a purpose driven holiday

Ask yourself this question: What is the purpose of the holiday called Halloween?

We know one thing for sure, the purpose today is not the same as it was 100 or more years ago.

So besides the lesson on medieval Europe and their customs, traditions etc that dealt with such things as the end of harvest time and dressing up to warding off spirits.... what is the purpose NOW of Halloween?

Recently I have noticed the lack of excitement about Halloween around my town. And I have noticed a disturbing trend as of late..... it is something that I had never heard of until I moved down here.... it's called trunk n' treating. For those of you who don't know what that is... it is when a church or school lines up a bunch of cars next to one another in a big parking lot with candy in the trunk and the kiddos (in costume) (in the middle of the day) go around to each trunk and get candy.

Personally, I can't think of a worse way to celebrate Halloween. Halloween should NOT be a celebration of candy. Which, is what it will be if you take away all the other aspects of the holiday.

In an essay by Richard Seltzer answers the question of what is so important about trick or treating: Halloween is a time that reconfirms the social bond of a neighborhood (particularly the bond between strangers of different generations) by a ritual act of trade. Children go to lengths to dress up and overcome their fear of strangers in exchange for candy. And adults buy the candy and overcome their distrust of strange children in exchange for the pleasure of seeing their wild outfits and vicariously reliving their own adventures as children.

This DOES NOT get accomplished by traipsing around a parking lot or the mall.... but I have said that already.

I know what the fears are about this. I hear them each year from parents.

They want to trick or treat in a safe environment. (don't you already live in a safe neighborhood? what makes the mall safer... the ability to sue if something happens?)

They are worried that candy from strangers is poisoned. (besides the fact that we all now know that "tainted candy" is a completely fabricated urban myth I don't understand what makes the lady at Dillards or the guy from choir practice more safe than the person you share a property line with. ..there are nut jobs everywhere AND there are wonderful people everywhere too!)

I think the purpose of the holiday called Halloween is to give everyone one day each year to step out of their comfort zone. It gives our kids a chance to be silly and dress up and then go show off their costumes to everyone on the block. It gives them a chance to safely talk to a stranger. It allows them to practice manners by saying hi and looking the adult in the face, saying thank you as they run off to the next house. The holiday allows us grownups to be imaginative and creative with costumes. To play pretend and dress up with our kids and friends, a bit of theater in which we all get to play a part. It also gives us a chance to watch scary movies and be entertained by that slight shiver we get every time we watch the hero in the dark walk down a hall just waiting for the bad guy to jump out. Safely dealing with fear.

We can choose what we want the focus of the holiday to be. I think now more than ever Halloween is a perfect excuse to get focusing on our closest community... our neighborhood!


Brenda-Ann said...

What about those that live in the country? If we walked from house to house in our neighborhood, we would get approximately one visit in due to the distance. Trunk or treat for those in the boonies allows our children to meet with their neighbors without driving 50 country miles around the county.

the girls' moma said...

Great post! I too love that it's one night a year that we can walk right up to a neighbor's door and say Hi.

The trunk n treat thing is a nice balance, though, for churches who went through a phase of totally dismissing Halloween and instead having a "Fall Festival" or something. Kids were told about Halloween at school, and yet it didn't exist for them on October 31. I do like that churches are at least participating in the ritual of Halloween and are trying to impact their communities in that way.

We will go to a trunk a treat at our church this year for the first time, but only because it's not actually on Halloween night. If it were, we'd forgo it to walk the neighborhood.

Julia Stewart said...

Brenda Ann - thank you for bring up the folks who live out in the country..... I totally overlooked that section of the population. I would say that a halloween party for all ages of that town - at the town hall or at a house in the community would be a better answer. It could be a pot luck dinner with games for the kids. Candy of course could be handed out or hid around the yard .

Lisa - I am not sure if the church adopting halloween was the right move. It certainly wasn't if all they focus on is candy. If the church really wanted to incorporate Halloween in thier mission they would trick or treat in the areas that they are ministering too. Go knock on some doors - ya know? Or have the fall festival and invite NON church people and play games and get to know people.
My church didn't do anything for Halloween as a kid. I learned about it at school and then participated with my neighborhood and my school friends...