By Clyde Davis: CNJ Columnist
Yearly the debate comes around, well under way by this time.
What is good, what is bad, what is acceptable, what is not, in terms of celebrations of Halloween, aka. All Hallow’s Eve — the night before All Saints’ Day? So much returns to individual ethics or taste and, incredibly, so much seems to cause a reaction to this, though there are much more crucial issues to decide such as matters of faith and ethics.
Guidelines for children should, I think, include the element of fun and enjoyment, perhaps of mystery and surprise, and even a touch of scariness, of the not too frightening kind. I think there’s a strong tendency to overreact, on the part of some folks, to the fun-fright element, which really should be present for Halloween.
Gore is a definite negative, for me at any rate. I like a good suspense movie, or some of the scary classics, but really, how many of us are attracted to blood and graphic horror depiction? Whether movie or costume, there’s a line of good taste that, when crossed, even offends adults.
Costumes that scare children should definitely not be worn in their presence, nor should such things be viewed. I am speaking from recent experience here; we have spent the past two days trying to convince an 8 year old that the clown from “It” is not real.
Costumes that demean a particular race, gender, or background are, to me, offensive and rate nearly as low as disgusting ones. I would make an exception for those that lampoon particular politicians, actors or athletes, as I think those folks know what they are getting themselves in for when they choose to walk into the public eye.
One of the coolest alternatives for small children is the superheroes, who seem to go on and on from year to year in popularity, never really falling behind. Every once in a while, in a season far from Halloween, Jason still puts on his black Spiderman costume from last year.
Haunted houses, as we discovered in a church I served in Ohio, can be age-adjusted. That youth group, back in the eighties, which I still refer to as the “Greatest Youth Group Of All Time,” always sponsored one level of haunted house for the junior highs and middle school kids, and a setup of friendly scary folks for the younger elementary kids.
The recent suspicious reaction to trick-or-treating, coupled with the growing number of parties, whether called Halloween or Harvest, may or may not be justified. Certainly, it’s a time and a place to raise caution flags for our children, without making them fearful. There were, in my childhood, occasional horror stories about people putting razor blades in apples, etc., but I wonder if the number has not actually grown due to copycat sickos.
Whatever your religious associations with it, Halloween should essentially be a day when children can enjoy themselves, pretend to be a princess or a superhero, and not have to worry about some of the issues we adults insist on introducing to cause confusion.
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at: