Several years ago (before I had children), I offered to take my friend’s kids (3 and 5) trick or treating around the close in which they live. Excitedly they got dressed up as a skeleton and a fairy/witch, picked up their pumpkin buckets and headed out the front door. Chattering about how many sweets they would get we knocked on the first door. The door swung open and a figure wearing the elongated scream mask jumped out yelling ‘Whooohoooo’. Cue two hysterically crying children, an apologetic neighbour (too late mate, harm’s done) and a Halloween over before it had even started. Ever since I have been asking myself: Is Halloween harmful for young children?
I’m not talking about the fake spiders and tissue paper ghosts that may adorn your kitchen this All Hallows’ Eve. I have no problem with pumpkin carving and plastic bats. Maybe I’m just an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy and a scaredy-cat to boot, but some of the things associated with Halloween are just not child (here I’m talking about 3- 8 year olds) friendly. Scream mask aside.
You wouldn’t let your 4 year old watch a horror film and yet it’s acceptable to paint blood down his face or dress him up as a zombie. Take a quick look in any of the major supermarkets and you can deck your five year out as a creepy laughing clown, guarenteed to have him sleeping with the light on until well into his teens. What about a spooky undead bride for the discerning six year old? This annual shockfest is not harmless fun, it is as age inappropraite as dressing your tween in a push-up bra and hot pants.
Last year I did put a pumpkin outside my front door to signal to the local kids that I was willing to hand out fistfuls of sugary treats, (oh and some packets of raisins when my supplies ran out, unlucky latecomers!) At first I got some the neighbourhood kids, cute wizards and glittery witches. Then I opened the door to some older kids who were obviously just cashing in on Halloween. That’s cool, who doesn’t want complimentary confectionery after all? I did decide to call it a day when one teen asked for cash. Dude, I know my raisins are a poor treat, but seriously cash!!! By this time the neighbourhood kids were all playing outside. These sweet magical creatures had become crazy monsters. They were off their heads on Haribos, rushing around like maniacs, shrieking and screaming. So not only are we telling our kids “Hey, dress up as something terrifying that will occupy your nightmares forever. Then consume as many sweets as possible.” And this is the point of Halloween? Am I the only one who doesn’t get it?
I don’t claim to know or indeed care what the real meaning of Halloween is, but I sure as heck know that we should not be encouraging kids to impersonate the grim reaper, doorstep demands for cash or traumatise toddlers.
So this year my 2 year olds and I will spend 31st October indoors, in a sugar-free environment, apple bobbing and pining the wart on the (friendly) witch. No tricks and no treats.