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.
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-Albert-Helen-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.