Thursday, October 8, 2009

Open for Debate -- Halloween


In my typical big sister fashion, I was all set to write an authoritarian post on the subject of Halloween, but the more I turned over the words in my head, the more I realized that I am conflicted about this issue, that there is merit on both sides, and that the answer may be different by family or neighborhood. So, let me lay out some of the pros and cons that I see about celebrating Halloween, and I hope that you will answer them. Tell us whether you participate and why (or why not). Give me counter arguments for the concerns that I may have, or introduce concerns that I may not have noticed.

Please remember to use a name for your comments, even if it is something silly, so that others can respond to what you have said, and please keep it kind, we are all doing the best we can here.

First of all, as you can see above, we do celebrate Halloween at our house. Here is how I see it:

Pros:

1. When it is kept positive, Halloween builds community. Last Halloween I met my neighbors, spent time with my children's friends, my kids practiced being polite to strangers, and we all wound up at one house where the children and adults got to know each other better.

2. Halloween is universal. Secular holidays give us a chance to share something with those in our community who are not Christian. The kids get just as excited about what their friends are doing as what they are going to wear themselves, and asking "what are you going to be for Halloween?" is an easy way to make friends with any child in your life. We are already telling our children some of the important, moral ways in which they must be different from their peers, but sometimes it is really nice to fit in, too.

3. Halloween is fun. Christ was part of his community and celebrated meals and traditions, and I think that it is a mistake for Christians to be killjoys all the time. Also, Halloween is cute. Really, see above. It is a nice chance for you and your children to get creative, to see what interests and excites them. I think it is especially fun for boys to have an excuse to dress up, as creative play can be more limited for boys. In our house, Halloween costumes are recycled into dress ups for the rest of the year, and both boys and girls love having costume parades.

Cons:

1. Halloween can be a celebration of the occult. This is the strongest argument against, as far as I'm concerned. I don't like scary window displays, and I don't think that there is anything funny about dressing up as the grim reaper, the devil, or anything evil. Witches, superstition, calling out ghosts, these things may seem innocent but we tread a very fine line. Is it dangerous to assume that we can innocently participate in Halloween when it has pagan undertones?

2. Halloween is overly commercial. This is a close second, for me. I have a real problem with the culture of consumption and the way that it ruins what would otherwise be a lot of fun. You could spend tons of money on costumes and treats for Halloween. There are several Halloween stores opening up in my town, many of which emphasize the very worst of Halloween. People have huge displays of blow up ghosts and pumpkins on their lawns. It is all a bit odd, frankly.

Many of the costumes are of licensed, media created characters.

Along with this, there can be the temptation to live life "from one party to the next." In our house, we have just caught our breath from September birthdays, and others have had the big excitement (and shopping) for "back to school." When we really do up Halloween and Thanksgiving, I'm exhausted and broke by the time we get to Christmas!

3. Halloween is slutty. In addition to the occult costumes, there are the sex/prostitute costumes. Halloween becomes an excuse for older people to dress and act the way they might not act at any other time. Unfortunately, while this can be liberating in a fun and silly way, instead we see the very worst of human nature. It reminds me a bit of the pagan festivals in Ancient Rome, or the disturbing concept "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." A day, or a place, in which morality and ethics do not apply is seriously disturbing.

4. Celebrating secular holidays distracts us from celebrating the liturgical year. There are the feasts of All Souls and All Saints. I think that learning about a saint, or offering mass for family members who have died, are important ways that we can celebrate these feasts.

In some communities they have kids dressing up as saints in lieu of Halloween. I have never gotten the sense that this can be done without it being forced and odd, even for the kids, but if it goes over well in your community, please tell us about it.

As you can see, in this, as in many areas, including homeschooling, I am torn between my desire to protect my children from the worst of secular culture and the real need to be a part of a community, for the sake of friendship and apostolic work. I think of the children's book "Benedict and Scholastica" in which St. Benedict realizes that Rome is a dangerous place for his soul and decides to become a hermit, and eventually founds a community. His sister, Scholastica, stays at home rather than going away for a formal education, and she, too, decides to give her life over to cloistered prayer.

