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Thursday, November 21, 2013

How Does Halloween Work with Children Being Raised in Reality?

I don't personally care about Halloween. I researched the history of it on the internet and read a book called Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night and I concluded that Halloween is, above all, a holiday about revenge. Keeping in mind that the history of Halloween is actually far more complicated, here is a summary:

From the middle ages through the 1920's, Halloween was the night the dead got to come back to the realm of the living and take revenge upon those who wronged them. What this meant, in reality was that Halloween was the night when people could dress up as ghosts or witches and go kick down the fences and trample the flowers of people who they believed wronged their dead friends and relatives. Ghosts took the blame for a long time but in the end it became apparent that it was actually teenaged boys who were doing the damage. In the early 1920's the angry young men began giving people the option to not have their windows broken: they would knock on the doors of wealthy people's homes and say, "Trick or treat?" They meant: give us a treat (money) or we will do a trick on you (break something). Pretty soon younger and younger boys joined in (and some girls, of course). It was through community efforts that Halloween was changed into the more "wholesome" holiday it is now.

Today, Halloween is no longer about revenge but I can't say that I am very into anything that it is about. It's a superficial celebration of scary things--horror movies, spiderwebs, decrepit old houses, grave yards, evil creatures that don't exist. Below the surface is a celebration of fear and ugliness. These are things that don't really do anything for me. And of course the candy turns me off as well.

If Halloween were more a celebration of death and less a celebration of horror, I would be more into it. Americans, with their terror of death, with death seen as "losing" rather than part of life, And of course I would also prefer if it were a holiday everyone could enjoy together, rather than the separation we have now with people of various ages doing their own "age appropriate" thing.

Here is what I would like to do for Halloween: the party takes place in a forest where leaves are falling from the trees or perhaps a campground or a cabin in Yosemite. There is a half-hour lantern walk through the forest. The path is walkable by moonlight but it is quite dark. Each person goes alone (except small children go with parents). Every 5 minutes or so the "walker" arrives at a person in a dramatic looking cloak holding a lantern. The cloaked person poses a question for the walker to ponder during the next stretch of his journey. At the end of the walk, there is a bonfire where people are celebrating letting go (along the style of burning man, perhaps?) There is dancing, pumpkin carving and food like hot apple cider and lacto-fermented small beers.

For me, the above sounds spiritual, dramatic and really fun!

But what about those people who love Halloween as it is? My question for them is: what is it that you love? Could you still love it if you had children? Could you still love it if you thought about what you were doing?

If you love the idea of taking your kid trick-or-treating... would you still enjoy it knowing that your child will likely see a costume that frightens him or her and could give him or her nightmares for months?

If you love your yearly sugar binge... do you really want to do that with your child? Experiment with it at home and notice if you and your child end up fighting or not getting along after a sugar binge as that is very likely.

If you love candy... how much do you know about sugar? If you knew that sugar was a drug, would you still enjoy candy so much? How would it make you feel to give your child the very same drug that you yourself are addicted to?

If you love dressing up... could you dress up in reality-oriented costumes? Nurses, cowboys, bikers, cats, bats, bunnies--all of these are costumes based on reality. Or could you feel comfortable not giving your child a straight answer when he asks what you are? For example, if you are dressed as a vampire you could say, "I am dressed as a vampire. Which means I represent my own fear of death."

If you love your friend's party... could you take your five-year-old knowing someone else's fictionalized six-year-old might tell him something that really confuses him like that there are little fairies hiding in all the trees? Would you be okay with your child hunting in every tree for fairies, wondering why the other child sees them but he does not, and not understanding what you mean when you say that fairies are not "real" because he has no concept of that idea?

If you love your friend's party.... could you take your five-year-old knowing that someone else's fictionalized child may say something that traumatizes him like, "I'm an angel from Heaven. If you aren't a good boy you are going to Hell." There is a great book on how that simple statement traumatized a women for her entire childhood called Dying To Be Me.

If you love your sister... could you take your child to her house knowing that her fictionalized children will teach your child violent super-hero behaviors and disrespectful Disney Channel behaviors?

These are the questions I pondered this year before deciding to not go to my friend's Halloween party. I am sure I will ponder these questions again next year and the year after and the year after....

I also want to mention that any of the above scenarios could also turn out fine. Maybe your child won't even ask people what they are dressed as and it will be a non-issue. Maybe your child will notice that other children behave in strange ways, hitting each other and pretending to hit each other but your child wont understand and wont try it out at home. Maybe your child will enjoy a yearly sugar binge but wont have a sugar addiction!

I am a big fan of enjoying life! And bringing your children to life with you, and especially to those parts of life that sparkle for you! I imagine that those people who love Halloween as it is could examine in depth what need of theirs is being met by their current celebration and then find a way to get that need met in a way that also meets their children's needs.

1 comment:

  1. Roslyn, Thank you so much for this read! I continue to wake up to how little in general culture can stand up to the slightest philosophical scrutiny. Thank you so much for your level headed, and thoughtful analysis on this topic. Damon