Thursday, October 21, 2010

Halloween, what do you think?

Halloween is growing and growing and growing.

After college, I worked and lived at a wonderful Christian children's home called Wears Valley Ranch.  It's a beautiful place of God's healing and blessing for children and adults alike.  And we did not celebrate Halloween.

I had heard of these people growing up.  Those poor children with super strict parents.  The crazy religious or maybe just uncool and dorky parents who didn't let their kids dress up, go trick or treating, or do anything fun at all.  What sticks in the mud, I thought.  Thank goodness my parents weren't that strict.

My parents had their limits though.  No offensive costumes.  Always attend the church's Fall Festival--the lighter, life giving answer to the darkness of Halloween.  And never eat all your candy at once.  I think was an alternative, healthy approach to the night.

At Wears Valley Ranch, we took the church's typical Fall Festival to the next level.  We celebrated Reformation Day.  Did you know that Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to that old German door on October 31, 1517?  Oh yes indeedy, and for us Protestants, that's a big deal.  So the children dressed as Bible characters, we played Bible trivia, and of course we had Bible candy :-).

Here's sweet Arissa with sweet Anna Kathryn.  Arrisa was an angel and still is an angel today.

Zachary and I played Pin the 95 Thesis to the Door.  

At the Ranch, so many children had suffered in dark scary places.  They experienced real life monsters.  They really knew skeletons.  So why would we ever let them see that again?  But truth be told, we all have real fears.  We all have monsters of our own.  It's got me thinking, are monsters funny?  Are witches or vampires really amusing?  Does it do us any good to play around with darkness, even if it's just for one night.

The others side of Halloween is the sheer materialsim.  According to this morning's Wall Street Journal, Halloween is inching up on Christmas.  68% of Americans buy Halloween decorations while 66% buy Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.  90 million pounds of chocolate sold at Halloween, 65 million pounds at Easter, and 48 million at Valentines.  (I think Valentines needs to pick it up a bit!)  It's getting bigger each year.  And it's not helping our First Lady's fight against obesity one bit, is it?

Just walking around the neighborhood you can feel the presence of Halloween increasing.  Enormous spiders are crawling on the roofs and pumpkins the size of my car are bouncing on lawns.  There aren't many scraggly scare crows, but there are a lot of skeletons hanging from trees.  And they groan as you walk by.

A little too scary.

Or, sweet and silly.

We have new neighbors from Barcelona.  They've never experienced Halloween before and have asked me lots of questions about it.  Today this mother of 4 told me she is overwhelmed by all the parties and goodies and expectations and that her children are frightened by the decorations.  In fact, a friend on Facebook posted that her little girl cried herself to sleep because the neighbor's decorations are so frightening.  A little over the top, I think.  There are mummies up the street from us that are way too realistic.  It grosses me out.  Yuck.

So what's the point of all this?  I like pumpkins, playful costumes for children, candy (but clearly not candy corns).  Some people make it down right chic.  Like the famous blogger NieNie.  The autumn colors and flavors and excuses to party are fun.  But the dark, occult, and scary is too much.  Should I bag the whole thing or just keep it light?

I'd love to know what you think.  Is it just for fun or serious?  How do you navigate the scary with your children?  I know some of you have good ideas and opinions.  Please share!


Willa J. said...

This is the first year, obviously, that we've considered dressing Liza up and letting her trick-or-treat. But we're struggling with the same thing. We both grew up in families like yours, but Halloween seemed tamer then. Definitely food (or candy) for thought!

Willa J. said...
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Laura-Jane said...

We are keeping it light. To Gavin, it means he gets to help Daddy carve a pumpkin, dress up like a super-hero and go trick-or-treating. I don't think he has a clue that there's anything scary related to Halloween. I want to keep it that way for him. I want my kids to think of Halloween as a fun opportunity to dress up in costumes. We'll see how long I can shelter them :).

gwen said...

It seems impossible to keep the children from the goulish scary things when they are hanging on the tree next door. Today I brought C who is 2 yr 9 mo to my house. There are many large Halloween displays along our route. I pointed out my faves - the different colored stacked pumpkins and the bouncy, friendly ghosts. But, Gigi, he says, I like the scary monsters!

Amy and Jimmy Crain said...

