Have we gone a skeleton or axe too far in our enthusiastic efforts to celebrate the end of summer, a fall harvest and Guy Fawkes blowing up England’s parliament? Sure, the tradition of pumpkin carving comes from the older custom of carving a turnip into a Jack o’ Lantern to remember souls held in purgatory, but now we seem to have to descend into purgatory at summer’s end. The North American tradition adopted the pumpkin, which was more about the harvest, and was a lot easier to carve than a turnip.
In the distant pass Halloween seemed more about pranks, the “trick or treat” idea, like tipping over outhouses, smoke bombs, playing “knocky knocky nine doors”, or “knock on ginger”. Now, pranks seem to have given way to scenes right out of horror movies.
The supernatural, ghosts, witches, and scarecrows have been part of the celebration for over 200 years, as has the idea of dressing up in costume or “guising.”
Knocking on doors, or trick or treating, combined many of these traditions. Dress in costume, make a threat (the origin of the ‘trick’) and get a treat. (And wow, the homemade treats we used to get! I still remember the lady at the top of our street and how we would rush to be there first.) Or, now, collect for UNICEF.
Some parents feel the gruesome Halloween decorating is getting out of hand “when my little kids are afraid to go to someone’s door for fear of seeing monster babies and severed limbs. It’s everywhere! Is this holiday not supposed to be fun for the little kids?”
Teens of course, love this stuff, but maybe not so much younger children who are faced with “gel blood dripping from windows and creepy, violent things everywhere – axes in fake heads with blood.”
No doubt it could be traumatic.
Another parent says her young daughter “had a dream evil men were trying to kill her little brother last night with knives and drowning,” and her younger son won’t leave the room without company at this time of year.
A young mother says her “two-year-old has suddenly become afraid of the dark – could just be a coincidence, but I blame all the Halloween stuff.”
Okay, maybe these are exceptions, or maybe we should think about the ages of kids coming to our doors and temper things a little.