Friday, October 29, 2010

It's That Time Again...

And no getting out of it, to be sure.   We are haunted with Halloween week: the whole world is aglow with orange lights and cobwebs and we've run into ghouls and goblins everywhere.  A tiny little "Jason," all of maybe seven years old and complete with goalie mask and machete, crossed in front of us at a crosswalk in town yesterday; the trebouchet operators at the Punkin Chunkin we attended Saturday were doing some kind of Victorian Goth Aeronaut theme; and the girl who seated us at Applebee's had black lips and pink hair.  But, then, maybe she always has black lips and pink hair.  You never know these days. 

For most people, there's little immediate threat in doing the conventional twenty-first century Halloween thing. A little girl collecting candy door to door in a pointed black hat and fake green nose tied behind her head with elastic is not going to suddenly turn wiccan overnight.  Six-year-old pirates don't generally grow up to loot and pillage.  Teenagers who go to Halloween haunted houses dressed like Freddie Krueger don't usually become serial killers.  And, certainly, there can be lilttle harm in touring the neighborhood with our wee ones dressed up as little princesses and lady bugs and peapods and such.  Right?  I mean, we all enjoyed these spooky Halloween traditions when we were kids, and we turned out alright, didn't we?

Well, we did, didn't we?

I assume the answers here are mostly, like mine: "Yeah, not too bad. Considering."  I mean, I'm trying very hard to save my soul, regardless of some near misses when I was younger and constant fits and starts as I get older.  But, the question here is not whether you or I turned out alright; it's how best to be sure our children turn out, not just alright -- but, like us, too -- whether or not they turn out to be saints. Whether or not we raise them to be saints.  The question here really needs to be: What's best for the kids?  What's the best atmosphere in which to raise them?  How can we best protect them? What's important and what's just window dressing?

The Halloween question didn't used to be as important as I think it is now for us as parents.  In former times, say from the Victorian days when Halloween first caught on up until the fifties or early  sixties, the spooks and tricks of Halloween were less morally threatening to our children because they were weighted against a more wholesome world.  Not only was the world a comparatively safer place, but, for the most part, good was acknowleged as good, and evil was known to be evil.  Our culture today, though, has lost its perspective on good vs. evil.

 Take a  look at our generation's pop idols: the afore-mentioned Freddie Krueger character has achieved the same folk hero status as Captain America; the most idolized romantic characters of our time are vampires; and the top-selling children's book features black magic and wizards. Among the most popular Halloween costumes of 2011 are: Harry Potter characters (still?),  Lady Gaga, Martin Sheen (there're a couple role models for ya!), "sexy" anything (pirates, flight attendant, cop... you name it), and Angry Birds (Huh?).  Halloween is usually seen as a harmless excuse to play dress-up, and, sure, mimicking, copying, make-believe -- it's an important part of growing up, but don't we want our children's formative years to be filled with memories of true heroes?  Don't we want them to emulate the good guys, in particular the saints?  And if we're going to play dress-up -- and copy the good guys, why not just celebrate on All Saints' Day instead of Halloween -- and skip all the iffyness?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I can hear the objections now.  (They're all over the internet!)  "But, it's really all just for fun!"  "It doesn't mean anything to my kids; they aren't influenced by the dark side of Halloween; they're only in it for the candy, anyway!"  "Halloween's actually a healthy psychological outlet for dealing with fears."  "Everybody does it!  Why should I deprive my child of all the fun?" Etc., etc., etc...  Well, not that it matters, but -- here are my thoughts on all of that...

Sure, Halloween is fun, and some of the most lasting memories of our lives are those that are flavored with the sights and sounds and smells of holiday traditions -- like those that have evolved with All Hallow's Eve.  And then some.  It's astounding how much commercialism now surrounds this formerly low-key, chiefly children's holiday! It's all hype and electric lights to go with the candy these days. But, as Christian parents, do we really want to take the chance of connecting a parent-condoned fun time with the rest of the brain trash our children will inevitably swallow with their trick-or-treat candy?     It may not happen while our babies are carefully protected, trotting around the with us in their princess dresses and little lion suits, but they don't stay little and innocent forever. And, while none of us would think of dressing up our little girl in a sexy witch costume, for instance -- what about that troupe of teenage girls in sexy witch costumes trick-or-treating alongside us? Will our little girl think they're something to emulate? We hope not.  But do we know they're not noticing?  What about our little boys?  Are they intrigued by the gangs of trickster boys, dressed like vampires or goths, looking very cool and grown up? Or are they noticing those teenage witches, heaven forbid?  If they aren't interested in those things now, do you know they won't be later on when your influence on them is less and their peers' is more?