Some friends use the phrase "in the world, but not of it." Is this possible? How much should we be withdrawing from the world? Is the world really worse or different then it was when we were kids, or are we just over thinking everything, or being overly pessimistic? Is it overly optimistic to think that we, and our children, can use something like Halloween for good? Just because something is not "bad", might we be missing out on something more important, something truly Godly? And, what about friends and extended family? We have to lay down moral lines and not participate in evil, but is it sort of a Christian snobbishness to be "too holy" for Halloween?

All right, let's hear what you have to say! I'm really asking for it here...

26 comments:

Olivia D said...

In our house we celebrate both!

This year we will be attending a party thrown by another homeschool mom. Everyone is to dress up as a saint and provide clues as to who the saint is and everyone guesses. Later in the day my boys can either stay in their saint costumes or change in to another (non-violent, non scary) costume. We will go trick-or-treating up and down our street which is full of children who are young like my kids. I think as long as the secular part of halloween is kept to the candy and fun (non-violent costume) AND you also stress the importance of the All souls and All saints aspects then you can strike a happy medium. Fun and Spirituality.

We were not allowed to have scary costumes growing up and were encouraged to choose characters from history, we also had to make our own costumes, nothing store bought for us! And we wanted candy, which we didnt really get the rest of the year, that was all we cared about. All the satanic stuff really has to be allowed to enter the home in lieu of something like mass which I think is important on one of the two days.

Charlotte (Matilda) said...

Ok, you asked for it! : )

My official opinion is that only based on your specific situation can you determine what is best for your family.

Halloween was big in my family growing up. My mom was the one dressed up like a witch at the door and our courtyard was filled with dry ice while my dad waited to jump down from the trees and scare the neighborhood teenagers (not the little kids, just the big ones who were probably too old to trick or treat anyway). It was great fun and a wonderful community building experience, like you mentioned. But that was over 20 years ago when we lived on a cul-de-sac where everyone already knew everyone else and there were no weirdos. The only people walking around were your own neighbors and it was like a big block party.

So why do we not participate in Halloween as a secular celebration?

1. The first neighborhood my husband and I lived in when my oldest was old enough to trick or treat was a scary neighborhood with people who were criminals and druggies. That first year, he went to one house (a sweet little old lady across the street) dressed like Thomas the Tank Engine, got a Dum Dum lollipop and came home.

After that, we started doing an All Hallows Eve Party complete with games and good food, dressed up like saints which can be just as cool as any secular costume out there and also started choosing the good candy for our own little grab bags. (I’ll spring for a $5 bag of the good stuff and teach my kids about moderation over trying to sift through a pillowcase of cheap stuff tossing away all the stuff they don’t like any day!) We invited family to join us who were trying to escape the hoards of children being bussed into their neighborhood just to grab more candy than they could ever eat before piling into the back of a pick up truck and heading to the next subdivision. I have no idea how many miles these kids traveled to get their hands on the goods, but they weren't the kids next door. They also had registered sex offenders in their neighborhood and a guy who answered his door wearing some kind of LIVE boa constrictor or python or something. SCARY!!!!

2. My kids REALLY don’t like the scary stuff like severed heads and skeletons in black robes and sometimes you don’t know what you are getting till you ring the doorbell (see Snakeman above).

3. While our new neighborhood is nicer, there was still a registered sex offender who lived 8 doors down when we moved in (he has since moved so I recommend doing a search before heading out every year) and NO SIDEWALKS! How crazy is that? I guess people don't mind walking in the street in the dark, but I'm not comfortable with it.

4. My last point is that my kids dress up all year long so they don't get as big of a thrill out of dressing up on Halloween as some kids do. In fact, I just checked Batman’s bum for underwear. He was wearing Superman. How ironic. And because I want them to really enjoy our party, I do put more effort into making them a saints costume and making it fun for them. They kind of like to play "Stump The Mommy" and see if they can come up with a saint that I can't make a costume for. Ever heard of St. Dwynwen? I hadn't either until about a month ago! I don't limit them to just saints, but anyone who falls under a saint's patronage. (My youngest was a policeman last year with a badge that had St. Michael on it.) They really seem to appreciate the effort and it makes the party more exciting for them than trick or treating.

