I keep being told that it is harmless, that it builds community, and that it is fun for children and adults. But it didn’t feel harmless as I soothed a sobbing, shaking three year old in the night after a trip to the library where she was confronted by the figures at the entry who were “mean people that would rip skin off people with their big teeth”. I don’t think having to avoid the library until they are gone is building community. It may have been fun for the adults to see two small children shrinking back from their pasty white zombie faces at the market but there was no fun for the children or the mother explaining that it was just a person who wouldn’t hurt them. I am sure that you can guess what event I am talking about and you may be gathering some of my angst towards it this year.
I have never been much into Halloween where in my ethnic background it began as a time of mingling and communing with the dead as they came to wreck havoc. Now it is a time of cheaply made, overpriced candy and costumes. I know, the community, it builds community. I agree, somewhat. We passed out candy last year, candy that I don’t let my own kids eat and Aneliese enjoyed seeing some of the kids that came to our door. It was kind of fun. But is that really community? I have been told multiple times that Halloween is the only day of the year when neighbors will knock on each others door…I hope for more community than that with my neighbors (we actually do have a great deal more than that here already and haven’t passed a Oct 31 yet.). I don’t think that my children  learn community from running from door to door one night of the year filling their bags with candy.

Back to the grotesque library figures; I have heard people say that kids are going to be exposed to scary stuff all the time so they might as well get used to it. I feel like there is enough real scary stuff that I don’t need to be inundated with the fake for weeks to expose my child. And do I really want them to become desensitized? I know that many would just say that Aneliese is particularly sensitive and that most children can differentiate between fake and real. Do they? Do they really? Why then are there so many hits on graphic videos of death, pain and torture? Why are teenagers, “normal” teenagers, passing around cell phone images and videos of unspeakable things?

I realize that many have either stopped reading, are annoyed, or think that I am over reacting. I will be the first to say that I am over reacting. Mostly because I feel that there is this general response that if one doesn’t like Halloween or wish their child to participate that they are being legalistic or uncaring or sheltering their kids or not building community. And that bothers me.  I get that there are fun things about it. I get that there are cute and fun costumes and that not everyone has severed limbs and blood about their house as decorations. I get that many people (especially those whose children are grown) enjoy seeing the trick or treaters. I also really get that most feel that a bunch of candy is good harmless fun. I know that it is a night when many of the neighbors come out of their houses and talk to each other. I get it and I agree on some points ;). But I wonder how many get that there is another side, another perspective, and that at least part of that perspective is actually legitimate.

Just for the record, as I wrote last year, I don’t want to go to the basement and turn out my lights each year. We just don’t live like that even if I want to sometimes. I don’t feel annoyed that the neighbor kids expect candy and it doesn’t bother me that people hope to see our kids in their cute little costumes. I am not even saying that we won’t participate and join the community (hopefully in the way that I talked about last year) although this year it just feels like one more overwhelming thing to add to the list. So I will probably run into town today and stock up on some candy that I will hate buying and feel bad giving out. And everyone will be happy. But what I don’t like is being taken to task or seeing others taken to task for choosing to have a differing view on the “celebration” of Halloween.

This is long already so I should just stop, but I just wanted to add that if one wishes, there are many ways to build community through out the year. There are things like fall clean-up on your street or nearby park, helping out with fund raisers, community potlucks and music nights, Christmas caroling, sidewalk shoveling, inviting folks for bonfires, helping out if you see a need (a neighbor fixing their roof or moving something). Here we are getting to know our neighbors as we purchase produce, honey or simply by stopping in to ask advice or questions about the area; it has required some bravery on my part but has been a great way to get to know the people around us.