NOTE: Before you read this, I have to confess that I wore out not one, but TWO devil costumes as a kid. I can’t believe my mom bought those…
Today is one of my least favorite days. My family and I have chosen not to celebrate Halloween. If you want to know why, the short answer is that we are Christians, not Wiccans, Pagans, or devil worshippers. Obviously most people who celebrate Halloween aren’t those things, either, but like I said, that’s my short answer.
If you want a longer answer, I encourage you to do some research. Here are some links to get you started:
My purpose in this blog isn’t to discuss the history of the holiday or reasons for either celebrating or boycotting it. Instead, I’d just like to write about the experience of living outside the norm.
The fact that that my wife and I didn’t celebrate Halloween wasn’t a big deal before we had kids. Back when I was a classroom teacher, kids would sometimes ask what I was gonna dress up as for Halloween. I just said “myself.” Well, sometimes I said, “as a totally cool guy” or something and then clarify that I was only dressing up as myself. This was good for eliciting eye rolls from my teenage students.
The whole issue was slightly more problematic for my wife when she taught general music classes. She chose not to do Halloween songs in class, unless it was something particularly benign that the kids really wanted to sing. She simply chose not to sing songs glorifying the creepy spiritual aspects of the holiday.
It’s been trickier (no pun intended) since we had kids. We’ve often been asked what our kids are dressing up as, or if they’re excited for the Big Day. People have asked them the same questions. We just politely reply that we don’t do Halloween.
We’ve been chastised by other adults who have accused us of robbing our children of a treasured holiday institution (same thing with telling them the truth about Santa. We explain that we celebrate the Jewish holiday Purim instead (yeah, I know that’s kind of weird, but it’s actually less weird than Halloween if you think about it). Part of celebrating Purim is dressing up in costumes and eating yummy treats. Also, our kids continually have a couple buckets full of candy from non-Halloween occasions, so what are they really missing out on? Going to strangers’ houses and asking for candy?
Thankfully, our kids are almost beyond the trick-or-treating age, so we can avoid some of those awkward conversations.
Halloween makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like it. However, I’m not offended by those who celebrate it. If someone says “Happy Halloween” to me, I’m not offended. I realize they’re just being nice, and I appreciate it. If people put up Halloween decorations on their property, their business’ property, or even--gasp--public property, I don’t really care. I don’t like it, but I’m not traumatized by it, either.
I don’t think people are going to hell if they celebrate Halloween. I don’t think Christians who let their kids dress up and go trick-or-treating are bad parents. I don’t judge them, but I just choose not to participate.
Frankly, it would be easier to just go with the flow and celebrate like everyone else, but my conscience won’t let me. If you want to celebrate Halloween, that’s fine. Two things I ask: don’t come down on me for not celebrating, and don’t come down on me for saying “Merry Christmas.”
A Drummer is Born
NOTE: I was planning on writing a blog full of "brilliant" observations about music, but I ended up writing about how I started playing drums. Oh well, I hope you'll enjoy it anyway!
One of my greatest joys in life is music—both listening to and playing it. I owe this in large part to my mom. She loved music and passed that love along to my siblings and me.
The summer before I turned eleven, I started school band, following the example set by my aforementioned siblings. The previous spring, the band director at my school held listening tests to help gauge musical aptitude in the kids my age. This helped him determine who got to play which instruments.
I REALLY wanted to play percussion, just like my big brother. I remember taking the rhythm portion of the listening tests with a great deal of anxiety. I kept second-guessing myself and checking with my classmates to see how they answered each question.
When the results came back, I did quite well on all the tests…with one exception (I’ll let you guess which). I was distraught. The band director recommended I play trombone, but my parents went to bat for me, advocating that I get to try percussion, and he reluctantly gave in. I was relieved more than anything.
On the first day of summer band, the new percussion recruits gathered in the band room at Lincoln Elementary school. I don’t know how many of us there were, but my memory suggests there must have been upwards of twenty eager wanna-be drummers.
We took our places in a large circle, with each of us positioned behind a metal music stand. The director used masking tape to mark a square target area on the stands, which were tilted flat as makeshift playing surfaces.
I clung carefully to my new pair of size 2B drumsticks. My brother had previously taught me how to play using the “rudimental grip,” where the left hand holds the stick at an angle, different from the right hand. I was mildly dismayed when the band director instructed us to use “match grip,” in which the grip is the same in both hands. I thought rudimental grip was way cooler.
The clamor that erupted when we played our first exercise caught me off-guard. I can only imagine what it was like for the director, standing in the middle of the ring of cacophony.
Over the course of the coming days, the group was whittled down, and we were able to enjoy more personalized instruction.
I can vividly recall my pride at receiving the director’s evaluation at the end of lessons: “Watch out—gonna be good!” I was happy not only to avoid playing trombone, but to know my parents’ efforts were not in vain.
I was on my way.
I've included some old blogs along with the new. Should you ever find yourself suffering from insomnia, this is the place for you! That's as poetic as I get...