Once upon a place and time, there was a magical, charming, innocent world. The autumn days would follow frosty nights, moving from jacket to shirtsleeves to jacket again, and the buckeyes and acorns would leap from the trees into the waiting paws of squirrels or little boys who threw them at unwary targets. The whole season culminated in the marvelous children’s panorama known as Halloween.
Well, yeah, I suppose this still does happen. But why are so many people out there, perhaps acting from the best intentions, turning this last item into something dark, sinister, frightening? It seems to me there are two separate principles involved, having only in common that they occur at this time of year.
There is a gathering day for certain religions that are nature based, notably Wicca. There is a festival, primarily for children, held the evening before All Saints’ Day.
Thus, we have a 6-year-old girl who gets the opportunity, on this one night, to live out her fantasy of being a Princess Barbie. We have her 8-year-old brother who can spend an evening being the Hulk or Spiderman or even (gasp!) Harry Potter.
We have Jason, my 3-year-old grandson, who can fulfill his wish of being Scooby Doo or some other canine.
Yes, there are cruel jokes that result from the actions of some older kids’ Halloween pranks, but those jokes happen at other times of the year too.
Yes, there are children too old for tricks or treats, say 15 or 16, who still go out and gather candy. But while that may be irritating, it is harmless enough. (If there were enough chocolate-covered mints at stake, I might do the same if I could get away with it.)
Some of us remember when it was not an issue, when adults would mostly leave hands off when it came to Halloween, only providing enough guidance to keep us safe from carelessly driven cars and the occasional sicko who tampered with apples.
Some of us remember when nobody looked behind the innocent childrens’ festival to find things that were not there. Yes, you went to church on the day after, but until a certain age, you didn’t even understand how the two were connected.
Above all, nobody tried to ruin your fun by telling you that dressing up was somehow evil. There was usually a party, there was the ritual gathering of candy, there was a costume parade with enough categories to reasonably assure a prize for … well, at least the smallest kids.
Then, when you reached a certain age, you could still enjoy the party but it became your job to take the smaller kids trick or treating. After that, it became your job to plan the party.
Let’s keep our dark fears out of the fun. Yes, we have to protect our kids from weird things, but that gets to be an area of parental responsibility, doesn’t it? Kind of like making sure they have a flashlight when they trick or treat. We can’t abdicate that and expect someone else to cover for us, can we?
By the way, if Sonny and Cher come to your door this year, please don’t look too closely to see if it is Janice and I, OK?
They say chocolate-covered mint sales have reached a record high.
How’s this sound? “They say we’re young, and we don’t know, and won’t find out untiiiiil we’re grown…”
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University.