Halloween dilemma

Yesterday we celebrated our first Halloween. I say our first because I feel like this is the first one we’ve participated in. Sure, Talitha was alive last year but I must have still been in that “new baby” daze because I can’t at all remember what we did.

Growing up, Halloween was not something we touched much. I explained in a guest post on WAHM-BAM earlier this week that it was an American thing, not really part of Trinidadian culture when I was growing up. I went to the odd costume party or Halloween gig as a teen but the whole Halloween scene wasn’t what it is over here. A walk down our local Co-op aisles and it’s been clear, Halloween is big business.

This year we bought into it. Kind of.

Our breastfeeding group meets on Wednesdays so we had a Halloween party. I baked a toddler-friendly squash and cranberry bread, based on this recipe but without the pecans. It was surprisingly yummy. There were other bits to nibble on and everyone dressed their children up: skeleton, pirate, spider, ladybird and lots of pumpkins.

Talitha wore a pumpkin suit that came in a bundle from my aunt of clothes my cousins had worn. I was so glad she managed to keep it clean all day because she was admired by the parents of trick-or-treaters who came that night. This brings me to another first…

I’ve never given anything to trick-or-treaters before. I usually turn out the lights and ignore any knocking or bell ringing. Yesterday, Talitha napped for a crazy three hours and I fell asleep for the second half of that with her. That meant we woke up in the dark at 5pm. I worried that I’d missed the trick-or-treating. I worried mainly because I’d bought a bucket of Cadbury’s chocolate covered candies that were disgustingly oversweet and didn’t want to be stuck with them!

It was also raining outside so it seemed unlikely that anyone would come. An hour later, the knocking started and a pair of ghosts in raincoats turned up. Then witches, pirates, zombies and princesses appeared with their parents. It really was great fun popping sweets into their buckets and admiring their costumes. Talitha seemed to catch the buzz of it.

All this leaves me with a dilemma. Part of the reason we ignored Halloween when I was growing up was that we were Christians. I still am and so is Laurence and we’re not really sure what to do about Halloween.

On one hand, it definitely has a darker side to it which seems at conflict with the Biblical command to focus on things that are pure, good and lovely. It is also a night which celebrates witches, contact with ghosts and such things when the Bible prohibits dealing with the Occult.

On the other hand, for children it is just a bit of fun getting dressed up and going around collecting sweets from neighbours. There’s even a bit of community spirit to it.

My parents didn’t have the quandary we have in making this decision. Our cultural context meant that Halloween could easily be bypassed. For us, telling Talitha “No Halloween” will risk her feeling like she’s missing out and I honestly wouldn’t want that. I’d want her to enjoy the fun.

So, the question for us is, how do we navigate this day in years to come without compromising on our own beliefs? Perhaps, we will have to take it each year and ask God for wisdom.

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[she/her] • writer • unschooler • team Soul Farm • Revillaging podcast • breastfeeding counsellor • Trinidadian in Cornwall

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  • Interesting post, I’ve also struggled with similar issues – there’s not actually much about Halloween that I like (if anything) because I don’t enjoy scary things, but as a child I felt ostracised by my friends because I was forbidden (by my parents) to take part due to spiritual undertones. I don’t mind a bit of jolly pumpkin carving, and I’m happy to dish out sweets to children who come knocking (this year I actually prepared mini party bags with a few chocolates and a leaflet about the darkness of Halloween and the light of Jesus), but when my children get older and more aware I’m not sure how we’ll deal with it.

    • I imagine it’s about taking it each year and considering where our children are developmentally and socially. I bet your sweets were nicer than mine. 🙂

  • Interesting post, Adele. I think, as with so many festivals, Halloween is much more about having some fun and dressing up (and spending lots of money). Most people aren’t really celebrating the occult in any way, although some people are using the more pagan tradition of celebrating their ancestors, which I don’t think goes against anything (as far as I know).

    I understand the dilemma of wanting to make sure our children are not left out or ostracised because of our own particular beliefs, though. On the other side of this, we are not at all religious, but do not pull our children out of church celebrations or Christian assemblies. My mum was pulled out of these things as a child and she had a lot of issues and bullying problems because of it.

    I think it’s important to allow our children to participate in society and just to explain to them how our beliefs might differ from some of those of their friends. I also believe it’s important to give them the opportunity to experience different viewpoints and beliefs so they can come to their own decisions later in life.

