Being Considerate this Halloween Season

ML in chicken costumeLet me preface this my saying that I am not anti-Halloween. My husband and I let our children dress up in fun costumes and watch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown once or twice. My goal with this post is not to take away anyone’s fun, but to get people to be considerate and thoughtful when it comes to certain aspects of the holiday – particularly when it comes to children and to those who are grieving. Let me explain.

The dark and grisly parts of Halloween first hit home seven years ago when a precious friend of mine was brutally murdered. It was October. And I will never forget driving home from her memorial service and passing yard after yard decorated with bloody knives and chainsaws and other violent-looking decorations. I just got sick to my stomach wondering why anyone would want to celebrate the evil that just took my friend. Even just the sight of the plastic gravestones in people’s yards made me want to go pull them up for the sake of her grieving mother.

Then I started seeing the holiday through the eyes of my children.

I’ll never forget when my oldest daughter was two years old and we stopped in Walgreens to pick up a prescription. As soon as we got in the door she let out the most terrifying scream: right in front of us stood a life-size zombie display with red-lit eyes and fake blood dripping from its teeth. The zombie was moving and making a horrific groaning sounds like it was looking for a child to devour (or at least I’m sure that’s what my daughter thought!).

Annoyingly, there was no way in or out of the store without walking by this zombie. So I picked my toddler up, buried her face in my chest, and ran to get my prescription as fast as I could. The entire time she was shaking like a frightened puppy dog. It was pitiful!

At first I was so angry that a store like Walgreens would put out decorations that would scare little children like that. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they were just cashing in on the glamorization of evil that has become so mainstream in our culture – in movies, in television, and now in Halloween.

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The white sheet “ghost” costume of Charlie Brown is no more.

If you have ever been to one of those pop-up Halloween stores or seen an advertisement for one of those big-time haunted houses, you know exactly what I mean: a skeleton suit like the villain wore in The Karate Kid is no longer considered “scary.” Halloween is very much an adult holiday now and a lot of the merchandise is not for children’s eyes.

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An aisle at my local Walgreens…

Unfortunately, retailers’ efforts to capitalize on this glamorization of evil means that all that scary merchandise is front and center at every store starting in early September. After my Walgreens experience, I do my best to avoid these type of stores when I have my children, but it’s really hard to do. Just last week I was in Home Depot and, lo and behold, right when you walk in the door they have all the ghoulish moaning and groaning creatures for all the children to see!

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My almost two year old was just about eye level with this light up display that jumps out at you. Lovely.

This is the thing: even though a child may not act frightened immediately after seeing something scary, it most likely will stay with them. Sometimes children can’t vocalize what they are feeling, but it might manifest in an anxious personality or bad dreams. When I was eight years old, I started having nightmares and night terrors after watching horror movies at friend’s house without my parents’ knowledge. I remember so clearly what it was like to be a child who was fearful of dark and the evil things and I don’t want my children to suffer in the same way.


So what does all this have to do with DoSayGive’s purpose of being thoughtful and gracious to others? I’m all for freedom of speech and expression, but I want to suggest some ways to be more thoughtful about how you celebrate this Halloween season:

1. If your family likes to celebrate the scarier things about Halloween, consider the placement of that kind of decor. 

I know there are a lot of boy families who can handle the scary stuff more than my three girls, but consider the ages of your neighborhood children. A few years ago, my next door neighbor decorated her crepe myrtles with three dummies dangling from nooses. It was scary to my girls, who were used to playing in our front yard almost every afternoon.

I felt bad about saying anything to my neighbor, but I wished she had been more sensitive to my girls. It’s one thing as a parent to try and distract your children from something scary as you are driving down the street, but it’s a lot harder to do when it’s outside your window every day for over a month!

Also, when I’m trick or treating with my young children I appreciate when homeowners put their ghoulish decor and moving monsters and witches up by their front porch (and not right by the sidewalk!). We know clearly to skip that house and move on.

2. Consider waiting a little later to turn on your scary light-up, screaming, and moving Halloween decorations until after the toddlers and young children have gone to bed or have trick-or-treated.

This is just decent. After 7 or 8 o’clock they will all be in bed for the night and you can scare the teenagers all your want!

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This is how we do Halloween: Vintage Strawberry Shortcake.

