Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween--a Meaningless Holiday?

Growing up in a conservative Christian household, Halloween was one of those holidays we most certainly did not observe or celebrate in any way, shape or form.  We were not allowed to dress up in costumes or trick-or-treat of go to Halloween parties.  I remember once that I was pulled from my after-school program or class when they had scheduled a Halloween party.  As far as my parents were concerned, Halloween was a holiday that glorified Satan and all things dark and as Christians, we were supposed to avoid those things.  I'll readily admit that I felt left out of the Halloween festivities.  I remember in fifth grade, begging and pleading to be allowed to dress up for Halloween.  I was already an outcast and a misfit and I was desperate to find a way to be normal and "like everybody else".  I put together some make-shift outfit with one of my mom's old church hats and a scarf and more than anything, I remember feeling so ridiculous that I took it off.  It wasn't a good at all.  

As an adult, I don't have a religious slant  as to why I don't want to be bothered with Halloween.  I've just had no inclination to.  I understand that it's supposed to be a fun holiday for children and all that and some folks really get a kick out of it.  But it just seems kind of pointless to me.

But this year, a friend invited us to do the Halloween/trick-or-treat thing and I agreed.  It would be the first time I or my kids would be trick-or-treating.  I guess I just wanted to see what it would be like and I wanted to hang out with her and her kids.  Ahead of time, I put some thought into what we would do with the candy.  I bought small collection buckets and thanks to Sarah at Everyday Paleo, had some pretty good ideas of how we could take the focus off the candy and still have a fun time.  

And Z1 and Z2 did have a fun time trick-or-treating but it got ugly once they got home.  The candy exchange did not go so well and there were lots of tears and frustration.  So much so that we will not be doing it again.  For me, there is absolutely no significance to this holiday but there are a lot of things that I find distasteful about it: this gorging on candy and sugar (treats that in reality are unhealthy and unnecessary) and this whole mentality of "gimme, gimme, gimme" with very little gratitude.  I mean, there were HORDES of children coming to get candy by the time I was leaving my friend's house (we went trick-or-treating very early) and it was disturbing how few of them said "Thank you".  There was just this expectation and this reluctance to slow down and take stock of was already in teh bucket.  I just couldn't believe any of it and I knew I didn't want any part of it after that night.  

I have this sense that because things are so tough economically right now and we have such a skimpy sense of community as Americans, we try to get these holidays to fill in the gaps in our lives and they just don't.  They fail miserably and leave us feeling even more empty.  You go to neighbors' houses to get candy but they don't even know you despite the fact that you're just a couple of yards away. I mean, I am disturbed by how much community is lacking in my neighborhood and I thought it would be nice to see how it goes in other communities that seem to be more connected.  But it just wasn't the case that there is connection and community--not in my friend's neighborhood either.

I'm interested in authentic community building.  I'm very interested in building authentic health--passionate even.  Halloween the way it is currently celebrated does not support any of these interests so now after having this experience, I really don't see the point.  

But what about the costumes, you say?  Well, they can wear costumes when they feel like it (although my boys have not shown much interest in dress-up).  It doesn't have to be tied to Halloween.  What about the candy, you say?  Candy is a rarity around here and if I had my way, it would be even rarer.  The hard-liner in me says that refined sugar should not hold any place of prominence in a child's diet.  But I get it . . . eating sweets is pleasurable and I don't want to be a totalitarian dictator about diet or about anything really because we all know what that gets: rebellion.

I know there are people out there who celebrate Halloween as part of their spirituality and I can totally respect that.  It has meaning for them.  But the way it's celebrated by the majority of folks is just empty.  And I don't have any desire to put my time and energy into something that's pointless.  I'm much more inclined to focus on harvest celebrations and the changing of the seasons--our connection to nature and life with an emphasis on gratitude.  

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