Saturday, October 30, 2010


Every year, my local homeschool email group has a conversation about Halloween. It's an all inclusive group with both religious conservatives and atheists, as well as everything in between, and for the most part, we all do a pretty good job of being respectful of each other. Mud slinging about beliefs and practices is pretty rare, but it has happened, and it was over holidays. On the one hand, it's made me leery of conversations about it, but on the other, I think hearing why other people do what they do helps to understand, even if you don't agree. For the most part, I respect other people's belief systems, even if I don't share them, and would never try to corrupt their families with my ways. But, as a family that does do Halloween, I thought I'd explain my view on it.

 Personally, I love celebrations and holidays of all kinds, Halloween included, and I usually try to go to at least a couple of Halloween parties each year. When else can I get my husband to wear a mask and cape in public? Seriously, for us, Halloween isn't about death or darkness. It's more about costumes and, I'll admit it... candy. I love making costumes, dressing up, and seeing the other creative ideas people come up with. I wish there were more occasions that involved costumes, in particular, I mean occasions where it is socially acceptable for grown ups to dress up like Wonder Woman. It's a whole lot of fun in itself.
I once knew a woman who would have an all ages family Halloween party each year where costumes were mandatory for everyone. If you showed up without a costume, the little kids would make you one from their dress up box. Most people chose to arrive already in costume, and it was great to see all that creativity, especially amongst adults who are normally confined to more practical attire.

As for the candy, I know some people feel that there are inherent dangers in food from strangers, but my kids are smart enough to know that Trick or Treating is not the same as begging door to door or dumpster diving. I've never actually felt the need to have the candy X-rayed. Anything with a wrapper that is torn goes in the trash, not so much because I'm worried about poison, but because I gross out on germs. I am actually more concerned with the nasty artificial food dyes and chemical ingredients that the manufacturers purposely put in cheap candy than with potential foul play. For the most part, I just try to get my family to ditch the mystery import candy, and concentrate on the name brand chocolates we like. I miss the days when my kids were little and I could eat most of their chocolate while they were sleeping, and they would never even notice it was gone. Now, they keep a close eye and count.

With holidays, and pretty much everything in life, we try to emphasize what is important to us. We don't have a whole lot of meaning for Halloween itself, other than a time to celebrate as the days get colder and darker. We don't actually do the trick aspect of the holiday- we save that for April Fools Day.

I'm not so much concerned with or afraid of dark roots or pagan origins because those aren't what our tradition is about for us. We pretty much just dress up, eat sweets and have fun. I'm OK with that, and I think God is too, but I know just the name "Halloween" scares a lot of people. I know some churches don't celebrate Halloween, but have a Harvest Festival, that looks an awful lot like it with costumes and candy. Our church has a neighborhood Halloween party that is one of it's most popular events each year. Yes, biscotti and cheese sticks shaped like fingers are gross, but the kids like the icky fun.

Regarding death, we don't celebrate it, but we do usually set aside some time to remember and honor our dead loved ones on November 1st- Dia de los Muertos. When the weather cooperates, we like having a graveside picnic and sharing our favorite stories that help us remember. It's really far from morbid, but more of a celebration of a life that was. It's not about ghosts or spirits to us, just a chance to keep their memory alive, and it's a day I cherish each year. We tell stories about great grandparents my kids barely knew and dogs they knew and loved well. I love taking the time to share these people and these stories with my kids so they will grow up knowing and remembering them, and maybe they will even share them with their children.

So we've taken these days and just made them in to what works for our family. No one can choose what a tradition is about for anyone else- but that's what the next few days are about for us- creativity, laughter, fun, and remembering.

What celebrations or traditions does your family keep during this time of year? I'd love to hear about them.

Whether you celebrate this fall, or not, I hope you enjoy the season and your families.