3. If you have had any friends who have lost loved ones recently, particularly if it was in a tragic way, consider how it might make them feel if you have your house or yard decorated with things celebrating death.

I never thought about that until I lost two friends in fall months and wondered how it must make their families feel to see makeshift graveyards in their neighbors’ yards. Or huge skulls and skeletons hanging from trees. Maybe it doesn’t bother everyone, but I know it bothers some. It’s just something to think about as you are decorating this year.

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(This book is in my Fall Children’s Book post!)

4. If you own or manage a business that has a lot of children come through your doors, consider sticking with non-frightening decorations.

I’m all for being festive! But think big spider webs, Jack-O-Lanterns, and “Monster Mash” type characters. Just a suggestion. Maybe you will attract even more young families who appreciate your sensitivity!

What do you think? Do you think we should be considerate of others when it comes to our Halloween decor?

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15 thoughts on “Being Considerate this Halloween Season

  1. So agree with you. We have had similar experiences. I did notice the Spirit Halloween store I went into had most of the really scary stuff in the far back and kids things in the front this year. So maybe they are trying! When my daughter was 3 we were trick or treating and there was a lady handing out candy on her porch. You couldn’t see her until you turned to face front door. She was older and had painted her face white with blood dripping down it. She had on a old white nightgown like a ghost. It scared my daughter and 4 years later she still talks about it. It is the cause for several nightmares. Did I mention it was about 5:30? So, I agree. Save all that for after 7:30. Love your posts!

    1. I’m glad the Spirit store is at least trying! Maybe others will follow their lead! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. couldnt agree more!

    Right now I have 3 kids who I have to remind to cover their eyes and/or distract as we drive northbound on 75 due to the creepy haunted house billboard.

    Your point about being sensitive to those who may have lost friends or loved ones is particularly poignant to me – my father died in early October when I was 7, and it was so upsetting and confusing to deal with all the scary/death themes. I didn’t want to think about him being like that – and at a young age wasn’t necessarily able to separate his death from the ghosts, skeletons and other scary things (and that was only 1980’s scary). And I know it was terribly upsetting to my mom – she stopped letting us “celebrate” Halloween until we were much older.

    I’m all for fun and costumes – but our family will always keep it G rated fun – 🙂

    1. Thanks Kiki! I am so sorry about your dad. I feel sad for those who have lost loved ones and have to see some of this stuff- particularly children. I don’t think people are trying to be insensitive, they just don’t really think about what having fake tombstones in their yard really means to others. Hopefully this article will get some people thinking! Thanks for commenting!

  3. The vintage Strawberry Shortcake! So very cute!! I agree, we have become so desensitized to Halloween, and I don’t think it was as scary when we were children! Even so, I still have pretty scary images burned into my brain from scary movies and Halloween decorations that I saw as a child. I am thankful for loving parents and teachers/friends that helped me to understand that those things weren’t real and taught me early that perfect love casts out fear!

  4. Thank you, Lee. What a brave and bold post, I totally agree. I am very sensitive to celebrating evil/darkness/death, but kids in costumes are my favorite! Another thought along the lines on graciousness… My nephew has a severe peanut allergy, and I know my sister so appreciates the turquoise pumpkin movement. I try to keep a separate bowl for candy not “processed in facility with nuts.”

    1. What a thoughtful idea! I never would have thought of that so thank you for sharing. So many children have those allergies….and so many candies are made in facilities with nuts.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with this post. Thank you for taking the time to write it, and for offering some helpful alternatives. My daughter is also very sensitive to all of the scary displays, and we always deal with nightmares this time of year. It breaks my heart for her and her precious little mind. She also had a horrifying incident while trick or treating two years ago when a man came to the door in full costume with scary music playing inside the house. She ran from the house screaming and said she never wanted to trick or treat again! Not the way we saw our night ending! A little bit of sensitivity can go a long way.

  6. I can completely appreciate that stores that cater to families have friendly decoration in front the and the scarier stuff in back so that you can easily avoid things that scare young kids. I think that would be a wonderful improvement. I can even appreciate that the more adult/teen celebrating of Halloween happen after 8 when the young trick or treaters have made their rounds. All fair points that are frankly polite and considerate to the needs of all. But when you start making everyone create celebrations that are exactly where you are in your kids development, I have a problem. One day you will have teenagers and young adults who will enjoy the spookier side of the holiday. While my heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one, we can’t simply do away with spooky decoration because of it. In Mexico the Day of Dead celebrations can be scary, with an abundance of skeletons, but this celebration actually honors the lives of those that have passed. Being considerate does not mean that we have to censor everyone’s celebrations to meet the needs of young children.

