Halloween, a holiday many of us love, is changing. It is changing as society is changing, and that is a good thing. In order for the holiday to survive and continue it needs to evolve as we do. Some holidays, like Christmas, are steeped in tradition and reverence but Halloween lives on shifting sand and needs to change as the culture changes or it will be lost.
In many ways the holiday is becoming more about parties and adults and we must fight that.
We must fight to keep the holiday for both the adults and the children because this holiday more than any other lets children use their imagination to its fullest. The holiday is leaving the schools and while that is sad for us adults it is also understandable. It’s not fair to thrust the event on students and parents who may not believe in it and families who may not have the ability to put together a costume. At its core, I think it’s a wonderful holiday and one where anything can be used to create a costume and one which can really be used to have fun with kids but I am also someone who grew up with the holiday. Schools are moving away from celebrating holidays though and it’s better to accept this than to fight it. As I said, it isn’t fair to expect everyone to share the same beliefs and not fair to force children to celebrate something their family does not believe in. (Though, here’s the thing, as an aside – I think it’s a real strong shot of cowardice that schools are doing this. Instead of abandoning holidays we should embrace them and teach them and find ways to bridge them so that children understand of them and can appreciate them. We are leaning too heavily on the Don’t Upset Anyone ledge and it’s neutering our culture. Sure, don’t have a Christmas party, or Halloween party, or whatever, but you can teach those and all holidays and have the participants and believers help teach those holidays. Now, it could get into some deep waters – heaven forbid if you have any Wiccan kids or what have you – but to just act as if these holidays don’t exist is silly. Just as saying that it isn’t part of teaching and learning to celebrate them. School is about learning how to be a part of society as much as it is learning THINGS. We seem to be forgetting that, and we do that to our peril). So we have to accept that the days of Halloween in the school are all but past us.
Joining that is the fact that more and more cities are trying to find ways to celebrate the holiday without having children go door to door – partially out of safety concerns and partially because culturally we are aging rapidly and becoming curmudgeons as we age. Sure, not everyone can afford candy or treats for kids but that’s nothing new. If you can’t afford it then don’t participate, or at least find a different way to do it. Make your house up spooky. Make a homemade craft. Something. Or don’t. But for those of us that like to see the kids, and the costumes, and who love decorating our houses we’re suffering so that our neighbors don’t have to focus on anything other than themselves. Our neighbors, mind you, who will spend a full weekend decorating their houses for Christmas. UGH!
Halloween has become a symbol for cultural degradation, a symbol for the childish racism and cultural offenses people commit in the name of a cheap gag. Halloween has become a punching bag for people focusing on the darker aspects of the holiday and not the fun, forgetting that Christian holidays come from the same well, the same pagan roots where most modern holidays come from. Halloween is damned for things that society has done, not for what the holiday is. The days of it being a celebration of the foul and dark things are long gone, the few people celebrating those aspects having been pushed aside for the worship of candy. No, this has become a holiday to play with the dark, to play with our fears, and to dance with our nightmares for a song or two. We are so silly. This holiday can be about so much more. We can make it about more than candy. We can make it about more than school parades. We should embrace this holiday as a chance to be creative, inventive, and weird. We should keep pushing the offensive costumes aside, not because it’s politically correct to do so but because it’s the right thing to do. Making light of someone’s culture, race, or sexuality isn’t funny, not to anyone over ten, no it’s just lazy. There are so many things we can dress as and dress our kids as. SO many things. We fall on our laziness and slump our shoulders and say we can’t think of anything. Our kids have such wild imaginations though and we rein them in. We push them towards store bought costumes because those are easier than figuring ways to make them at home. We have let the stores push this holiday in one direction, have let pop culture define what this holiday is and it’s time to take it back.
It’s time we stopped relying on store bought costumes.
It’s time we started creating parties for our friends and children both, parties for adults and kids together.
It’s time we played with the terror of the night, having fun with stories and music and movies and not accepting that the holiday has to be dark and nasty.
It’s time we let adults have adult fun and let kids have kid fun.
It’s time we find alternatives to trick or treating that retains the fun of the holiday.
It’s time we stop letting people take the holiday from us and take it back for ourselves. If the churches want to have their candy festivals, or their harvest festivals or whatever then fine, we’ll keep Halloween for ourselves, thanks.
Halloween has to change. It must. It is a holiday that should keep its core but which needs to evolve with society because it CAN evolve. It has to. We have to fight for the holiday though. We are being pushed by retail to rush towards Christmas but we need Halloween. We need the darkness with the light. We need it as a way to hang on to a piece of our childhood that we too readily give away – our imagination. We need it because it is a holiday where children and adults are the same, where we can both dress up and be scared and have fun together.
Halloween will never be what we remember it being when we were kids. The culture has changed, some of it for the better, some for the worse, but it falls to us to keep the tradition alive, the holiday alive. It falls to us to hand the holiday down. The calendar cannot become six months of ramp up to Christmas and then six months of depression afterwards. We cannot forget our traditions. We cannot abandon our holidays. Halloween has become a holiday that can be celebrate by all religions, all creeds, and all cultures because it has evolved from being a religious holiday alone and has become something more. Something else. It’s a season, like Christmas. The holiday has evolved to match the culture and it’s for us to keep the campfires lit and to keep the scares alive. This is a holiday that we truly can make it be whatever want it to be, we just need to keep it alive, for ourselves and for the generations to come.
Happy Halloween, gang.