Lately I have been reading quite a bit of material written by anguished moms on the topic of celebrating Halloween. Some are mothers from the U.K., in which Halloween is a relatively new concept. Others are American women, often new moms, who are now having to grapple with seeing Halloween from a parent’s viewpoint.
The commonality between all of these mothers appears to be that they are religious, church-going individuals.
First of all, I’d like to say that I have much respect for these women and their opinions. Their commitment to their children bursts off the page as well as their distress.
I’d like to help.
I am an American woman who happened to be born on – can you guess it? – Halloween. I grew up incorporating trick-or-treating into my birthday celebrations. Sometimes I would dress up like a princess or a ballerina, but other times I would select a slightly more sinister costume like a devil or the classic Halloween witch. All with my parents’ blessing.
I am also a Christian. A grew-up-on-the-second-pew-under-the-minister’s-nose, Sunday School-teachin’, daily-prayer-sayin’ Christian.
You see, there is no avoiding the spookiness of Halloween. Even if you as a parent don’t permit the more demonic Halloween costume selections, you are confronted with the frightening ones everywhere.
Last year, this was pure torture for me. I would innocently walk into a flippin’ drug store with my tots, minding my own business. Suddenly, “MWAHAHAHA” would come ejecting from a previously silent and still, now gesticulating mechanical skeleton with glowing red eyes.
I like spooky things, but this would make me jump out of my skin. And Lord, what it did to my children was pitiful. I’d have to turn around and hightail it out of there. With 60 pounds of children in both arms and no cold medicine or whatever essential item I had originally gone in for.
There was also the TV commercial for a large party supply store which would frequently run these during primetime hours. These commercials featured Michael Jackson “Thriller”-style zombies and monsters dancing. Then there were the commercials for the amusement park Halloween attraction nearby that also displayed very lifelike chilling creatures appearing to pop out of the TV screen and into our living room.
Now, I DVR everything that our family watches. We can zoom past those creepy commercials, should we need to.
A quick funny story: Home Depot is always crawling with Halloween odds and ends this time of year, particularly of the larger-than-life-size variety. My son had been referring to many of his toys as “Scary Man,” and a giant inflatable pumpkin-headed creature fit the bill.
As Will was obsessing over the Scary Man Pumpkin in the store, a kind older couple walked by and complimented the children in passing. After they walked by, I resumed the conversation in progress about “Scary Man” (reportedly in a resounding voice). My horrified husband chided once they were out of earshot, “Nice one, Merr. I’m sure that nice old man thought you were talking about him.”
I froze right there, then a wave of panic and regret washed over me. I grabbed the children, threw them in the shopping cart and whipped around the aisles of Home Depot. Embarrassed, I had to locate the Un-Scary Man to explain the faux pas. Turns out, he was extremely hard of hearing and never heard me in the first place. Boy, was he confused then.
But I digress……
If I must take my kids into a store at which there are automated glowing demons, I give them a major heads-up. It is important to me to describe in great detail what they will see. And that the creatures are not real, nor are there any beings alive that resemble them. I then try to emphasize the “fun” aspect of Halloween. That it’s fun to be scared when you know it’s not real. That mom and dad will be nearby every time they are confronted with a scary image.
For those of you who are struggling with having your children celebrate an “evil” holiday, you may be interested in some historical facts about Halloween.
- Halloween originated as a festival held at the end of summer during which Celtic people felt bonded to family members and friends who had passed away. For these deceased people, the Celts would set their dinner table accordingly and would leave sweets on doorsteps. They would light candles to assist those spirits in returning to the spirit world.
- Colonial Americans would recognize Halloween by engaging in “play parties,” in which they would celebrate the harvest, dance and sing.
- The tradition of trick-or-treating is thought to have stemmed from All Souls’ Day parades in England. As a part of these celebrations, the poor would approach others for food and be given pastries known as “soul cakes.” In exchange for these pastries, these destitute individuals would agree to pray for that family’s deceased relatives. This activity was sanctioned by the church.
- The custom of donning a costume originated from Europeans and Celts hundreds of years ago. These folks believed that spirits would return to Earth on Halloween, so they masked their faces in order to confuse the ghosts into thinking they were from the spirit world. Then the poor chumps left some food outside to placate the spooks in the hopes they wouldn’t have unwanted houseguests.
You can find explanations of these traditions and more information about the history of Halloween on this website:
Like it or not, Halloween is an unavoidable constant. We as parents can choose to embrace the celebration and use the presence of these inescapable images as teaching opportunities or we can try (most likely, unsuccessfully) to shield our children from it all.
As for my family, bring it on.
What are your beliefs on celebrating Halloween? Did you grow up taking part in Halloween traditions? Has your philosophy changed? If so, why?