Halloween: love it or hate it?

Halloween: love it or hate it?

Nobody I know is lukewarm about Halloween:  they either love it or they hate it.

There is a lot about Halloween that I don’t like. It’s got a shady past, for starters. And all the scary decorations my neighbors have in their front yards—which have been on sale at Target since August 1—have me driving home with my kids in a weird, fuel-inefficient, zigzaggy pattern so I can bypass the seriously scary yards in favor of the relatively innocuous ghost trees and giant inflatable black cats.

Costumes for kids are generally cute and fun. But costumes for adults range from the objectionable to the awkward (I am shocked at the number of people coming to my site searching “matching girl and dog Kate Middleton costumes.” What does that even mean?) Top choices for women this year include “sexy queen bee,” “sexy pirate,” and “Jersey Shore.”

And the candy! My kids have a fair number of food sensitivities, and I’ve spent hours answering questions like “Why can’t we have twinkies? Why can’t we eat skittles?” Am I really going to send my kids out to canvas the neighborhood for smarties and laffy taffy by the bucketful?

Well, yes. Yes I am.

Because Halloween is the one day of the year where our neighbors come to our doorstep, and we visit theirs. And I love that about Halloween.

We don’t live in a real tight-knit neighborhood. We know all (well, most) of our neighbor’s first names, but not their last. I only have a few phone numbers.

But on Halloween, the kids love to don their costumes. They’ve been planning for months—this year we’ve got a football player, Little Red Riding Hood, a princess of some sort, and a puppy dog. We’ll ring the doorbells and take it slowly and chat with the neighbors, and we will make sure we visit the families who’ve only recently moved in. It’s tricky—because we try to avoid the super-scary decorations—but we’ll do our best.

And at my house, we’ll be ready and waiting with our porch lights on and good candy (or glowsticks) in our bucket.

Because there’s only one day a year when the neighborhood comes to our doorstep, and it’s Halloween.  I love that about Halloween and I don’t want to miss it.

Where do you stand on Halloween?  Love it or hate it?

photo by Halloween Haunt

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78 comments

  1. Jennifer H says:

    I am pretty much lukewarm about Halloween. The only part I love is when my family carves the pumpkins and I get to roast the seeds (YUM-MY). If I lived in a traditional neighborhood, I might love getting to see my neighbors. I don’t mind trying to help S come up with a costume. I do like to see all the kids (and some adults) in costumes. I don’t really like seeing parents take their BABIES trick-or-treating and expect me to give them candy when I know full well that candy is just for the parents. I don’t like seeing kids rush from house to house in a greedy grab for as much candy as they can carry. I guess basically I like the parts about Halloween that is not about trick-or-treating.

  2. Jackie says:

    When I was a kid, we used a pillowcase to collect our treats! And my mother made most of our costumes. As an adult and a parent, I love Halloween, not as an opportunity to collect treats from neighbors, but as a time to celebrate autumn and imaginations!!

    I now live overseas in an area that is resisting bringing in the traditions of Halloween. To enjoy the traditions, our family hosts a party for our friends. We encourage imaginative costumes (funny characters, animals, fruit, etc) and we don’t celebrate gore/evil, although the kids are getting old enough to appreciate a playful scare (boo!).

    The first year we moved here, I asked neighbors to participate in hosting our group of preschool trick-or-treaters. There was some resistance–until they saw how cute the little ones were in their puppy and bunny and pumpkin costumes.

    My “Halloween” might not be defined the exact same way as the next person’s, but it is still a fun family tradition. The old pagan rituals do not have to be a part of our celebrations. The celebration of creativity and imagination is what stands out for us as the reason to be a part of the excitement. (and orange pumpkins, and apples, and crinkly leaves….)

  3. Faigie says:

    In my world (Observant Judaism) our dressing up holiday is called Purim and we get to “give” out the food instead of demanding food. And believe me kids get to eat plenty of candy as neighbors, friends and families exchange different types of food stuff.