In conclusion... to each his own. I don't think there is anything wrong with celebrating Halloween as a secular holiday or as a religious holiday. There certainly is a religious history there, but there is also a religious history to piñatas and now they come shaped like Dora the Explorer. I’m not going to boycott piñatas and I’m not going to forbid anyone from celebrating Halloween. We choose not to because that is what works for our family.

I wrote more about it here a couple of years ago.

Mary Alice said...

Charlotte, interesting, I had forgotten about the year when we lived in a neighborhood close to the "wrong side of the tracks." We had teenagers, not even in costume, coming to our door with pillow cases. It was more like begging and felt very, very creepy.

Right now, we live in a great subdivision of cul de sacs with sidewalks, so I find myself more in the "pro" camp.

Karen said...

We take our girls trick or treating. We live in a great neighborhood with some of the best neighbors you could ever want.
At each house my children learn politely say trick or treat and say thank you for any candy or compliments they receive. Halloween is a great day to give your "Thank you" a good workout.
I like how the event of trick or treating can get you acquainted with some of your neighbors who you didn't know before. Our first year in this neighborhood we met a lot of our neighbors for the first time on Halloween. Last year, it afforded us the opportunity to meet the new family in the neighborhood who are now very good friends of ours.
My children don't dress up in scary costumes and we don't get into any of the scary aspects of the holiday. We also don't have the let's get all the candy we can possibly get mentality that some people have. We trick or treat for a little bit and then we head home. Most of the time we celebrate my husband's birthday on Halloween since his birthday is the very next day. It gives us an excuse to have a cake with orange icing and black sprinkles.

Charlotte (Matilda) said...

My point exactly is that whenever people start talking about whether or not they celebrate Halloween, I think it helps to know their particular circumstances.

Our current neighborhood is a very nice one and while I wouldn't mind letting my kids practice their manners and meet some new neighbors, the lack of sidewalks makes me uncomfortable especially since our street is on a pretty steep hill and not just a nice flat cul-de-sac or something. Right now, the risks outweigh the benefits and we have found ways to interact with our neighbors in other ways. We just brought everyone with a dog some doggie treats for St. Francis' feast day.

By the time we moved here, our party tradition was pretty well established and my kids didn't have the desire to change it. Had that not been the case and I could get over my safety concerns, we might have decided to trick or treat.

Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to share!

Jennifer Frey said...

Dear Mary Alice,

I just adore you. There, I said.

Now that that's out of the way, let me say that I find myself in large agreement with everything you say. Let me address your points in turn.

P1. Absolutely! This year almost all the neighborhood kids are getting together (I think there are 30 of them at this point) and having a big (hopefully outdoor) Halloween party, with seasonal foods and fun games like pumpkin carving, leaf pile jumping, and apple bobbing. What a great way to build community!

P2. Agreed. Most of our neighbors are secular (we live in a big city) and all of them know we are Catholic. Many of them say things to me like "I can't believe you guys are Catholic", which I'm pretty sure is code for "I can't believe you live and believe so differently from me and yet I find I like you and have so much in common with you." It is good to be a witness to Christ in our community, and Halloween is great for that, precisely because there is no need to be upset that everyone is forgetting about Jesus.

P3. Absolutely!

I would add to the pro column the fact that traditionally Christian communities have marked All Hallows Eve in the past. Sure, it started out as pagan and occult--Druids and Celts celebrated it in a darker form, but then it became the eve of all saint's and different European cultures had different ways of marking that. Now, Halloween in its current form is different, but something of the essence is still there.

And that brings me to

C1. I don't think it is a celebration of the occult, at least, not necessarily. And besides that, one can acknowledge dark things without celebrating it. And we Catholics DO acknowledge dark things, as we do believe that there are demons and fallen angels and other dark things, and I think Halloween is a reminder of that--in fact, I think the fact that humans have holidays like this is something of a subliminal witness to this very reality. And it is right to feel scared at the reminder of it.

C2. Yes--this is the worst. But Halloween is no more commercial than Christmas, and I don't see anyone claiming they aren't going to celebrate that.

C3. I think this depends on the circles one runs in. No one I would spend any amount of time with would dress up like a slutty nurse, referee, cop, or what have you. So this can largely be avoided in the way one normally avoids people with extremely questionable taste.

