How I learned to em­brace the Hal­loween spirit

It took me two decades to grow past my Bap­tist up­bring­ing and treat Oc­to­ber 31 as the fun, friendly cel­e­bra­tion it re­ally is.

The Coast - - HALLOWEEN GUIDE - BY VAUGHN STAFFORD GRAY

I cel­e­brated my first Hal­loween at 22. And since this is now in print, I have to pub­licly apol­o­gize to my God-fear­ing par­ents. Sorry, mom and dad, but I am still a good boy.

Grow­ing up Bap­tist in Ja­maica, Hal­loween wasn’t re­ally a big deal. In fact, it was re­buked. As the end of Oc­to­ber rolled around preach­ers warned of devil wor­ship be­ing dressed up (see what I did there?) as a harm­less ac­tiv­ity for chil­dren. The fear was pal­pa­ble. And as I grew up, the dis­tance be­tween Hal­loween and my­self grew as well.

Hal­loween in Ja­maica is a funny thing. Dur­ing the ’90s when I was in high school it slowly be­gan in­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity. There were few cos­tume par­ties, but these were aimed at ex­pats and the up­per classes. Trick-or-treat­ing would be done in a hand­ful of gated com­mu­ni­ties or along one street in a tony neigh­bour­hood. Ru­mours about dark arts cults and de­monic rit­u­als would mys­te­ri­ously ma­te­ri­al­ize ev­ery Oc­to­ber. Whether it was Chris­tian pro­pa­ganda or the machi­na­tions of latchkey chil­dren, these ru­mours just fer­til­ized the taboo fields of Hal­loween.

When I moved to Canada, I im­me­di­ately em­braced the cul­ture. My wardrobe was sud­denly filled with plaid. I shopped at Roots, a lot, per­fected mak­ing Nanaimo bars and pro­nounced the sec­ond ‘T’ in Toronto as an ‘N.’ How­ever, Hal­loween was the Ru­bi­con I dared not cross. Then came that fate­ful day in 2005 when an ex conned me into go­ing to a Hal­loween party. “We’re just pop­ping in to say ‘hello’ then head­ing back home.” Stupid, silly me. Full dis­clo­sure: I was promised Chi­nese food and ice cream—the list of things that I would do for both is quite long.

So, there we were at the party. It was a nice group of peo­ple. Some went all out on their cos­tumes. Oth­ers came as top­i­cal puns and a few just went to the cos­tume shop and bought a pre-packed some­thing. I was wear­ing a multi-coloured striped t-shirt and black jeans. When­ever some­one asked me what I was dressed as, I said, “An un­wa­ver­ing Chris­tian.” They thought I was jok­ing. My ex emerged from the bed­room in a cos­tume (one was stashed at our friend’s apart­ment) and I sim­ply said, “There bet­ter be Chi­nese food and ice cream in there.” Alas. Soon af­ter I was dragged into the bed­room where pieces of cos­tumes from dif­fer­ent guests lay on the bed and I was fash­ioned some­thing fes­tive. I was a hot mess.

How­ever, as I walked around as Fat-Al­bertHe­len-of-Troy-Mario-Batali-Papa-Smurf-Ja­far I be­gan to see that Hal­loween wasn’t evil. I get where the pu­ri­tan­i­cal lens through which Hal­loween is viewed by staunch Chris­tians came from. Yes, Hal­loween has pa­gan roots, jack-o-lanterns and haunted houses and is a prime time for watch­ing hor­ror films and the witches of Ho­cus Po­cus. But the fear-mon­ger­ing by the born-again min­is­ters of my youth was a bit much.

Since 2005, I have cel­e­brated a num­ber of Hal­loweens. Many times I’ve spent months ob­sess­ing over cos­tumes. I’ve en­tered cos­tume con­tests, put out jack-o-lanterns and handed out candy. One year I was G-Unit-era 50 Cent. An­other Karl Lager­feld. Dur­ing my lean days, I went once as Achilles from 2004’s Troy. For the last four con­sec­u­tive years, I’ve been a cur­mud­geon. Let your imag­i­na­tion run wild with that one.

It took me the bet­ter part of two decades to get into the Hal­loween spirit. This year, as I pre­pare to at­tend a cos­tume party dressed as post-Ari­anna Pete David­son, I think about what Hal­loween re­ally is. A fancy dress party that is ri­otously good fun.

or rub­ber pup­petry. As is our na­ture, hu­mans ac­cli­mate. We find com­fort even in the worst. It’s un­sur­pris­ing Christ­mas comes so soon af­ter Hal­loween.

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