Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'm Troubled By Halloween - Part 2

So just in case you didn't get enough of my ramblings in my post yesterday, let's revisit my troubles with Halloween. This time, I want to go to the other end of the spectrum. We talked enough about the events that trouble me due to their violence, their intensity, and their overt attempts at scaring people into going to church.

Now we go way over to the most family friendly of the Halloween activities....the Trunk or Treat. Again, this is an event most often sponsored by a church group, but in some cases, other community organizations have promoted such an activity. The focus of the activity, depending on who you listen to, is to "provide a safe family environment for trick or treaters" or to be an "excellent outreach event" for a church.

There is nothing scary about a Trunk or Treat. In fact, many of them even have costume guidelines to make sure that all the kids come dressed as a super hero or a fairy but not Dracula or a ghost. And that seems to be one key part of make a Halloween event that is not frightening.

I've got no problem with that. Little kids often need to avoid things that may seem frightening.

But this isn't really about the costume. I'm convinced, this is about sanitizing an event that seems a bit too non-Christian while segregating the church folks from the rest of their community. I mean, I know some people in the US live in neighborhoods that are just not safe. No one would go out and walk around at night. I get that. But I wonder if those are the places where Trunk or Treats are really taking place? Or does this mostly happen in nice middle and upper-middle class neighborhoods where the kids could safely trick or treat on well-lit sidewalks and among welcoming homes?

I also have no problem with a church or any other organization wanting to host their own activities as a form of building their own community. Certainly many groups have fall festivals, apple picking, trips to corn mazes, etc. Those are all excellent group activities.

But what happens when it becomes a way to exclude participation in their home neighborhood?

Many Trunk or Treaters aren't doing this as an extra fun event for their kids...they are doing as the ONLY event for their kids. They gather in a parking lot, pass out candy just to the kids who are members of their group, and then go home and keep the lights out on Halloween night....turning away all the other children in their community.

Is that really the kind of neighborhood we want? One where, in the guise of making Halloween safe, some of our most concerned parents actually turn away from their neighbors? If we want our sidewalks and neighborhoods to be safe on Halloween, shouldn't those concerned parents be the most visible presence walking about on that evening? Isn't that how we build a community and participating, by being active, by actually showing up? I'm just not sure how we help encourage a safe Halloween if people keep their kids home on that night and become unwelcoming to other kids.

We are fortunate to live in a large neighborhood with plenty of sidewalks, lots of street lights, and homes that will have their porch lights on. Some folks will just pass out the candy while others will enjoy decorating with jack-o-lanterns, a scarecrow or two, the occasional scary sound effects tape, and even one neighbor who annually erects an entire graveyard in his front yard, complete with friends who dress up and rise from the coffins to greet kids. And yes, they are very kid-friendly with lookouts to alert them so the scary-fun stuff happens with older kids (and the adults who enjoy dropping by!) while the non-scary-fun stuff happens with younger kids.

Our sidewalks will be crowded. People will drive in from surrounding areas where walking is quite as safe. Our porch light will be on. And we have plenty of 3 Musketeers, Pixie Stix, M&M's and Kit Kat bars for everyone. So feel free to drop by. We love seeing everyone in their well as those teenagers who drop by at the end of the night looking just a bit embarrassed by still hoping for a Reese's and enjoying a holiday that they don't want to ever outgrow.

We'll keep the light on for you.


Cocotte said...

I often wonder about all these 'extra' Halloween activities. All the communities in our area (all middle to upper middle class) seem to sponsor some sort of 'safe Halloween party,' but never on trick-or-treat night. It really just seems like another party for the kids to go to and not an 'alternative' to beggar's night. Like you, we live in a really big development where about 80% of the people hand out candy, so I never felt the need to take my kids to a party to get more candy. They had their parties at school and were satisfied with that.

Some church groups do take the anti-Halloween thing too far. Interesting that I never see them do the same thing with Easter egg hunts, considering that's a pagan tradition as well.

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

It's scary how our society can have such a black and white mentality - one extreme to the other. What should just be a fun holiday is turned into a statement to serve another purpose. I feel fortunate to also live in an area where Halloween is pretty much the same as it was when I was a kid!

secret agent woman said...

I knew one church that did this and had all the kids dress in Biblical costumes, Way to suck the fun right out if Halloween.