“But Tales, it’s an American holiday. That custom has no place here in our society. It’s teaching kids to be greedy. They don’t need sugar. Halloween celebrates evil. Why do we tell them “stranger danger” every other day of the year, yet encourage them to actively seek out strangers for candy at Halloween?”
First of all, your points are valid (except for the Halloween celebrating evil part, but I’ll get to that later. ) Despite the controversial title of this post, I’m not going to tell you how to raise your kids. I’m just offering a different way of thinking about it.
1) Making kids think that Halloween is evil could skew their perception of what good and evil actually are.
As a child I was never allowed to partake in anything to do with Halloween as my mother was convinced it was evil, and told us so. Trick-or-treating wasn’t really a thing in my country, but we had dress up parties for school where games, treats and bobbing for donuts took place. Despite the fact that I was sent to school every day and neither it nor its esteemed educators were deemed to be evil, for some reason an assumption was made that on Halloween, all bets were off and innocent teachers transformed into soul-sucking minions of hell.
Now I can understand my mother’s concern if we had been sat down and shown Nazi propaganda videos, brainwashed with violent images, encouraged to set fire to one another or make sacrifices to the Principal. The fact is it was nothing more than a kind gesture by the school to give the children a fun experience, and it was twisted into something evil.
Doing horrible things and encouraging others to do them too = evil.
Donating your time and effort to make other people happy = not so much.
2) There is no evidence to suggest the origins of Halloween are evil.
While I drank the fizzy drink and ate the donut my mum bought to try make up for our missing out on the Halloween fun at school, she regaled me with stories of people purposely spiking candy with drugs, razors, and poison at Halloween and gleefully handing them out to trick or treating children (presumably because Halloween is evil, and not because some people are scum.)
I was also given Chick tracts about Halloween, in which it was implied that trick-or-treating originated with a Druidic custom of going door to door asking for human sacrifices. Later on I found that there is no evidence to suggest anything of the sort. (It makes sense though – even with a giant loot bag, how would they fit all the people in?)
Similarly, while there is plenty of evidence to suggest some people are indeed scum, there is no evidence to suggest candy is or has ever been spiked or poisoned on Halloween by strangers. The only case that seems to have been found is one where a boy was poisoned by his own Dad (which isn’t mentioned by the Halloween nay-sayers because it would seem to support the theory that taking candy from well-meaning strangers is safer than accepting it from psychotic family members.)
Whether you believe Halloween originated from the Celtic celebration of Samhain or that it originated independently, you’ll have to dig very hard to find any research that points to either one having origins in evil, and it will be from a biased source. On the other hand, there is abundant evidence to prove that Christopher Columbus engaged in some very nasty behaviour some would describe as “evil”, and he is still celebrated in the U.S. with a holiday. In the UK and other countries, people commemorate the gruesome execution of Guy Fawkes by setting off fireworks on November 5. It seems humanity can be very good at putting horns and a tail on the shadows in the closet, yet ignoring the blatant evils standing right next to us.
3) Trick-or-treating encourages generosity.
“No, it doesn’t, it encourages greed!” But does it really? In another way of looking at it, it teaches kids to be proactive about asking for what you want. It teaches kids that if you are not afraid to ask, sometimes you get something good. “But we should be teaching them to work for what they want, not expect a handout.” Yes, but life doesn’t work that way. Often we can ask for and are sometimes unexpectedly blessed with good things that we didn’t earn. Trick-or-treating lets kids know that there are good, kind and generous people in the community. It also reinforces that sometimes you don’t get what you want. In a way, Halloween is a little more selfless than Christmas. At Christmas time you are generous mainly to your loved ones, at Halloween you have an opportunity to be generous to strangers.
When my daughter first requested to go trick-or-treating, I was hugely uncomfortable with the idea of taking something for nothing. I bought bags of wrapped candy and we put them in people’s letterboxes so that we’d be giving something back. It was seeing people open their doors with “we’ve been waiting for you!” and my own experience of staying home with a bag of candy hoping for kids to come by, that changed my perspective a little. Some people like the opportunity to be generous. Others don’t, and your kids can learn to respect that, too.
You can also use the opportunity to teach your kids to be gracious when people tell them “no”. It’s not a bad lesson to learn.
4) Letting kids dress up can give them the message they’re accepted the way they are.
At first that could seem like an oxymoron. If the kid is dressing up, they’re not being themselves?? Except they are. And if you tell them the costume they want to wear is evil and they must dress as something “nice”, you could be inadvertently giving them the message that they are not allowed to be imperfect, they must be good all the time, that it’s not OK to like what they like, and even more insidiously, that outward appearances are more important than actions or what you are on the inside.
Archetypically, dressing up as something fearsome could be seen as a way of learning to confront what scares you, and making you feel like you have power over it. Taking away the opportunity to be empowered in this way can leave you feeling that the world is full of evil and terrible things that should be feared, rather than overcome.
5) Pardon your racism.
“Halloween is just an American tradition, it has no place here.” In New Zealand we celebrate Chinese New Year, Guy Fawkes, Diwali, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and all manner of other celebrations that didn’t originate in our own country. Why pick on the “Mericans? Also, are concepts such as candy, dressing up and asking for things solely attributable to that country? No. Sure, stores will hop on any excuse to get you to empty your wallets, but they’re perfectly capable of doing that with or without Halloween.
I’m not even going to get into the debate over whether the current incarnation of Halloween has its roots in America or in Celtic Ireland, the way I see it, both arguments could be construed as correct.
(Also, debates are time-consuming, and that time could be better spent in the pursuit and consumption of chocolate.)
6) Huge amounts of sugar aren’t great for anybody, let alone mini-me’s. But it could be a good opportunity to teach kids things like self-control, portioning and sharing with others who didn’t get as much.
I was raised on “sugar is bad for you.” We were allowed three pieces of candy every Saturday and the rest of the time, sugar was out. Left unattended at any childhood birthday parties, I naturally binged on all the sugar I could eat til I made myself sick. It didn’t take long to figure out that if I actually wanted to enjoy these occasional bouts of junk-laced freedom, I had to reign it in a little.
Some people hand out healthy treats at Halloween, some have taken to handing out non-food treats (such as raiding their local second-hand bookstore for kid’s books, which is not at all a bad idea.)
In the ancient versions of trick or treating, children went door-to-door for soul cakes, fruit and money, which makes you wonder if THEIR parents tsk-tskd about “too much fruit and soul cake on a school night.”
Regardless of your thoughts on the evils or non-evils of Halloween, it really is what you make of it. You can use it as an opportunity to teach positive lessons or you can dislike it and discourage it. In any case, as far as the definite evil of processed sugar binges goes, it does seem healthier all round than your average human sacrifice…
“But Tales, kids are scary enough as it is without Halloween.”
True, that they are. Like mindless zombies glued to their computers, game stations and phones. While they’re at it they might as well go out with their friends, get some fresh air and exercise, and meet their neighbours.
“Safe, Happy Halloween” by Joel Best http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2013/10/31/309911.htm
“Trick or Tract” by Joe Carter http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/10/28/trick-or-tract-satan-jack-chick-and-other-halloween-horrors-3/
“Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery” by Eric Kasum http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-kasum/columbus-day-a-bad-idea_b_742708.html