Let 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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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