I loved Halloween as a child, and I love it as a mother.
As a child, I loved looking over the spooky fun books in the Scholastic Book order. I loved making colorful witches, ghosts, or jack-o-lanterns out of construction paper at school. I loved coming up with creative costumes and seeing everyone else’s at the school parade. I loved watching the “Charlie Brown Special” on CBS that only came around once a year. I loved the class party at school with pumpkin cupcakes and apple bobbing. I loved peeking into my neighbor’s homes while trick-or-treating, wondering what decorations/costumes/candy would be at the next door. And my three sisters and I loved it when my Dad drove us down a dark, tree covered road on Halloween night only to turn off the engine, pretend the car had broken down, and claim he could hear the Headless Horseman coming. It scared the daylights out of us, and we loved every minute of it!
As a mother, I brought the same enthusiasm for Halloween I had as a child into my own family. Just today I was out shopping for more fall colored Reese’s Pieces to put in our candy pumpkin on the kitchen counter, and a Tim Burton movie to watch this weekend. If my version of Halloween were a word cloud, this is what you’d see: homemade costumes, spooky stories, hot apple cider, Charlie Brown, spider webs, chili and cornbread, glowing jack-o-lanterns, school parades, candy corn, hay rides, and trick-or-treating. What’s not to love?
But, alas, I know there are plenty of people out there who feel strongly to the contrary. I’ll never forget the first time I heard of someone throwing a “Harvest Party” in lieu of celebrating the devil’s holiday. I was totally confused. (What? Boycott Halloween? Evil? Huh?) We have some neighbors, good friends actually, who just pass the whole thing over, giving each of their children money to buy whatever candy they want for a night at home watching movies and playing games. They don’t like the idea of their kids begging for candy from strangers, and they are totally opposed to the gore/horror/violence of Halloween that has been ramping up over the years.
And I agree.
Last week my husband went naively into a Halloween superstore with our children looking for a few costume accessories only to be greeted by some really (and I mean REALLY) sick and gory stuff. (Who is buying this garbage?) My 14-year-old daughter has been asking to go to some of the haunted attractions being advertised on what seems like every local billboard, but I have a feeling the haunted houses of today are much more “spooky” (read gory) than what I experienced back in the day. (Maybe that’s where those decorations and costumes are going!) We’re opting for the corn maze instead.
But the opposition doesn’t stop at gore/horror/violence. There’s the whole “sexy witch/maid/nurse” phenomenon, redundant “trunk-or-treat” activities, and the dilemma of how to let your kids dispose of that 10 lb. bag of sugar. (Eat themselves sick for a night and trash the rest, micromanage it for the next three months, sell it to the dentist, mail it to the troops, I do like Kit Kat . . .)
I get it. I really do. But I’m still not jumping ship.
Opting out of Halloween because some people have perverted an otherwise fun holiday is like opting out of Christmas for some equally unsavory reasons: it’s become totally commercialized, it promotes greed in our children, Santa and his elves overshadow the real meaning of Christmas, that sugar thing again, and on and on and on.
Halloween, like everything else in life, is what you make of it. You see what you choose to see, and experience what you choose to experience. This year’s plans include a trip to the pumpkin patch, our annual Saturday-before-Halloween-carve-a-thon, watching our new Tim Burton movie while savoring the best homemade pumpkin doughnuts ever, and then, on the big night, a neighborhood soup dinner in costume before trick-or-treating among friends. Again, what’s not to love?
As for me and my family, we’re going to have a frightfully fun time.
QUESTION: Cast your vote. Halloween: love it or hate it?
CHALLENGE: Create your own fun and unique Halloween traditions that defy the latest trends.