  4. Beverly Kelsey says:

    Anne, Well said. I think the same way try to avoid the really scary stuff and enjoy cute carved pumpkins and yes I allow some candy. David and I both have fond memories of trick or treating and still enjoy to spend this day with our sons. We have switched places year to year for different reasons. This year we went to David’s neighborhood where he grew up and he got to talk to lots of people he knew and it was fun chit chatting along the way with other crazy people trick or treating in the rain. It is a bit tricky but somehow it works out.

  5. Suzanne Watkins says:

    Hate it. Live out in the country with “neighbors” few and far between. Would rather spend the candy money doing something good for someone else.

  6. Christina Rose says:

    I love Halloween! I’m Catholic and grew-up enjoying Halloween as a day to visit my grandparents dressed in my costume and have fun going around the neighborhood with friends. In high school I joined a non-denominational youth group for a couple years and we watched a video tape once about the dangers of Halloween and how evil it is. There was this fear of the holiday involved and from the time I was introduced to this mindset it didn’t seem accurate to me. After doing my own research as an adult, I don’t believe that it’s a problem for families to celebrate this day that really does promote community, imagination and I think if done right – a greater awareness for the reality of life and death. When I have children I hope to celebrate All Saints Day with them as well as Halloween. I think together these days provide valuable life lessons and the potential for a lot of family fun.

  7. Allison says:

    HATE it!

    Hate the scary or what are supposed to be scary decorations. Hate the dressing up. Always have, since I’m a kid (a loooooong time ago).

    The only part I don’t hate is the candy part. When I was a kid, getting the candy; and now as an adult, I have no problem giving out candy. I like seeing the little kids and maybe hearing a wow! from them. I couldn’t care less if they were dressed up or not tho.

  8. Allison says:

    People may say and feel Halloween is a “harmless” holiday, and for little children in Princess and Superhero costumes, I suppose it is. But I know a woman from High School who has been posting pictures on her FB page of people who claim to have been witches (the REAL kind, thank you). My classmate has been doing this to HONOR them. She also posted a picture of her “altar for the dead” in her home, which, in certain instances might be okay (pictures of loved ones who have died etc.). Except then she posted how excited she was b/c she noticed a “ghost” in the photo of her father’s picture. She has been doing all of this as a lead up to the Pagan/Wiccan holiday known as Samhain (Oct. 31): “Samhain is known by most folks as Halloween, but for many modern Pagans it’s considered a Sabbat to honor the ancestors who came before us, marking the dark time of the year. It’s a good time to contact the spirit world with a seance, because it’s the time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest.” http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/samhainoctober31/p/Samhain_History.htm

    It is because of this and my relationship with Christ that I have a REALLY hard time “celebrating” Halloween. I LOVE the autumn season, the changes in the trees, the cooler air, pumpkin anything 🙂 and all the fall clothes. It’s just what Oct. 31 represents and what it has turned into that has caused me to pull back from it.

  9. Ally says:

    My husband’s family never did Halloween and he hates it and anything even remotely Halloween related was out in his mind. But I have so many fun memories of the good parts of Halloween, pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating. So in an effort of compromise (and because we are crazy Catholics) we celebrate All Saints Day on Halloween and only allow our children to dress as saints, but they still can go trick-or-treating and do all the happy (not dark) Halloween stuff. So far it’s been a good middle ground… and our kid’s know the true meaning of this holiday for us, just like they know they true meaning of Christmas or Easter.

  10. I agree, I don’t decorate for Halloween (except for pumpkins, and that is more fallish than halloween-ish) but I do love dressing up our kids and meeting neighbors. I wouldn’t miss it. But we stick with princess and light-hearted costumes. Nothing scary, and skip the scary houses.

  11. Faith R says:

    I feel the SAME way about Halloween. While I appreciate the position of the non-participator (there are some good reasons for that – my kids didn’t even know what it was until they were at least 6 or 7) this is the ONE DAY that it’s socially acceptable to go door to door meeting your neighbors. That Is Epic. So we go. We offer candy to the cute (and sometimes horrifying) kids who come to our door and I embrace meeting our neighbors wholeheartedly. Just wish we did something like this around Christmastime.