  But there are even worse influences at work most especially at this time of year that add to any other issues of peer pressure and temptations.  Many would like to pretend it doesn't exist, or that it doesn't affect anyone who's not directly involved, but October 31st is a high wiccan feast day.  I venture to guess that 99.9% of parents don't dress up their children and send them out on Halloween to celebrate Samhain.  But there's a very dangerous .1% that is out stirring up the devil on the same night thousands of people -- most of them children -- are dressing up like ghosts and ghouls, ax murders, and little pink princesses.  And this .1% is very interested in recruiting our children.  Let's make that .1% of the American population and all the legions of devils that lie in wait for our children's souls, as well.  An unsavory thing to say. A terrible thing to think about. But true.  Did you know that, according to some reports, wicca is the fastest growing "religion" in America?   An online witch school recently declared a shortage of teachers as a result of this.  The culture of our times seems to be a very fertile ground for the occult. Is it worth the risk to associate with this in any way at all?

 It's very scary.  Which brings up the theory that Halloween is a safe place for kids to "work out their fears." How's that for an excuse to keep on Trick-or-Treating? Ahem.  I don't know about you all, but over here at our house we don't work out fear by throwing our children in its path. And, I'm sorry; I hate to burst the bubble of the highly-educated psychologists who come up with these ideas, but Mom buying a W-mart costume or throwing a sheet over a child's head with holes cut out for eyes is hardly addressing fear issues.  Seriously.  It's a good way of addressing the fear of not  fitting in with the crowd, and wearing a mask erases the fear of being caught going to the same house for candy twice...  But, really addressing fear issues means snuggling up next to your little one at bedtime because he's afraid of the dark, teaching him to pray, and explaining to him about his Guardian Angel. Or talking honestly about life and death.  And peer pressure.  And quack psychologists.  At least that's what it is at our house.

Michelle's All Saints' costume this year:
Mary, Queen of the Universe.
 We feel like it's safer to work out our fears with Christ on board, and we prefer to throw in with the saints on November 1st instead of joining most of the western world on Halloween.   It's important to us that our children  understand at a young age that there is, indeed, a war out there, and it really is good against evil.  And they might as well know that, if they're going to be on the side of good, they're going to be at war with most of the world -- and the world's ways.   Might as well embrace the challenge, kids!  (Talk about facing fears!)  And the best way to defeat darkness is with light.

Few things are more important to their development than the landscape we paint in our young children's minds and souls.  We parents hold the paintbrush; we allow -- or don't allow --- others to add to the atmosphere of their hearts.  If we have a choice -- and most of us do -- why would we want to allow dark things to be added to those beautiful blank canvases?

 Celebrating All Saints' Day instead of  Halloween is one way our family gladlhy parts ways with the world.  Please don't be mistake us, though. It's not a 'fighting point' for us. We don't condemn those who haven't gottten to this place in the path and discerned the same direction as we have.  And, to tell you the truth, the subject of Trick or Treating rarely even comes up at our house because we're too busy this time of year getting our saints' costumes together and our parties organized to give it much thought.  But, if any Trick-or-Treaters happen to make the long trek down our driveway, we always have candy available.  (They'd get a big ole' handful, because we'd be so shocked that they'd go so far out of their way...)

To close, though (if anyone has made it this far) --  though the whole topic really isn't a big deal in our family, but, the subject does tend to come up in the blogging world quite a bit,  and that's why I've decided once again to tackle it.  I think it's good not to just declare our "stripes," but to explain them. And I think I might just have blabbed enough this time to have covered 'most everything.  (Ya think?)

In a nutshell:  Nope.  Don't do Halloween.  Never did.  Never will. We won't give you a hard time if you do the Halloween thing...  But, do we think it'd be better if everyone celebrated All Saints' Day instead of Halloween? 

You bet your sweet bippy we do.

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