitter.
These days I think I have a far healthier attitude to all things Halloween. A few years ago I tried out an Ouija board with some friends and nothing happened. As far as I can tell, I’m not possessed by any supernatural demons. Last year, I took an ex-boyfriend’s younger sibling trick-or-treating and had heaps of guilt-free fun. Although I can see where my parents were coming from in their ambitious attempts to protect me, I think it may have had the opposite effect, because I needed to discover it all for myself – not just Halloween, but lots of other things they told me were ‘evil’. Anyway, I’m ok now – although Halloween retains a bit more of an eerie feel for me than most people. There’s always a chance that my parents were right…