Halloween is not the event it once was. There was a time, not so long ago, when children celebrated in school with a party and a parade, and then, for a second round of fun, went trick-or-treating that night, often performing a song or dance for the neighbors in order to earn their treats. There was a time when the safety of candy collected, the sugar content of the treats, and the concern of staying out late on a school night didn’t even cross the minds of good parents.
Often the Halloween season started early because deciding “what you were going to be” was a very big deal, and it took time to plan out and find the materials to make your outfit. Costumes were usually homemade because the fun was in the creation, as well as in the pretending to be someone or something else.
Then one day someone did something bad to alert our awareness of how dangerous this innocent holiday could be.
Parents started having second thoughts. Schools decided the security risk involved just wasn’t worth it. The possible threats to our children were scary, and they were very real. Everything from worrying about poisoned candy to the fear of a child being harmed inside the house of a stranger shook all the fun right out of Halloween. There was no room for compromise, except for a few controlled activities. It had to go and it did.
Sometimes when things like this happen, we also throw out the things worth keeping. It’s like throwing out the corn with the husk.
Let’s take a look at what’s good and what’s bad about Halloween celebrations. Considering the increasing number of children with allergies and the rising concern for childhood obesity, candy is bad. How about trading in the candy for apples and roasted pumpkin seeds?
Wearing costumes to school with accessories that could include guns and swords or costumes that could be politely labeled “inappropriate” (you know what I’m talking about)? Not good. How about dressing up like a hero from a children’s book?
Costumes could be planned out ahead and made at home with an adult’s help. The joy of pretending to be something else could include doing some research on the subject. An accompanying skit could give a child the opportunity to act out his or her chosen character.
Maybe there is still some hope for Halloween, if only we could rediscover the good parts.
An imagination is woven into what it means to be a child “” that state of mind before the burden of adulthood. When exercising their imaginations, children are creating a schema, a thought process that is original and uniquely theirs. Give a child two puppets, one for each hand, and then get out of sight but stay close enough to see and hear what happens. It is magic; it is an imagination celebration. You will be so thrilled with the expression, the use of language, you will want to run out and buy more puppets. Resist the urge because the magic is in the limit of just two objects. We provide the minimal materials to encourage the use of creativity, and the children take it from there.
So as we approach the close of October, when once upon a time children celebrated a traditional Halloween, let’s find ways to keep the good pieces of this pumpkin holiday pie as we discard the bad and the ugly.
There are so many ways this can be done without compromising on safety. Celebrate the harvesting of your vegetable garden for your treats. Invite friends to come and share their original costumes to pretend and to parade inside the security of your home. Using one of those vegetables from the garden, invite the children to think up other objects the vegetable could be. Now take that zucchini and pretend it’s a microphone, and interview each child in character. Ask the questions: Who are you? What do you do? Where are you going? Do you have a song or dance you would like to perform?
Dr. Seuss once said, “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”
Felicia Bordick and her colleagues, Carol Smith and Joyce Thomas, are authors of “Kitchen Table Time: Recipes for School Success.” Please feel free to contact Felicia Bordick with comments, questions, or suggestions at [email protected]