Somewhere between your child's pricey costume and your panicked run to the store for more trick-or-treat supplies, have you lost your love for Halloween? The Rev. Ed Bacon reveals his family's traditions and why you can use this time of year to live out your greatest fantasy—just as long as you eventually go back to being yourself.
This Halloween, my 5-year-old granddaughter will be Dorothy from Wizard of Oz and my 2-year-old grandson will be Thomas the Tank Engine. No one knows what my wife will be. Last year, she was a butterfly with big, beautiful, blue, purple and black wings. The year before, she was Winnie the Pooh's Tigger with a long, orange and black tiger tail and cute, pointed ears. It's always a surprise when I get home on Halloween afternoon to find out who my wife is this year.
Whatever my wife becomes on Halloween, we will give treats to about 100 ghosts, fairies, pirates, bumblebees, cowboys, princesses and zombies who parade to our front yard shouting, "Trick or treat." And we always have a big pot of chili on the stove in case one of our friends who is the parent of a trick-or-treater needs some protein for those last few knocks on the neighborhood doors.
Halloween is big for adults as well as for kids. That night, there are parties throughout metropolitan Los Angeles, where we live. Adults are doing what the children do—dressing up in the costumes of some fantasy about themselves they hold inside. When we become playful about Halloween, accessing our inner child, we can for a few hours pretend to be someone else or something else or some animal. That choice may reveal where our souls or personalities are this particular year; it may be simple whimsy. You can imagine how many Barack Obamas or Madonnas may be out partying this year.
All of this is healthy fun. For centuries, cultures have some form of annual "carnival" in which another persona comes out to play. It is a way of saying that we all live in a very diverse community of selves. That is one thing celebrated the next day in Christian circles—after all, Halloween is shorthand for the Eve of All Hallows—All Saints Day.
On Halloween, we also celebrate that sometimes we have fantasies about being someone else. But the sanest and healthiest thing always is to settle back down to be your own unique and true self.
Now this year, I'm thinking my Halloweens of sweating behind that rubber monster mask I've worn in years past are over. Maybe this year I'll dress up to be Dr. Oz!
The Rev. Ed Bacon is a guest host for the Oprah's Soul Series radio show. He is also the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California.
Published on October 27, 2009