C4. I don't think this has to be the case, but it is a real temptation we need to avoid.

Thanks for such an awesome post! Maybe you can follow up with a post about how you talk to kids about Halloween. I myself have no idea how to do this.

Kris Livovich said...

I think it is a very personal thing - and up to your circumstances at the time. We do trick-or-treat, but we are blessed with a great community, lots of family around who genuinely enjoy seeing the kids dressed up, and nothing scary happening among the neighbors.

I'm always up for a little scare and some Boo's and what not, but nothing occult.

I think the question of whether celebrating Halloween opens us up to the occult is valid. But there are so many other ways to open ourselves to spiritual dangers that I feel are far more insidious. The shows we watch on a daily basis, the sites we visit on the internet, the amount of gossip and evil thoughts we allow to enter our minds are, in my mind, much more dangerous than dressing up and gathering candy.

Nancy said...

Jennifer Frey, you are right, right, right. Especially points C2 and C3. And that Mary Alice is adorable. And Kris I agree with you too.
Most of all I think how you celebrate Halloween, or don't, depends so much on your community. I raised my children in New York City,so trick or treating was not done door to door outside but within the apartment building where you know most everyone (and you only rang doorbells of those who had placed themselves on a list,which nicely eliminates the cranky old lady factor).There were also parties at the(Catholic) school my children attended,which were fun, and the children enjoyed parties at friends houses. By the time my children grew up our city neighborhood had become safe and friendly enough that the children were going door to door to trick or treat. My mother worried about us getting hit by cars in the 60's, I worried about abduction and tainted candy and razor blades in apples in the 80's, and now there are new worries. I have always thought some of the scary aspect of Halloween were a little too real, so as with so many other things you just have to be vigilent parents, and have fun when you can.

MargaretJDMom said...

Halloween…..who knew something I participated in so gleefully as a child would be so fraught with anxiety for me now? J I am constantly balancing out protection/engaging the culture with my kids and Halloween in that respect can actually be a source of stress. I think for one thing Halloween has changed since we were kids but our family participates in a limited degree. Anyway, we trick or treat and decorate and this year will host a little party with like minded friends. We do have rules- no witches, scary things etc. Just happy smiling pumpkins and ghosties (a la Casper the friendly ghost) and the occasional bat. We really got into Halloween growing up complete with a carved pumpkin for each child and I just didn’t want to deny that to my kids

I think Halloween now represents a lot of what has gone wrong with our culture in the last 30 odd years….more commercial, more coarse, more over the top. I think I got a catalog the other day with $80 kids costumes in it the other day. Hello??? But all this brings up great ways to talk to my kids about stuff. Spending money uselessly, coveting things, etc. We talk also about how some people overdo Halloween and think its about scaring kids and that we don’t like that and if a house has a freaky decoration we don’t go there. We even talk about the presence of evil and how we need to flee it and that’s why we don’t do the scary stuff.

Anyway, this has been sort of an evolving concept for us (like Christmas…we don’t do Santa Claus but that’s another story) and I reserve the right to change my mind. I started off dressing up the baby to give out candy….sort of avoided trick or treating until my 4 year old figured it out, and then tried to baptize it by dressing the kids in quasi saints costumes (a knight/saint and a princess/saint) but that just seemed forced. So, now we do a little trick or treating and this year we’ll have two recycled costumes and two new costumes bought at Target last November for 75% off.

I feel for us right now this is a good way to fit in with their peers and the culture at large. I deny them a lot of other stuff that other kids do/get and they at 7,5, and 2 are well aware of it, so I like that they can do this and still be a part of the fun.

We still celebrate the Feast of all Saints and All Souls too and talk about how Halloween relates to All Saints etc.

Kate E. said...

I have to share my favorite costume from last year...I know most of the visitors and builders have younger kids, but someday they will be teens and as Alice mentioned...the slutty costume options out there are scarier then the bloody and gory ones!

Our community is tiny and very close knit so we do tend to get teenage trick or treaters...in the past this might have bothered me and I know a lot of folks complain about teens just out to get candy but the teens in our neighborhood really do make an effort and get creative with their costumes and part of me really likes that they do still feel like hanging out together and going door to door.

