Oct 28, 2008

A king’s lament: A personal reflection on Halloween

by Tim Mattingly

As a boy I loved to don my King David issued breastplate of righteousness, with its sleek gray scales glistening pale-gray in the dim living room lamp light. And upon my chest was an emblazoned silver cross, whose ends split wide like the cleaved skull of wickedness (or like a hotdog left in a microwave for too long).

Of course, no king is complete without coffers lined with riches. My currency of choice was always those golden chocolate coins, those delicious doubloons wrapped in shimmering foil. As king, it was my right to swing a sword and if I so chose, to eat my gold.
Yet when Halloween came around every year I was forbidden to ride forth into my kingdom. Even worse, I was not permitted to tax the local peasant folk and set my royal treasury bursting over with riches. Needless to say, the candy-driven economy of my kingdom was in shambles.

This happened each Halloween of my childhood. My fellow lords and ladies would ride forth on their chocolate fox hunts, leaving a lonely king to build Lego castles by himself (none of which were edible).

My parents’ reasoning, keeping in-line with the religious beliefs of the church we attended, was that Halloween was a pagan holiday. In order to protect me from the “evils” in the world, I was not allowed to strap on my royal regalia and venture forth.

There were, of course, church-sanctioned Halloween events or ‘fall festivals,’ where such sinful pursuits, like dressing up as your favorite superhero, were forbidden. Instead, in the traditions of our forefathers, there were bobbing for apple tournaments, caramel apples and apple cider.

While this seems harmless enough, it is actually routed in dark religious history that dates back to the witch-hunting era. Bobbing for apples originated with an old-school church sport called “witch bobbing,” according to a BBC article.

To play this old colonial favorite, you would need a suspected witch, some rope and a pole. You tie the witch to the pole and then dunk her in the river. The key to the game is patience, as you have to leave her submerged for a little while. Then, when the time is right, you pull the pole out of the water. If the bobbed is still alive, then congratulations, she is a witch and you can burn her at the stake.

Since apples on Halloween historically represent witches, we can draw a more macabre conclusion about their application during the modern Christian celebration of this holiday.

Apples on a stick, drizzled in hot caramel and then rolled in crunchy peanut crumble sound delicious (and trust me, they are). Yet, I would argue that it is church-code, meant to symbolize the tying of a witch to the stake, dousing her in hot oil and then stoning her to death.

Also, do not forget hot apple cider or as I liked to call it, boiled witch.

I am happy to report, that over time, my parents came to realize the true nature of these church sanctioned, Halloween witch-bashings events. But by that time, the chocolate coins tasted funny, my breastplate of righteousness no longer fit and the royal sugar-deprived blood in my veins had run its course dry.


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