by Veronica Vaiti, LCSW-R
Halloween can be tricky holiday, no pun intended. Most people I’ve spoken to about Halloween fall into three camps of thinking about the holiday – the loyalists, the indifferent and the cynics. So depending upon where you find yourself, Halloween is either a time to relish and revel in celebration, a time you just put up with or try to shut out.
The loyalists love the holiday with its spook factor, gory decorations, jack-o-lanterns and free license to dress up like kooks or clowns and overindulge in candy consumption. The indifferent are just that, could take it or leave it. And the cynics question the very relevance of Halloween in our current society viewing it as just another reason for numerous retailers and candy companies to profit and fault them for sending the wrong messages to our youngsters. As a therapist and a mother, I can see and relate to all points of view.
I have always LOVED Halloween for the free license to dress up in any funny, goofy or in an otherwise forbidden character costume and have loved seeing friends and others express their creativity through their costumes. And I think for many, what is so entertaining and exciting is this chance Halloween provides for freedom of expression through costume and dress. The chance to also be playful and let off some steam through silly or outlandish dress and also as a socially acceptable way to express different aspects of their personality through the different costumes we may choose.
And yet as a parent of two young children, I now find myself straddling the lines between the loyalists and the cynics. I love seeing my children’s joy in dressing up in costumes, their excitement to see what their friends will be dressed as and their anticipation to go trick-or-treating. Yet at the same time, there is something that strikes me as odd in encouraging our children to dress up in costume in order to go door to door to collect candy from neighbors and/or strangers…and I wonder how did we come to this practice and why do we really do it?
The truth is, many people who partake in the practice of “trick-or-treating” are unsure as to why we actually do it. I didn’t know until I did some research and found that Halloween’s roots are linked to many different cultures and time periods including the ancient Celts, the Christians of the Middle Ages and even early 20th Century in North America in which honoring the change of seasons and the passage from the living to the dead had more meaning to the culture at large than it seems to now.
Regardless, in our time, what is evident is that Halloween, although distanced from its historical underpinnings is yet another intensely amped up and commercialized holiday of sorts that provides another reason to spend money, come together, celebrate something, eat too much of something we probably shouldn’t and have fun in doing so. Cynic or loyalist? I’ll be pondering that as I’m out trick-or-treating with the kids. Happy and Safe Halloween everyone.