    One year our kids had hand-foot-mouth and we had to stay home. We hid candy around the house and turned off all of the lights and let the kids search for their candy. That was a really fun night too 🙂

  12. Carol says:

    Actually, I can say that I AM lukewarm. On one hand, I believe that celebrating Halloween is wrong because of how it originated and, for some, is still celebrated for Pagan/evil reasons. I don’t have a problem with children dressing up – that’s fun. I do have a problem with kids dressing up as evil beings or creatures. On the other hand, while I came to the decision to only enjoy FALL and NOT celebrate Halloween for my family, I am willing to buy the candy and give to any trick or treaters that show up the door because I see it as a neighborly thing to do and realize that at least the vast majority of these kids have no evil in mind and are just dressing up for fun – which isn’t really a bad thing. So yeah, I’d call myself Lukewarm.

  13. Anne says:

    I wish I had commented on this originally so I could’ve compared my thoughts then to now!

    I have loved, loved Halloween almost all of my life. Loved the costumes, the haunted houses, the decorations. I was never gory. But then, I reverted to Catholicism (again) and had kids, and I began to think about it a little more deeply. I lost all of my Halloween decorations in a flood. I tried to really emphasize the All Saints Day feast the next day. I became more strict about Halloween customs because I was trying to be a bit more of a purist. We get to go to an All Saints party at the local Catholic co-op. Whoo-hoo! It’s a nice opportunity to emphasize the actual feast day.

    I’ve relaxed some now. I don’t care as much about the origins of the jack o’lantern anymore. But I won’t do vampires in my house. You won’t see another Twilight/Anne Rice mantle with black flowers and cobwebs in my living room again. I definitely don’t do zombies and the whole zombie apocalypse thing. I’m not really interested in encouraging dressing up as witches.

    But I get the fascination with ghosts and people who are dead. All Saints Day is such a great feast day. We celebrate all the holy people who we now believe are in heaven, and that is a terrific thing to celebrate. They are still our brothers and sisters in Christ. They still exist! I find this fascinating! So, like last year, I will throw all of our saint stuff up on the mantle and have a party atmosphere in my home because we celebrate the people who are with the Father in heaven. We remember them on Earth. It’s a good day to remember our loved ones who have passed away, too.

    A little of both, I guess, with emphasis on the saints and non-scariness. Though, we successfully took in a haunted trail last weekend with good results. A not-so-scary version.

    Wrote a book! Sorry, Anne! 😀

  14. Amy S says:

    That’s funny, I’m lukewarm. I think I’m lukewarm because I don’t care for dressing up or parties, but I liked it as a kid, and I do it for my kids because they enjoy it. For me, Satan has no power over the holiday. I don’t care for the gore or scary side of the holiday and do avoid that for my kids. I don’t think those scary scenes and costumes are good for their little minds. Just me. 🙂

  15. Courtney says:

    Love, love, love it! Halloween is one of my absolute favorite holidays. I love dressing up, seeing decorations, carving pumpkins, eating Halloween-themed cupcakes, etc. In general, I don’t like to be scared, but I usually won’t say no to a local haunted house (hooray for supporting family-run, community businesses!) I have a lot of fond memories of Halloween growing up, and am actually heading back home this weekend to carve pumpkins with my dad and younger siblings. It’ll be my husband’s first Halloween (he’s Australian), so I have the perfect excuse to go trick-or-treating for the first time in over a decade. 😉

    I find myself pretty disappointed with most of the women’s costumes available. I don’t like to wear revealing clothing, which leaves very few options in the pre-made category! I found a great one this year, though: science officer for the United Federation of Planets (Star Trek!) It’s a short dress, but that’s easily compensated for with a pair of thick leggings. Last year I was a pirate, but I wore my own clothing, tied a dish towel around my head for a bandana, and bought a kid’s pirate set at the dollar store (sword, earring, and eye patch). I looked fantastic, if I do say so myself.

