It’s that time of year again. Time for kids to pick out a special costume and eat all the candy they want. That is unless they are not allowed to celebrate Halloween at school, home, or anywhere else. Growing up not truly “celebrating” Halloween and now being a parent, I have a unique perspective on this holiday (much like my laid back view of Santa Claus, which I will most likely address in a few months).
I grew up in the late 80s and 90s not celebrating Halloween, and for good reason. The small school I attended decades ago allowed teachers to do, say and decorate as they wished. This led to many scary scenes in elementary school, painting vampire art, and some teachers even dressing up like demons and witches. My mom, a teacher herself at the same school, did not like this.
Instead, she requested that my sister and I be allowed alternative craft projects with pumpkins and other less “demonic” images. She decorated her own classroom for fall and focused on pumpkins, black cats, and more “kid-friendly” activities for her students. We didn’t trick-or-treat, but mainly because we lived out in the country with few neighbors. (Why go to Grannie’s house for candy when you can just go there anytime and eat a real meal?)
We did attend the school and sometimes a church Fall Festival, and my mom always had a booth for her classroom. These events were fun, because our friends were all there, we roasted marshmallows and hotdogs, and we went on hayrides. As an adult looking back, it seems to me that we did actually celebrate Halloween. We just did it in a way that didn’t include ghosts, goblins and witches.
I remember listening to a cassette tape with my mom when I was about 12, in which a cultist turned preacher described his testimony and the origins of pagan Halloween. This holiday did in fact start out with sacrifices to Celtic deities and celebrating Roman gods. However, the holiday also evolved to celebrate Christian martyrs and then Amercanized to be more of a fun festival for kids. The History Channel Online gives a nice overview of this evolution, including that “In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It is widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday.”
The ancient history of pagan worship and celebrating the dead is most likely the cause of some schools now wanting to ban Halloween all together to not ruffle any religious feathers. I personally feel that kids should be allowed to dress up and eat candy, maybe just monitor the costumes and content of the decorations (much like my mom did herself, but on a school-wide scale). No matter what is celebrated, there will be someone offended. Plus, the upside of my small-town school was that when Christmas rolled around we had just as much freedoms to celebrate Baby Jesus. (There were a few Jehovah Witness kids who opted out of that with no problems, just like we did the witches and demons.)
So is Halloween good, bad or ugly? In my humble opinion, it’s whatever you make it. My son is dressing up like his favorite cartoon character, Rubble from Paw Patrol, and attending our church’s trunk-or-treat. He would have also gone to a costume play date today if he hadn’t caught a cold. I don’t have scary decorations in our home (or even hay and pumpkins this year, since I’m 8 months pregnant with limited energy!), and we don’t watch scary movies. My son watches one of my childhood favorites, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and kid-friendly Halloween versions of his regular cartoons.
I tell to him that monsters are not real and try to avoid scary places. But when we pass by the scary skeleton in CVS, I explain that Jesus and Mama and Daddy are always there to protect him from what scares him. He can pray to Jesus and hold our hands for comfort. This seems to work well and lets him know where his safety lies. So no matter what your take on Halloween, fall activities, etc., I encourage you to help guard your kids and let them have fun and maybe more candy than needed for one night.