I've noticed a BIG difference in the Halloween decorations in our new neighborhood vs. Dallas. It seems in Dallas it's more the cute carved pumpkins, mums, fallish stuff, but around here it is just plain scary stuff. Honestly, I don't even like walking Charlie around the neighborhood right now because I don't feel like it's really necessary for a 2 year old to see such scary things! Yikes! I think we will be sticking to dressing up and knocking on a few doors, but that's probably about it.

Alex and Emily said...

It's funny that Charlie A. likes the scary monsters. I guess that's the appeal of Halloween--people like the scary forbidden parts for a night. And as one man said in the WSJ article, "I like to scare people." I don't really understand that but it does seem to be a popular sentiment.

I agree Amy, the Bible belts like smiling witches much more than other parts of the country.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm Matt has always loved halloween, and I have too - more for the costumes and the community experience, though. And, admittedly, I did always love that candy! haha... We gave away green apples and raisins one year, I remember.

My family had a tradition of picking out something neat for kids, and kids would come to our house and put down their name and phone number, and we'd pick a winner from a bowl - like a raffle- and call them that evening to let them know they'd won. It was really fun and some kids were SO excited about it. My brother and I loved picking out the toy.

So, I guess for me, growing up, it was more about the creativity of a costume and the fun of greeting people from the neighborhood. We'll definitely be dressing up Eden, but I think it's bizarre when people put gravestones in their yard and get really into the decorations. I think it's fun because it's like a nationwide costume party - not because we want to worship death!

I guess it's like most things - you just have to decide what you yourself are most comfortable with, pray about it, and let that be your guide?

I'm pretty sure Eloise and Cordelia couldn't be anything but cute in a costume, though ;)

Averitts said...

C says he likes scary monsters, but we've accidentally run into a lot of dead, bloody manikins in window fronts, even at our grocery store. He seems a little unsettled about those (I don't blame him...they are awful!). We have talked a lot about what is inside of our bodies, and have talked about how interesting it is to look at a skeleton and at skulls. He seems intrigued, rather than afraid (for now).

As he gets older, and it gets harder to avoid all the images of evil and death, I hope we can talk about Halloween as a day that we can laugh in the face of death, because it has been conquered by Christ. I hope we can turn those scary things into silly things that don't scare us because we have Jesus....easy to say, hard to grasp (even for me!)

Alex and Emily said...

Don't worry BabySchneider, my two little ones will be in adorable costumes. (As they are most days of their lives...)

Annemarie said...

Emily! Come trick or treat in our neighborhood! I haven't seen anything scary yet around here the past 2 years- just some cute pumpkins and a few tiny happy ghosts in trees :-) C would love E to come along!

Our rule is that we trick or treat, but we don't dress up like anything scary in our family. We have good friends with that rule too, and this year for the first time their 6 year old is begging to be a skeleton just to "try" being something spooky. They said the reason for their rule was exactly because they don't *want* her to try being something spooky :) but that since there are dry bones in the Bible she can be one if she wears the Ezekiel passage on her costume! Interesting twist :-)

Maybe just hand pick a few houses? You can go to my parents'! xo

Anonymous said...

Ok, I thought it was just Atlanta that was out of control. Guess it's a national epidemic. I mean, huge blow up spiders crawling down your house? really? Not only is that tacky, it's environmentally irresponsible, a waste of money, creepy...the list goes on. I agree with you, Em. This is getting out of hand. I'm not usually one of those "things were better when I was little" types, but what happened to getting together with the neighbors with your pillowcase at dusk? Now Halloween spreads out throughout the whole month.

Molly said...

I'm revisiting this post because, well, recent circumstances surrounding Halloween have caught my attention. I fall right in line with many of the comments here. The joy of dress up and costumes coupled with some pumpkins and candy can be great neighborhood fun. I imagine when I have children I'll try to surround them with positive autumn images at this time of year. But how do we make a societal response to the increasingly scary images and messages? Do schools (public and/or private) step up to stop Halloween activities on their campuses? At what point do these activities go too far in providing a fun activity for their students? If 1 student has to stay home from school on Halloween because she often has panic attacks in response to scary images, should the school respond by making sure all students feel safe or by excusing that 1 child for the day? What about ghost stories within the school realm? How much are societal institutions contributing to the seemingly increase of scary images at Halloween? Just some food for thought in the Large family blogosphere :).