  16. Anna says:

    I’m lukewarm about Halloween, and never really get the big deal one way or another. Sometimes, it’s over the top one way or another. We stay away from scary stuff, and stick with fun stuff & more of a fall theme. My kids just cobble together whatever outfit from the dress up box & their imaginations.

    When we lived in Baltimore (downtown) we had to plan to be away that evening. It was a little crazy, bordering on destructive.

    Other places, it’s fun to see the neighbors. Fun to see kids (and some adults) creativity. We lived in Northwest MT, where it could be 10 degrees on Halloween. Pretty brave creatures going trick or treating in that.

    Now in the Congo, no one knows about Halloween. I did scandalize another missionary mom by inviting her kids over to do Halloween crafts. Oops…

  17. I’m pretty much with you, now that I have kids. I do NOT like anything scary and nor do I let my kids dress/watch/read scary stuff. But otherwise I find Halloween pretty harmless. They love to dress up, we get to run around campus and show off their adorable selves and visit our neighbors here. I am usually anti-food-coloring and it gets really hard to maintain that from Halloween to Easter. But we dole out a few pieces here and there and pack away as much hard candy as we can in the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

  18. Kara says:

    Love it! For many of your same reasons. My kids have weird food stuff too, so we collect candy to take to the senior center in town. The oldies but goodies love a visit from our kids and the added bonus of a sweet treat.

    We don’t do anything scary for Halloween, no witches or demons or that stuff… just an opportunity to participate in community life, exercise our flair for the dramatic, and have a good time.

    I wrote about our costumes this week…

    http://www.meamaximacuppa.com/a-halloween-flair-for-the-dramatic/

  19. Tim says:

    If Halloween were just about kids putting on costumes and neighbors giving them treats, there probably wouldn’t be much of a discussion. But too many people take the holiday and turn it into license to do things they’d never do the rest of the year, kind of like how some people treat New Year’s parties only with a macabre take on it all. I remember back in the 70s how my dad said that grownups were ruining Halloween for the kids.

    • Anne says:

      Interesting comparison to New Year’s. That makes so much sense but I’ve never thought about it like that. And your dad sounds like a smart guy. 🙂

  20. I am a hate Halloween’er. I have disliked it since I was a kid. One of my most vivid memories as a child was pouting every year as I had to dress up. I was asked this year to dress up for a social meeting and I decided not to go. I have never had trick-o-treaters at my house.
    On the flip side I do like to see my baby cousins in costumes but that is about the extent of the “like”.

  21. Dee says:

    I love Halloween!! I just feel a special charge in the air this time of year. It’s really a time to celebrate creativity and also let go a little bit: go ahead and play with the thing that scares you; go ahead and eat too much candy; go ahead and wander into the neighbor’s yard! It’s the time of year when we support each other doing that and make it safe. The perfect lead-in to the holidays, if you ask me.

    I don’t see Halloween’s origins as being particularly evil. It’s based on Pagan traditions, yes, but so are a lot of the things we do as Christmastime. Death comes to us all eventually, and I find it cathartic to have a month when we consider that, make a few jokes about it. And as for the spiritual evils…Have you ever noticed that when children are frightened of something, they want to draw it, tell stories about it, and playact running away from it? The best way to remind ourselves that these things cannot hurt us is to play. When we put on the mask (or see others doing that), it reminds us that it’s fiction. It’s stories we tell around a campfire. My son shivered at a Halloween display in someone’s yard, but when I held him close and whispered, “It’s just pretend, sweetie. It’s not real. We just pretend for fun, but those things can’t hurt us ever,” he laughed and wanted to see it again and again. Catharsis is the reason for this season, and it’s no coincidence that we purge our fears before coming together in gratitude and love in the upcoming months. It’s a beautiful time of year.

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