Why do some people have a problem with Halloween?

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With Halloween around the corner many kids are thinking hard about their costumes. The best ones that I have seen are old clothes put together with a lot of imagination… and effort. Some families will even visit thrift stores to see what they can find. For one, it’s more economical and also more aesthetically pleasing than the cheapest costume in the market which is typically made of plastic.

Now that my sons are mostly away, I am skeptical about handing out treats to the neighbourhood witches and goblins that come by. The littlest are the most adorable and some smart ones crack me up as they try to coax more candy out of me. I love Halloween… but at this point don’t want to commit to manning the doors for about three hours alone.

It’s not an easy decision. Halloween is one of the kids’ favourite times of year and I would like to keep the tradition going. My retired neighbours still participate which makes me feel terribly guilty for wanting to pull out now that my boys are no longer around.

I also recall, from all the Halloween treks with my sons and their friends over the years, that the best yard decorations were done by empty nesters who go all out to entertain the kids. More guilt flows as I think of how thrilled the children (and us moms) would be to see all this.

An email I received yesterday decrying the irresponsible use of priest and nun costumes for Halloween got me thinking about its declining popularity in many GTA neighbourhoods. Immigrants who are typically unfamiliar with this tradition and therefore not favourably disposed towards investing in it as well as Christian groups who emphasize its pagan origins might be responsible.

For the ‘deeply religious’ participating in Halloween has become a moral issue. (Just like reading Harry Potter I am told.) The sexualized costumes, albeit mostly for adults, are off putting and do not help. But then Halloween was never just for kids as many of us have come to see it. To combat this some churches organize their own events on October 31 with kids depicting ‘more-acceptable’ Biblical characters.

While I respect everyone’s choices, I can safely say that more than 17 years of observing Halloween has not caused my family to go over to the dark side. From my discussions with other South Asian parents I have learned that enforcing religious and cultural practices from the home country is more likely to do that.

Inclusiveness is important to integration especially for kids who are trying to balance unfamiliar traditions with their Canadian lifestyle. It is preferable to set guidelines for appropriate costumes rather than bar your kids from participating. It makes them resentful social misfits in the process.

The problem, as one gentleman I met as Costco rightly pointed out, is that “we are trying to be Indian parents to Canadian kids”.

In reality, we first generation immigrants are a confused lot. Mostly overrun with guilt from leaving our homeland and desperately clinging on to traditions to prove our loyalty.

Ironically India is now embracing Halloween just like Valentine’s Day and other Western traditions. Moreover no one there, except extremists, sees it as a threat to their cultural identity.

And let me digress a bit to say that handing out carrot sticks or homemade snacks because candy is unhealthy is not cool either. It’s like serving only health food at Diwali and Christmas!!! I used to get my kids to divide their loot into two piles—one to keep and one to donate. Of course, they did this grudgingly, but their teeth and gums were thankful no doubt.

Preventing your kids from taking part in Halloween on moral grounds will make you the big bad wolf. It is also more likely to put your kids off your religious and cultural practices, not Halloween.

Others who disapprove see it as another “Hallmark holiday thing” to boost retail sales, like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. But what’s more important than fighting commercialization and pagan customs is to simply let the kids be kids.

Dressing up and fraternizing with the neighbours as you fill treat bags or pillowcases is good for the soul as well as the community. Let’s not paint everything with a moral brush and just enjoy Halloween.

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