Thursday, October 23, 2014

Abstaining from Halloween

My facebook feed is full of pictures accompanied by the quotation, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." In many ways, October is lovely. In Phoenix, it's the first time we start seeing regular relief from 100 degree temps. We see fall leaves and Pumpkin Spice lattes and Christmas is coming.

But it also means Halloween, and the longer I am a parent, the more I grow to really loathe Halloween and it makes me anxious for the end of the month to come as quickly as possible.

I wasn't always a Halloween Curmudgeon. I have fond memories of costumes and trick or treating and candy from my childhood. I also think Halloween of 30 years ago was different than it is now, at least in my perception.

On Matthew's first Halloween, we dressed him in costume and walked around with friends while their older kids trick or treated. I suppose it was my first time "seeing" Halloween. I've regretted the decision to take him out that night. At 10 months old, his eyes were exposed to images of death and darkness and fear and he was afraid. Halloween is no longer celebrated in such a way as to give cute little kids candy. It's become an all-out free all for adults and almost-adults to be either as dark, gruesome, and scary or as immodest and vampy as legally possible.  We couldn't approach a door for candy without passing blood, guts, witches, severed heads, skeletons, monsters, and tombstones along our way.

It's just so very dark. True, spiritual, ethereal darkness. I get near it and my heart and spirit feel oppressed. I don't think the macabre is funny or entertaining. I don't understand why we celebrate it, even in fun or jest.

As Matthew has grown older, he can ask about the things he sees. The dark images frighten him. It makes me angry that we can't go in to Target or walk down a strip mall without him seeing something that frightens him. Maybe I'm hypersensitive because Matthew is a highly anxious child. I hate that images of darkness and fear are force fed to him at 3 years old. I see his little mind as a blank slate full of light, and as he gets older, that light is slowly replaced with the darkness that we know as adults that comes with fear and death and sin. We spend the rest of our adult lives trying to keep our minds away from the darkness. I hate everything that introduces that struggle one second sooner, especially in the name of entertainment. I want to fight to keep his innocence for as long as possible. He has his whole adult life to know real fears and loss and pain and to see what true darkness is. I have no interest in throwing it around for sport, now.

Completely unrelated, I also think trick or treating sends mixed messages about safety and courtesy. 364 other days of the year, it's considered rude and inappropriate to walk around asking people to give you things. And it's never, ever ok under "normal" circumstances to go to a stranger's house for candy, so I think it sends conflicting messages to say, "except this one time it's ok." It's not that I think he'll get a piece of poisoned candy from a neighbor. But I think I set him up for confusion when very strong safety rules are changed for one day. Our neighbors aren't strangers and I would let him go see them because it doesn't confuse the safety message, but for whatever reason, none of our neighbors participate in it, either.

I love seeing little kids in costume and I hope they eat themselves silly on all the candy they want. I think dress up is fun and I love pumpkins. And I know there are lots of people who conscientiously participate in Halloween. I love that we still have the freedom to make these choices for our own families. And if there was a way we could participate in the genuine childhood light fun of Halloween without the darkness, we probably would. I remember Halloween being fun and sweet and I don't remember feeling fear or darkness.

I read lots of arguments about not shutting the world out for Halloween and about inviting the darkness in so that it can see the light. I think there is a valid place for that. However until my son can discern the light from the dark and understand the images he sees, I want to protect him from the darkness. When he has the discernment of the Holy Spirit, inviting the darkness is a completely different choice. When he is older and can logically understand that the fear is artificial and understand why the world celebrates darkness, Halloween will be a different conversation and we'll invite him to participate in making decisions about it.

One day I think it would be fun to be the "cool house" where every child knows they can come and receive a smile and warmth and their favorite treat and we could just shine love and warmth and light. That probably won't happen until we move because no one has trick or treated our street in years given how it is set up and lit and who lives in our neighborhood, but one day, I think it would be neat and would be something special we could do as a family. Maybe that opportunity will present itself here and maybe it won't but I see its value.

I believe strongly that parenting decisions (on non-essentials) need to be fluid an open to reevaluation as things change. But for now, we abstain from participating in Halloween.


  1. Last year was the first year we bowed out of Halloween (for all the reasons you mention), and we haven't regretted it. Not one bit! It really has changed from the cute-fun-sweet thing it used to be into an orgy of celebrating death/evil/occult/violence/immorality. We definitely don't miss it, though we still have to live through all of the ghoulishness in yards and stores.

    Diana :)

  2. Our family is right there with you Jen.