Take Back Halloween

I am something of a curmudgeon when it comes to Halloween these days. In our rural area, the children no longer trick or treat in their neighborhoods but are driven to town where hundreds descend. People from the outlying areas send candy to help. In the town near us, they close off several streets and there is something of a contest to see who can create the most elaborate Halloween displays--lights, sounds, those huge blow-up pumpkins, etc. It's a massive light and sound fest of imported plastic from China.

Our children have ALREADY decided with their classmates where they will meet and know which houses give out the best stuff--one house gives out big tins of Altoids to every kid, another distributes gift bags with pencils and stickers. It's all about getting as much as possible. The gesture is take, take, take.

Last year the children had so much candy that E's pumpkin handle broke from the weight. Our children actually don't like much candy and for years forgot about it and we quietly threw it away. Now they don't forget, and, while they don't really eat it, they feel like it is "theirs". So, one year they "traded it in" for a little toy. What's that all about? We buy the candy to give out, then we buy it BACK AGAIN, then we throw it away. Talk about ridiculous consumption.

So, I want to take back Halloween. In an ideal world, I'd have them make funky costumes out of fun stuff from the thrift store. We'd trick or treat to the 8 houses in our neighborhood. We'd come up with some funny tricks and our neighbors would all gather for cider and a potluck afterwards.

I'll have no problem getting them to skip the costumes at Walmart, but to skip the scene downtown? I have my doubts. Boo.

Edited to add: LOL my kids have no idea what this post is about, but were delighted to make up a costume and pose. I've decided to talk to them about this and see if they'd be into trying to create a neighborhood Halloween that's truly spooky.

ellen  – (October 3, 2007 at 6:11 PM)  

My goodness, I don't know what I would do. Something like this disturbs me greatly and screams, "Greed!" in my face and goes against everything I wanted to teach my children. I don't envy you.
One thing you might try is to ration out the candy into little bags. You as parent choose how many go in each bag....if there are hundreds of pieces, I would give them 12 bags, one for each month until next Halloween. They can choose from their hoard what goes into each bag, though not exceeding your original number for each bag. They can label the bags, and then you get to put them away and at the beginning of each month, they pull out that month's bag. If they eat it in one setting, or portion it out for the month, that could be their choice...but once that bag is empty, that's it until the next month.
I have a difficult time with the modern concept of children's b'day parties too. We had our party at home with just family, no others, and what is interesting is, now that my kids are adults with children of their own, that is how they want to do it for their kids.
It is much harder today, I admit, and I certainly do not have answers. I hope I am not coming off as a know-it-all, because I certainly know I'm the last to know what to do, except follow your wisdom and heart as a parent and from what I read about you, you do a magnificent job of that.
Have a glorious fall!

Aurora  – (October 3, 2007 at 7:48 PM)  

Take it back, indeed! Call it All Hallow's Eve, or even better, Samhain...it's the day we honor our Beloved Dead, and THEY are the ones that should get the treats...admittedly, we do the trick or treat thing AND the honoring, but setting up an altar space for and remembering those who have gone on before you are the Reason for this Season.

Aurora  – (October 3, 2007 at 7:49 PM)  

Take it back, indeed! Call it All Hallow's Eve, or even better, Samhain...it's the day we honor our Beloved Dead, and THEY are the ones that should get the treats...admittedly, we do the trick or treat thing AND the honoring, but setting up an altar space for and remembering those who have gone on before you are the Reason for this Season.

Susan  – (October 3, 2007 at 11:26 PM)  

I loved this post, Sarah! I really hate what has happened to Halloween. I am not against trick or treating...but, I so dislike the store-bought decorations, the plastic, and the hype. I also think it's a shame that so many parents want to remove all spookiness from Hallowe'en--that was the part I looked most forward to as a child! The delicious shiver of fear of the unknown...of death...of becoming something different. As a child I embraced the month of October and delighted in the darker evenings, in ghost stories, and leaf piles, in spooky songs, and in playing witches with my friends; of the transition from life to the cold, white stillness of winter.

Yes, let's take back Hallowe'en. Let's somehow get the word out--perhaps someone could design one of those button things for people to add to their blogs that would lead them back to your post, Sarah. I wish I knew how to do it. Anyone?

maymomvt (or Sarah)  – (October 4, 2007 at 5:33 AM)  

Susan--I loved how you articulated the spirit that should prevail at Halloween. That's exactly what I want to get back to. While I, personally have not been able to connect to "Day of the Dead," I wish the night of Halloween could have spirit again--that spooky, delicious spirit of the unknown as you put it. The encounter with a huge plastic lit pumpkin filled with air from a big fan is nothing like encountering a lit pumpkin under a dark tree.

My children also embrace the month of October looking forward to Halloween--but they are looking forward to how much loot they are going to get.

Grace  – (October 6, 2007 at 7:24 PM)  

I want to, too! Before we had chidlren, my husband and I had this idea, mostly inpsired by issues of Martha Stewart Living, that we'd host a Halloween party that would be fun for kids AND adults on the night of Halloween as an alternative to trick-or-treating. We had in mid that we'd be living in a college town or a cool older neighborhood in a big city where the (excuse my terminology) yuppie/Bobo parents would be down with these ideas. Fast forward to our reality. We live in a very suburban suburb, can't afford to live in one of the other areas that we'd always foreseen (or a rural area, either, which is our current dream), and all of our friends totally balked when we suggested this idea. It went over like a ton of bricks -- which totally surprised me, for sure -- they all grew up in the suburbs and live there now, and can't imagine skipping the whole trick-or-treat greedfest that they did when they were children, and for what? To come hang out at our house and be old fashioned and intellectual? Not thanks, they say. So, we reluctantly gave in two years ago when Elle was 3 1/2 (was she really so little? she seemed so much bigger) and all of our friends were dying to go trick-or-treating. I am still hoping that maybe we'll meet that social group who would be into our Halloween party idea. But not so far. Bummer. :(

Simmy –   – (November 3, 2007 at 10:40 AM)  

What a wonderful post Sarah and I loved reading all the comments too.

I didn't realise that Halloween had become like that in America. I'm not totally sure how it is here in the towns and cities but I do know that childrne dress up in scarey costumes and knock on doors. I think a lot of older people hate it because it's just sheer greed as you say and also it is an American import. It seems to have compltely taken over from Bonfire Night when children would make a Guy and wheel him around in an old pram and shout "penny for the Guy". He'd then be put on top of the bonfire (very pc!)and the children bought fireworks with the money.

This year billions is going to be spent on halloween in this country and most of it is utter tat as you say. I'm going to show Rohan your post later to back up what I was saying to him this week. I think it'll help him to understand why I said No. Thanks for articulating the argument so well.

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