So last year we had a bunch of high school girls (I think about 6 or 8) who were all "beauty pageant winners" the catch was that they were all dressed up in their "state" costume. So they all had sashes and then costumes..."Miss Alaska" who was in flannel, a hunting hat and boots, "Miss Hawaii" had a grass skirt, hawaiian shirt and lei. "Miss Washington" had on a Microsoft t-shirt, rain boots & umbrella. It was creative, hilarious, and still kind of girly and fun. They seemed like they were having a blast.

On another quick note, our neighborhood gets some kids brought in big car loads from surrounding towns. While I guess that could bug me, I'm so happy to see these kids running around my safe, sidewalked neighborhood where every house is lit up and decorated and everyone is in great spirit. Similar to the issue of teenage trick or treaters I think looking at the positives of it can actually be pretty inspiring.

Anyway, great discussion, thanks Alice!

Sophie said...

I think you brought up great points, MA. My only thought is that in your "con" section, I see many of those things that could be problematic, if they are left to run amuk.

So, yes, it CAN be a celebration of the occult, but doesn't have to be. It takes a lot of work, but you can protect your kids from that stuff. I kind of make it a point if I can to avoid stores around halloween time wtih my kids, because everything is just so creepy. We also pick and choose which house we go to, if a house is particularly evil looking, we just don't go to that one.

Yes, it CAN be commercial. But so can Christmas, and obviously we wouldn't not celebrate that because some people take it too far. It's all about how we approach it with our kids...inspire the thankfulness, the generosity and the simple enjoyment of the celebration without focusing on what they are getting.

The slutty factor, I honestly hadn't thought about that before, and it's a good point but I would say we could handle it the same as the occult factor. Just try to avoid it, shelter the kids from it and speak plainly about it to older kids, "God wants us to enjoy life and celebrate without doing things contrary to his law..."

Detracting from the liturgical year...again it's all how we present the holiday in our home. We have an All Saints Day party and make that a bigger celebration than Halloween. It's all about the little things we do in our homes to put proper emphasis on that which is most important. If you make a bigger deal out of Halloween, you teach the kids it's a bigger deal. Make a bigger deal out of the liturgical holiday and that's the message that will get through.

All that being said, I think faithful people can come to opposite conclusions about these things. As long as we are coming to the decision prayerfully and deliberately instead of just going with the flow because it's what others do (either pro or con Halloween), that's what matters.

surprised said...

i think this is funny because I am jewish, and my (jewish) school never celebrated halloween because it was "christian". i always thought it had something to do with all saints' day or something. . .

Catherine said...

We celebrate Halloween and have explained that the word means "All Hallow's Eve" for All Saint's (Hallow's) Day just like Christmas Eve for Christmas. They accepted that and haven't yet asked about all the ghosts and witches in people's yards.

The most difficult aspect of Halloween for us is that we have a child who cannot digest sugar. It can be a sad time for him, though he makes the best of it, chooses a costume and gathers candy for his younger siblings to enjoy (and gets lots of non sugar treats from us)!

Karen said...

There are a lot of pagan traditions that we revamp for our own purposes - like the Christmas Tree. So, I think it is the heart that matters - ie I am not worshiping the Christmas Tree. Is that not what God does, He takes what man means for evil, and makes it for good? Also, a measure of caution is a good idea too - ie is it honoring to God? Personally, as long as I have a Christmas Tree, I think we will have fun with Halloween in a God honoring way.

I do have the dilemma of what to call it. Some people I know call it the Harvest Festival or simply the "day the Lord has made." However, I just feel silly calling it by any other name, it is what it is. Is that wrong?

If you feel God does not want you to participate in Halloween, then you probably should not. However, it might be ok for someone else, so do not judge others. I'm too tired to reference scripture here, but I sure you guys know what passage I referring to.

