Halloween: Trick or Treat?
Halloween. What’s the point? Why do we celebrate? Traditions have a way of taking on new life over time. Rituals take on new meaning as year over year we develop new associations. October 31st is just another day of the year, measured by the rotation of the earth coupled with the progress it makes in its annual circuit around the sun. So why do we celebrate Halloween? When I was younger, I viewed Halloween as an opportunity for creative expression. When I was in the 5th grade my homemade headless man costume won first place in the Halloween costume parade. I thought the holiday brought communities together as my neighbor always had a special candy bar for my sister and me when we dropped by their house. We go to go around and collect candy from neighbors we never actually spoke with. It was the only opportunity we had to interact with the people in our local suburban community. I enjoyed creating displays for the front yard of my family home. I’ll never forget the story of the poor young boy who was convinced our house was haunted after being terrified two years in a row by our displays. My heart still goes out to him as I remember him running back down the driveway after giving up his “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid” chant as he cried out “I am afraid, I am afraid” and his grandfather collected his candy for him instead. As I got older, I began to look more closely at the ritualistic traditions that have always shaded Halloween with darker tones. We celebrate fear in our search for adrenaline. Adults lose themselves to sexual passions and forget modesty. Sexy Nurse is not a costume that celebrates creativity or adrenaline inducing fear. So why do we celebrate Halloween? What traditions do you celebrate? What traditions do you reject? Why do we insist on sending our kids out to collect candy from strangers, when we feel the need to check that candy for razor blades or needle marks before we allow them to eat it? What images do we elevate? Are we celebrating life by acknowledging the reality of death? Or are we celebrating death itself? Everyone has different answers for these questions. Sure, there are dark traditions that celebrate the prostitution of our hearts to the destruction and detriment of human life. Conversely there are wonderful opportunities presented this time of year to celebrate creative expression and community connection. The reasons behind our choices to participate or abstain are often more important than the decisions themselves. And still there is more to consider before you carve that pumpkin. We are all members of complex communities and should honor each other. It takes careful consideration in order to provide safe spaces where a friend can find rest. Your celebration of life shouldn’t drive others to dwell in despair and excuse their self-abuse. Of course, the only way to know is to engage. Take the time to understand what your roommate or neighbor thinks about your traditions. Ask those deeper questions, like what does your tradition mean to you? And when we can’t agree on the specifics, choose to allow for healthy space in the relationship and respect the choices that are not yours to make for others.