Growing up, my husband and I were a couple of those Jews who didn’t celebrate Halloween. I always understood this in terms of Halloween being both a pagan holiday and a Catholic celebration of the dead. October 31 also happens to mark one of the worst pogroms in Eastern European Jewish history. All in all, not a great day for celebrating if you’re a Jew. That being said, I never truly hated the holiday until this year when my son became old enough to notice “Halloween.”
Walking into our local CVS to pick up a few cards, we were greeted by a creepy statue reminiscent of Lurch from The Munsters minus the eyeballs. Lurch just so happened to be at eye-level with my two-year-old, whose furrowed brow studied the plastic decoration with deep concern. Although he couldn’t verbalize it, something about the creepy dude was not right. Not right enough to cause my son to start whimpering in fear. This was something new for the both of us. While my son has certainly expressed his share of hesitation regarding new things, he’s never been scared by anything before now. Thanks, Halloween.
He’s old enough now to notice the growing number of yards covered in grotesque Halloween décor, too. The other day a red light placed us directly across from a neighborhood lawn with a full-on display of an executioner about to chop the head off an undead zombie. The scene was replete with spider webs, blood, and screaming onlooker skeletons. Once again my son stared in complete confusion. Eventually, he cringed. When did this kind of gross nonsense become trendy? I never recall people covering their houses in such perverted displays of death when I was a kid. Yet, now my son, whose entire sense of the world is defined by the love of family, friends, his teacher, and Thomas the Tank Engine is forced to confront images of pure evil. On his neighbors’ lawns no less! You people are sick!
Parents in his preschool class have begun to ask what he’s dressing up as for Halloween. “We’re doing a family costume,” one mom proceeded to tell me. “It’s Ghostbusters-themed. My husband is going to be Slimer. Our son doesn’t like the mask, but he’ll get over it.”
Why? Why scare the bejeezus out of your four-year-old for the sake of some stupid holiday that does nothing more than load him up with a ton of candy you don’t want him eating in the first place? And if you really want to celebrate, why don’t you pick costumes that everyone can enjoy? What’s so wrong with the princesses and firefighters that used to cross my threshold as a child? Would it be so horrible to put one of those out on your lawn instead of an undead monster screaming unintelligible curses with flaming red eyes?
There is no good way to explain Halloween to a two-year-old. Telling him not to be scared is absurd. He doesn’t even understand what “scared” is yet. He just knows that these perverted images are wrong. And good for him! When a two-year-old has a stronger moral compass than most of the adults he encounters, you know something is seriously wrong with this picture. If you want to celebrate Halloween, fine. Just quit trying to counter our children’s love for life with your queer obsession with death.