    1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! Maybe I did not express my thought as clearly as I had intended but I never intended to call for a censoring of celebrations or the doing away with spooky decorations. I am all for freedom of speech and expression! But I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking people to be a considerate in how they do that. Sure a lot of people don’t care, but I think some do. Like you said, putting the horror decorations in the back, not putting them near the sidewalk, waiting until after dark to do the scary stuff to trick or treaters. I am all for that. At the same time, I know I cannot expect everyone to do that so it is up to me as a parent to try to protect my children how I see fit.

      As for the Day of the Dead, I addressed that on Facebook today. While there are skeletons involved (which I have no major problem with – my daughter has one in her classroom) the actual holiday is about honoring and bringing gifts to the dead, usually at their actual gravesites or nearby. It is not about celebrating murder and violence and grisly ways to die – which is what I was referring to in my post. Also, it is celebrated on 1-2 days usually, not for an entire month or more out in someone’s front yard. (But correct me if I am wrong!).

  7. I am guessing you have a house full of girls, because as many moms of boys know the more blood, spook and weapons attached to a costume, the better (not for us, them!) You are asking stores that cater to kids to have a sanitized version of your Halloween and that does make me a little nervous. Protecting kids is one thing and sanitizing their life is another and it can be a distinction that sometimes gets lost. My boys didn’t always want to be Superman, sometimes they wanted to be the Grimm Reaper. And yes, I have had friends and family members who have died and I never once took offense to that. Again, no problem with the grizzly stuff in the back so that you can choose not to go there. I have to admit that it is a rare exception for me to ever see grizzly violence and death in decorations in family neighborhoods. After 15 years of trick or treating with kids I have actually never seen that, but perhaps it is more common in other areas and I have underestimated the problem.

    As for Day of the Dead, in theory the celebration is at a graveyard, just as Christmas is to honor the birth of Jesus- not Santa Claus. But the reality is that some of the Mexican families we know in California and the authentic Mexican restaurants decorate with skulls that would probably scare young kids. I guess the question is where do you draw the line and who gets to decide where that line is. This is wonderful opportunity to teach kids that scary isn’t always bad.

    I will always error on the side of educating, not sanitizing my kids lives and hope that others will behave in a respectful manner. Your post touched a nerve and I guess I just hope that we never forget that protecting our kids does not mean shielding them but teaching them. I understand how distressing it can be when your child is frightened and we all want to make that go away (yes, even me!). I get it., But we can’t and shouldn’t expect that never to happen. Learning to deal with life if the best gift we can give our kids.

    1. Thank you! Yes, I am with you on a lot of that. I do not pretend to be able to protect my children fully from the world. I believe in living in the world and not isolated from it. (Which is pretty impossible to do anyway, especially, if you live in a city like us!). In this post I am speaking specifically about protecting young children here. I think most people want to be decent when it comes to this. I realize that with older children and teenagers a lot of these things are not issues. Again, I am not throwing blanket statements out there or trying to get people to put away fully their decorations. I am just trying to get people to think. Consider timing, placement, their neighbors, very circumstantial.

      I know our family is different in that we choose not to glorify the dark parts of Halloween. I realize not everyone feels the same way and we cannot expect others to conform to our thinking. Again, just asking people who want to be considerate to think about these things. For the record, my sister has boys and they are very much into Halloween so I totally understand your point of view!

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment and get us all thinking, too!

  8. I LOVE this post!!! I love all of your posts, but this one is just perfect. I feel the exact same way as you do, and I also have 3 little girls I try to protect from seeing gruesome images. Thank you for your thoughtful suggestions for those who want to do the “scary.” We always try to trick or treat early, and it would be wonderful it people could wait until later in the evening to put out scary things if that’s what they want to do. Nothing is worse than my little ones walking to a door to get some candy and something evil and scary surprising them. It’s just not necessary. So thank you for this post….I appreciate it!!! 🙂

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