For Halloween we buy or make inexpensive costumes. I never buy a new costume unless it is on clearance - it is a great item to buy used at a thrift store. Also, we have a couple that are close friends of ours over for dinner and trick or treat with the kids. Since their kids have out grown it, they really like reliving that phase of their life. We only go to the houses on our street - ie people we know. That takes care of the whole taking candy from strangers. This doesn't take long, but it is plenty long enough for the kids. Then it is off to our church's Harvest Festival, where they win candy, hear the gospel and see a puppet show. Believe me, the kids are not deprived - I think we still have some candy from last Halloween!

Claire Christina said...

I don't have kids yet, but I intend to celebrate Halloween with them. The primary reason is that to skip it would alienate them from most of their peers (and, unless you've got some finesse, would feel like a punishment).

My mom had a great solution for keeping me out of the occult/slutty costumes straight through high school graduation: She'd pay for the costume (within reason), unless it fell into one of the above categories; then I was on my own. (That way, it wouldn't even have been rebellion to wear them, just expensive.)

So long as you keep an eye on things and make sure to enjoy the good parts, dressing up in crazy costumes can be a LOT of fun!

Props to you for starting this discussion. What a great topic!

"H" said...

Thoughtful post, Mary Alice! Something I'm not sure about myself. I'm punting the question this year, taking the position that my 16-month-old is too young for candy and going to see a theatrical production with my hubby that night instead.

I grew up in a family that strongly rejected Halloween. We celebrated "Reformation Day" instead (Luther nailing the 95 thesis on the door of the church--I think THAT really backfired on my parents!) I never got to go trick-or-treating, though I was allowed to have a costume (no pagan or slutty imagery--butterflies and such) for school or dance class purposes. We would turn off the lights in our house at 4 pm and go out to celebrate Reformation Day and/or my birthday eve instead.

I did feel left out of the fun. The fact that my birthday is the next day made it easier to accept not getting the candy, but I can imagine it would feel like parents were arbitrary grouches for kids without that silver lining. If dressing up as a fairy princess at school is okay, then why not knock on neighbor doors for candy (unless the neighborhood is unsafe, of course)?

I think--and this is subject to change as I actually have to do it--that the best course is to let kids get dressed up in non-objectionable costumes, collect candy in a safe environment, and talk about the meaning of All Saints Day. After all, Catholicism is a faith that assimilates and sanctifies the culture around us, not a faith focused on reflexively saying No.

Melinda said...

Hi Mary Alice,

I know one family who had a rule that if the costume was going to be gory it had to be a saint or martyr. This made the boys in the family actually want to dress up as saints, so they could create bloody dragon's heads or be St. Lucy with her eyeballs in her hand, or whatever. I thought it seemed like a fun policy.

We do celebrate Halloween, and then on All Souls we make a picnic and take it to the cemetery (where my in-laws are buried) and pray for our dead while eating an obscene amount of Halloween candy - saying things like, "Oh, snickers were Grandpa Dave's favorites! Let's pray for him next."

Katie Rose at the Vanguard said...

During my childhood, we were always obliged to wear a saint costume on Halloween and to collect canned goods for the local soup kitchen, not candy like the rest of my friends. And, needless to say, I hated Halloween.

So, now that my oldest children are 18 months old, I have decided what I'll do. They will wear cute and fun costumes on the night of Halloween and we will take them trick-or-treating. And, then, on All Saints Day, they will wear cute saint costumes to Mass, along with all the other children, and we will join in the All Saints party afterward.

We're going to enjoy the best of both worlds. And, I totally plan to pilfer candy from the boys, to make up for all those years I was deprived Halloween candy. :) Hee hee.

Cate said...

We have the Halloween fairy (some people pretend it's a gnome) who comes the night of Halloween and take away all but a few pieces of candy. In place she leaves a nice toy. This deals nicely with the sugar hangover aspect.

I actually find Halloween to be one of the less commercial holidays, or at least, it can be without enormous effort required, and a good opportunity for community building. It can also stay low-key - not like the build-up to Christmas, which is so difficult I think for both children and moms. Can't wait!

Right Said Red said...

Great post MA, and great discussion ladies. MA, you did an excellent job of laying out the pros and cons, and like you said, I think it is all very dependent upon individual circumstance.

