Fast Focus: 'Is Halloween over the top?' Scary trad

November 10, 2013 

Scary traditions

Is Halloween over the top? Was it over the top when Christians believed the wall between this world and the next was "thinnest" on Oct. 31? Or when they believed evil spirits roamed free on that night? Or when Christians used pagan symbols to ward off the evil spirits? Or when Christians wore masks in the days/weeks leading up to Halloween to disguise themselves so that the spirits of their departed loved ones wouldn't recognize them, miss the annual afterlife bus to heaven, and remain earthbound spirits? Yep, it's all true and over the top.

What is so over the top about kids and adults dressing up in costumes and having a little fun at the end of summer just before the winter weather sets in? Of course, nothing is wrong with it. People who don't want to participate can leave their porch lights off, not dress up, and sit at home -- like they do every night.

-- MIKE WILSON, Richland

Custom seeking reason

One can readily read about the history and derivation of Halloween via the Internet, and perhaps argue whether it is a Christian-based or pagan-based tradition. In any case one is left with an unclear understanding about its origins, let alone what it "means" in today's society.

Of course, the commercial world is very certain about the boon it is to business given the scant holidays celebrated in October (Columbus Day recognizes the discovery of American but yields very little retail income).

The positive side of Halloween is the fun, excitement and treats it generates for children, and the pride and pleasure it lends to parents observing their costumed children, at a measured distance, on the door step of a "surprised" neighbor. Also, the holiday provides justification for adult festivities at parties and events for socializing in uncommon dress.

I think it is a win-win activity for business and family interests, but a purist perspective would demand why are we doing this silly thing? I feel it is actually healthy to not be yourself for part of a day once a year and to exercise one's imagination with the aid of costumes, make-up, and props. Make it more intentional as a family, neighborhood, community or even national event with focus on the positive relational aspects. Let's diminish the historical rationale, especially its spurious precedents and the sinister dimensions. Perhaps the starting point for this approach is to change the name, derived from "All Hallows Evening," focused on death and the dead, and designate it as "All Costume" Day centered on friendliness, socialability and community life. We might even call this celebration the "Allo Costume Scene," and make it a federal holiday!


It's better locally

Well, in a word, yes!

Let's just get right over center; although this holiday has always been part of our customs here in the U.S., what it has evolved to it just another example of greed. Greed on the parts of the retailers pushing it on us, and passing along undue pressure on children and their parents to go along with the charade.

I found it refreshing here in the Tri-Cities that community organizations like the Jaycees and the International Lion's Club return a portion of their Halloween Haunted Forest back to the Edith Bishel Center for the Blind.


Much ado

I have observed escalation and trivialization of Halloween in recent years. Home decorations increase yearly in extent and cost. There's escalation in pumpkins -- it used to be one per household. Now, many homes have multiple pumpkins. And candy -- sellers know the earlier they put the candy out, the more people will buy.

Halloween is All Hallow's Eve -- when the spirits of those who have departed are supposed to be closer to us. Before that it was a Celtic holiday related to the harvest. Who can recall or recognize any of this in the deluge of cuteness and pumpkins, and the gluttony that lasts for weeks? At least I don't worry as much as in past years about my cat being outside that night.


For the whole family

I don't feel it's over the top. I feel that it's once again becoming more of a family holiday. Many more churches are becoming active and offering Trunk & Treats in their parking lots. They are also having bounce houses and games. It's a perfectly safe environment. And they don't charge a dime. It's run by church volunteers.

-- MARK COLLINS, Richland

Cultural ignorance

Determining if Halloween is "over the top" all depends on how the day is celebrated. When celebrated the wrong way, Halloween can be one of the most gender-roled, culturally offensive days of the year. Without fail, little girls can be seen running door-to-door in princess costumes while little boys dress as superheroes. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that princess and superhero costumes should be banned, but kids should be given a broader spectrum of options as far as costumes go and not be bound by what society tells them is the norm.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of cultural ignorance that comes with celebrating Halloween as well. Next year, rethink those terrorist, white trash and sexy Native American costumes. They are offensive and, more often than not, misrepresent the cultures, lifestyles and backgrounds that people come from, as well as further stereotypes of overgeneralized groups of people. If we took the time to dig deeper and discover the meaning behind certain articles of clothing, maybe we would be less likely to exaggerate and turn them into a costume.

So yes, Halloween is over the top when celebrated in a way that inflicts strong gender roles or makes fun of different people groups and cultures. But when celebrated in a mindful way, it can be a day to enjoy with friends, family -- and too much candy.

-- LAUREN DAVIES, West Richland (currently in Costa Rica)

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