This article was first published on The Vegetarian Experience on 31st October 2011
So is it just me that thinks Halloween has become incredibly over commercialised in this country? Now hailed as another holiday to cash in on, (the most profitable behind Christmas), retailers seem to have gone crazy this year on Halloween costumes, decorations, sweets and all kinds of other Halloween paraphernalia. Every shop I have been into over the last couple of weeks has been bedecked in orange and black with fake cobwebs precariously hanging from the ceilings.
I guess now would be a good time to drop into the conversation that I don't believe in celebrating Halloween. (Cue horrified gasps) There I have said it. As a Christian, I don't believe in celebrating a pagan holiday and choose not to celebrate a day dedicated to darkness, the devil and all things unsavoury and ghoulish. I always dread others asking if we are taking the kids trick or treating, or what they will dress up as for Halloween, as people cannot seem to accept that we choose not to take part in Halloween celebrations.
I don't have a problem with others celebrating Halloween, or any other holiday, but when I have told people that I choose not to celebrate it due to my own values, I have been chastised and told that I am denying my kids the right to celebrate and have fun. Thankfully at the moment as my girls are four and two, not celebrating Halloween so far has not been too big of an issue, but it seems to be becoming more predominant every year, especially as eldest is now at school and others in her class are excited about Halloween.
As well as not celebrating Halloween for my own personal religious reasons, my loathing of this time of year probably stems from my childhood. Growing up in a not-too-great neighbourhood meant that Halloween generally consisted off disgruntled teenagers donning cheap plastic masks (nothing like the costumes now) and dragging their younger siblings round the local houses. More often than not, rather than actually trick or treating, it was an opportunity for the locals (young and old!) to justifiably create havoc with egg and flour, smash windows, damage cars and property, and do whatever they liked, despite having received the bucket load of sweets they intimidated you into giving them. I was always nervous to emerge the next morning to see what devastation had been caused the night before in the local area. It was usually quite substantial.
As children, not celebrating Halloween was never a problem. It wasn't commercially popular on the scale that it is now, we didn't go trick or treating, and we pretty much sat inside and ignored World War Two going on around us. As an adult, I mainly lived in flats or places which didn't tend to get frequented by Trick or Treaters, although I always managed to salvage the odd lolly from somewhere if anyone did drop by to request a treat.
However, as a parent, what do you do when you are surrounded by all of this Halloween paraphernalia, and the kids are surrounded by it and just want to celebrate and have fun? Do you give in and let them dress up and have some harmless fun but compromise your beliefs, or do you not let them celebrate at all?
So far, the girls have mainly been invited to parties around this time of year, and so I have let them dress up in a cute costume and have fun. Last year we were on a cruise for Halloween, and so they had great fun dressing up with the other kids and taking part in organised activities. However, for me, I draw the line there. Harmless fun in a cute (Not scary) costume.... Yes. Trick or treating or dressing up as anything which drips blood or requires dark make up... No!
I will not be letting my kids wander the local neighbourhood and knock on random strangers doors to ask for treats. As parents, we spend lots of time telling kids not to talk to strangers or take sweets from them, and then we encourage them to go and knock on random doors for Halloween treats. I don't want my kids to think that it's ok to approach strangers for treats, or play tricks on people when they don't get what they want, no matter how harmless they are. What one person may see as harmless - (i.e. silly string on an old person's window), may actually be quite psychologically traumatising to that old person who just wants to be left alone.
Just as I don't want my kids knocking on random doors, I dread the idea of kids I don't know knocking on the door for treats. If we lived in a very friendly neighbourhood where everyone knew each other, I might feel different. However, I put eldest in a school away from where we live so that she doesn't have to mix with the local kids, and so the thought of them all knocking on the door begging for sweets, when most of their parents refuse to barely acknowledge you in the street is pretty grinding.
So what will we be doing for Halloween?
Well, tonight, for the sake of the kids, I shall let them dress up in one of their princess costumes and begrudgingly hand out sweets to any kids who knock before 6pm, but after that it will be lights off and doors locked, with possibly a polite sign on the door requesting potential Trick or Treater's to not disturb my small sleeping children.
So am I on my own in this or does anyone else not celebrate Halloween?