    But it can be a hard balance.

    RoRo asked me last night why we celebrate Halloween and I told her a bit about Samhain, and a bit about All Hallow’s Eve and then finished with ‘But mostly, these days, it’s just because it’s fun and it’s nice to go and see your friends and dress up. And when else are you allowed to get bagfuls of sweets?’
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  • It’s funny how these things can feel so different to different people. Growing up, we were fairly conservative Christians (and I still am a Christian, though, I must say, not socially conservative anymore). My parents were some of the only ones in our circle that let us participate in Halloween. My mother thought it was harmless fun that allowed kids to be creative and get out in the neighborhood.

    I now feel it gives Evil too much power to fear to dress up, to fear the dead, or to fear to engage in imaginative play about the supernatural. I tell my 3yo son that dead folks are nothing to be afraid of, and that I don’t know if their spirits can see us on Halloween, but if they can, won’t they have a laugh at our funny costumes?

    • That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it from the perspective of fear, actually. That’s food for thought.

  • I totally get where you are coming from. I too never celebrated Halloween, as you said this not really the done thing in Trinidad. Hubby being raised with more Chinese influence has also never celebrated either. As Angelo is still young to know any better we feel no pressure at all to buy too much into any ideals or traditions that are not our own. If he’s at nursery and they have an event, we do let him participate in the spirit of things. Monday he wore a little t-shirt with a bat printed on it, that was as far as we went into Halloween. As he gets older we’ll decide hopefully as a family, what we want to celebrate and get involved in what we’ll leave behind based on our interests and beliefs and not due to concern for bullying. Easier said than done I realise that but I believe in talking one dragon at a time.
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  • As another christian I personally don’t celebrate Halloween and never have. I feel it is a celebration I personally don’t want to be involved in. It isn’t due to the darkness as such, as someone with gothic leanings I believe that God created darkness as well as light. However I feel that witches, devils and ghosts etc are not something I want to be celebrating, and I am very uncomfortable about the strong Sahmein links. I don’t think it does children harm to miss things sometimes, and a lot of churches do run alternative parties although I am unsure how I feel about these too. Maybe because they focus too much on light?

    I think it is hard as there isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong. There is good in darkness too but I don’t see that being celebrated with Halloween.

    I think though it has to be down to your own personal convictions. Like the whole meat offered to idols verses I guess.

    • See, that’s interesting because I actually see some beauty in Samhein. For us growing up we had a similar dilemma over Divali. It’s such a big (and stunning!) part of our culture and yet it cannot be divorced from its religious meanings. I agree, it’s so personal.

  • I personally don’t agree with the whole trick or treating aspect of Halloween and I won’t take Iyla when she is older, although I do buy sweets to give out to other kids, mainly because I don’t want to risk having my house egged! I think it can be fun and if families have pumpkins outside then it’s clear they want to be involved and that’s fine but when you get teenagers knocking on the doors of old ladies then it gets a bit worrying. I do like the fun aspect of Halloween though and as it’s Iyla’s birthday the day after I like to use it as a theme and an excuse to dress her up etc.
    I totally understand that as a parent you don’t want your kids to feel like they are missing out though, in fact that’s why Matt has said he will take Iyla trick or treating if I don’t but we will see about that! At the end of the day there is something a bit weird about knocking on peoples doors to ask for something, and all they end up with is a big bag of sweets at the end which you then have to try and stop them from eating! x
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    • I can see how it’s nice when they’re kids but weird if they’re teenagers! And I’m all for any excuse to dress up, actually!

  • I just did a belated post on Halloween. My experience is quite different, American that I am! To me the day has been about dressing up, make believe and some good spirited community fun.
    Tanya (Bump2Basics) recently posted..Missing my American Halloween

  • Forgive me if I am wrong, but I think it is soooo commercial, and so about the pumpkins and the dressing up, that there are no longer any concerns about a conflict.

    I know it has pagan underlyings etc… but you don’t ever hear anyone discussing that (unless they’re Wiccan or such like).

    So I think let her enjoy the dressing up, and the spectacle, community aspects of it, which it sounds like you want to do anyway.

    It is so similar to the many world religions in the UK, that let their kiddywinks enjoy Xmas when it actually has no meaning to them.

    I guess it’s that old addage of “when in Rome…”

    She looks ADORABLE in the photo by the way.

    Liska xxx
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