I Remember Halloween

Halloween is over for another year and the pangs of regret follow in its heavy footsteps.

I wish I could have decorated more.

I wish I woulda had more candy for the kids.

I wish I woulda gone to a haunted house.

I wish I woulda written more.

I wish I woulda been more in the spirit than I am in.

Ah, well.

Last night reminded me though, despite the heavy clouds that have covered my heart this entire year, what a special holiday this is. And I realize that this holiday is like every other one and is subject to personal tastes, religious views, and other issues that keep it something that each person views differently. I love Halloween. I love it for the movies, for the costumes, for the trick or treating, for the music, for the decorations, for the scares, for the smell of burning leaves, and for the many, many memories of my parents taking me out, of me going out with friends, and of handing out candy at my parents’ house to kids so I could see what they were all dress up as.

For me though, that’s one of the things that makes Halloween special.

It has a religious bend, for those that follow that path, and it exists peacefully amidst the rest. The issue I have with Christmas, love it as much as I may, is that while it was begun as a religious holiday (as was Samhain/Hallowe’en), it has become more than that. And I love that. THAT tells me that it is a pretty special time. If a fella like me, who is not religious, can find reasons to rejoice and be merry around Christmas, then so be it. To me, that doesn’t mean the message of the holiday is lost at all, it means that it has transcended the religious beginnings. (And this could be a LONG post and debate getting into the ‘real’ origins of Christmas and the commercialization and all that but that’s not my interest so, no thanks). Christmas has changed with the times, with the people, with the culture, but it is still an important holiday.

So is Halloween.

Ah, but why?

For adults Halloween allows us to hearken back to a time when we had far less cares in our lives and could enjoy what it meant to be silly, to be ridiculous, and to remember what it was like to be a kid. Sure, we have fun as adults, but how often do we get to dress up as something we’re not, and act a fool? Sure, some people take it too far, but letting loose and letting go is healthy, in small doses.

We need it.

And we, as adults, need to remember what it was like to look at the world with wide eyes and a silly grin because as hard as life is, as tragic as it can be, it can also be deliriously funny and strange.

For kids, this is a day that is meant for them to be what they are – kids.

The problem with adults is that we want a world that’s safe for children. That’s a great sentiment but the issue is that we build this world as adults thinking for children, not as adults thinking with them. We tell them they can’t do this, or that, or this, or that, and then we market directly to them with sex, with violence, and with actions and language that isn’t appropriate for them. We build a world of shame for those that don’t have children, scolding them for not being more conscious about the kids (WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?) but then parents let their kids do and say things that are utterly ridiculous, wear things that are inappropriate, and treat them as if they do no wrong.

Fast fact – kids do wrong. Kids to a lot wrong, and many times willfully.

And guess what, they’re KIDS.

But if we’re going to go on and on about how impressionable they are and then inundate them with sex, violence, hate speech, selfishness, and greed and then wonder how it is that so many of them get into trouble.

Because we won’t let them be kids.

We TELL them how to be kids.

Or we bitterly shake our fists at them on nights like Halloween when most of us know darn well that we went out trick or treating ourselves and got into some of our own mischief that night.

For kids Halloween is a night for pretending. Pretending that monsters are loose, that there are creatures in the night, and that they really are the characters they are portraying. Kids wanna be scary, cute, funny, heroic, and the like. They want a night to just be kids. To pretend and be with friends and peers and to celebrate their imaginations. I saw so many kids that were STOKED to be out trick or treating. And some put more work into costumes than others, and some were shy and some were outspoken, and some were adults posing as kids so they could trick or treat and that’s FINE! Fun has no age. (And no, I am not going to get into any sort of creep-o factor here about adults trick or treating because it, again, is another story for another day). I trick or treated until I was nearly twenty because I loved it. I loved the fun of it, the thrill of it, and I miss it to this day.

And parents NEED to be safe with their kids, and need to be vigilant, but they also need to let kids be kids. We need to go out with them not because ‘bad people will snatch you up’ but because we want to be with them to share the night with them. We need to check their candy not because ‘someone might poison you’ but because we want to know what they got. We need to stop scaring children out of their childhood. Kids are pretty well aware of the monsters in the world, and it’s our job to protect them – from the monsters AND from fearing those monsters at every step.

Let kids be kids.

Let them have Halloween. They are not using the night to worship any deity, are not all going out pranking, and are not all greedy little monsters. They didn’t create Halloween, they just want to celebrate it. So let’s stop taking this night, this holiday away from them, let’s stop taking another thing away only to stretch Christmas even more (and that’s where you will get me on your anti-commercialization bus). Let the kids be scary, gross, silly, and let them have fun. We are taking so much from kids, only to replace it with something ‘safe’ and commercial, let’s not take this away from them too.

If a family is religious and strongly disagrees with this ‘pagan’ holiday (they need to look up the origins of their own holidays if that is the case) then so be it, but at least let the kids have some fun at a ‘harvest festival. We are creating a world where there can ONLY be Christmas, and every other holiday be damned. And then we wonder why kids are so greedy. It’s because we train them to be. Trick or Treating isn’t about greed, it’s about tradition. Sure, they want that candy, but why shame them for that? They didn’t create the tradition. But dollar candy and expensive toys that we consistently market to them and tell them they HAVE to have are worlds apart on Planet Greed.

There is so much to celebrate with Halloween. So much that we lose and give away. And it’s a shame. We are taking everything fun and silly away from kids in the name of Safety, and in the name of What They Need and are replacing these things with a paperhouse in a firestorm. We are killing imagination moment by moment with these kids and that’s what fuels innovation, and is what saves all of us, and I mean ALL of us, when things get their darkest in our lives.

Sometimes the best thing in the world, the most important thing is to be silly, to be weird, and to cut loose a little.

And maybe it’s time we stopped denying that.

All Hail Halloween.

– c


Author: Chris Ringler

Writer, blogger, reviewer, artist, arts and cultural events coordinator, and semi-professional weirdo. Author of a heap of books from horror to fairy tale to kid's.

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