When I was at Catholic elementary school, October 31 wasn’t considered Halloween by the nuns. It was All Souls’ Day. I don’t think that Halloween was considered evil, and we certainly weren’t forbidden to go out trick-or-treating. But October 31 was the day that we were supposed to pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. In other words, pray for the dead. No wonder Halloween became so creepy. I blame it on Mexico.
Catholics believe in purgatory. Well, perhaps I need to amend that statement. The Catholic Church believes in purgatory. I can’t speak for all Catholics. Though my non-Catholic friends will disagree, I believe in purgatory. I don’t believe it’s Hell Lite as we were taught in grade school. Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have stated that purgatory is not a place but a state of existence. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I think it confirms my belief. We have been saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection, but unless we have the heart and soul of Mother Theresa, after we die, we have (in Ricky Ricardo’s words) some ‘splainin’ to do. And in my grandmother’s words, we have to “make things right.”
I, of course, know no more than anyone else about what happens after we die. Still, it’s why I believe in the existence of what we call ghosts. It’s also why I’m convinced that shortly following my mother’s death, she came back as a small bird to tell Dad and the rest of us that she was okay. I’m serious. It happened.
But back to Halloween. I don’t know at what age kids stop trick-or-treating. My 14-year-old nephew Carter announced this year that he wasn’t going to trick-or-treat. His older sister Kenzie was flabbergasted. “No one loves candy more than you,” she told Carter. “THIS IS THE HOLIDAY AT WHICH YOU RECEIVE LOTS OF CANDY.” As of this writing, it remains unknown as to whether he will trick-or-treat.
In my formative years, there was definitely a cut-off date for going from house to house asking for candy. It wasn’t set in stone, but you were given dirty looks if you were any larger than a normal 10-year-old. I know this because one year my friend and I decided to go trick-or-treating despite the fact that we were 15 years old. We cut holes in sheets and called ourselves ghosts. We rang the doorbell, then got on our knees and used “small child” voices that fooled no one and said trick-or-treat. We got a bit of candy, but gave up when one person announced that we were much too old to trick-or-treat and we should go home. So we did.
Since reaching adulthood, I have dressed up for Halloween exactly one time. I attended a party for which I dressed up as a doctor, using my mother-in-law’s medical clothes (she was a nurses’ assistant). I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. It’s much easier to watch the kiddies trick-or-treat while drinking a martini, and finagle some candy from great nieces and nephews.
Which is what I’m going to do.