Overall, I think this discussion has really helped me with my own approach to Halloween. In the past, I have tried to "baptize" it a bit, but this has been difficult and confusing. In the future, we will stick with celebrating Halloween as a cultural/secular event, and we will explain it as such. I, too, love the community building aspects of the day. Our entire center of town shuts down early on Halloween, they close the main street, and the kids trick-or-treat at all the local businesses on main street. We see everyone we know in town and it is just a nice day. This all happens in daylight hours, and the really scary costumes aren't out and about so much during the daylight hours. I just recently had to explain to Gianna why people dress up as witches and devils when these things are so evil. The celebration of the occult through these types of costumes is really the most disturbing part of Halloween. But it doesn't have to be a part of the way our family enjoys the day, and it can be a good opportunity to talk about evil--something I tend to avoid--and the discussion I had with Gianna was really good in her formation.

We celebrate All Saints Day and All Soul's day as part of our liturgical year, and will continue to do so...but I might not try so hard to tie Halloween into these days.

Thanks for your thoughts ladies!

Jen said...

Interesting discussion. I enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts.

I wanted to share a great way to participate in Halloween with several young ones if your own neighborhood is not super child-friendly or if you just want to find a way to do an act of charity while letting your children be spoiled rotten (literally, really). We took our very little ones (2.5, 1 & newborn) to the assisted living home near us last year. The elderly residents showered them with candy and were just tickled pink to see the tiny children all dressed up. It was TOTALLY win-win. They obviously had been looking forward to seeing the children and for us it was perfect because there were no concerns about weather or losing anyone (all the residents gathered in the dining hall and we just went from one to the next). Also, it went pretty quick so for their ages it was GREAT! It's possible that not all nursing homes or assisted living facilities participate in Halloween, but I definitely encourage you to find out if yours does. There's nothing like the joy of seeing the elderly & the very young together and it was a great excuse to get over there and visit.

Blair said...

We too celebrate both holidays. We spend more time focusing on All Saints' Day...planning and making the costumes, visiting a nursing home as saints, celebrating with our parish, and having a big festival with our homeschool group where we all host a booth.

In the early years of parenthood I was totally anti-Halloween (and anti-Santa for that matter) which didn't matter until my oldest was 3 1/2 and figured out that everyone else was having fun and getting candy. Now we find a costume from around the house and dress up and spend the evening with homeschool friends in one of their neighborhoods. Ours has a lot of older children and scary stuff, so for now we don't celebrate with our neighbors.

Definitely one of those things you have to discern with your own family in evaluating the specific issues surrounding the celebrations in your area!

Great discussion!

Jennifer in MN said...

I have a question for everyone, regarding the so called "occult"...I certainly don't encourage witch craft and magic and such, but what about literary characters, such as Glinda the Good Witch or even the Wicked Witche of the East from the Wizard of Oz. Or, what about Gandolf the wizard or Saruman? I'm sure there are other examples. These characters could be good or evil--would you have a problem or see harm with children dressing up as such characters? What is the "occult" line?

Mary Alice said...

Jennifer, I certainly think that the Wizard of Oz, for example, is a clear fantasy realm, and children can understand that those characters are just pretend, it can all be explained that it is Dorothy's dream, anyway.

I think the issue here is more with older kids who might be easily tempted to experiment with fortune telling, ouija boards, and, a particular danger, celebrating the triumph of evil.

The historical significance of witches can be interesting, too. Old women who knew natural remedies were not healing through any sort of power, but they might have been rumored to be witches. However, there are actual religious practices (Wiccan) which celebrate the power of nature and do not recognize God. All this is, of course, too complicated for a child.

I am fine with Santa, fairies, but I have personally (even as a small child) always been really disturbed by both witches and ghosts, even the friendly variety. I don't like the idea of spirits which are not at rest.

I am TERRIFIED of A Christmas Carol, I can't imagine taking a child to a 3D movie with ghosts popping out of the screen! However, I think the message is amazing and I bet the movie will be wonderful for older kids and adults.

NC Sue said...

Like you, I'm conflicted. It happens I posted on this earlier today - feel free to visit - http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/2009/10/what-about-halloween.html.

Friendly debate always welcome!

Mary Alice said...

For anyone reading this old post from a search, I want to point out a great blog entry on the subject of the Halloween debate here:

And Sometimes Tea