Monday, October 15, 2012
Well it's only a couple of weeks until Halloween, and, in what seems to have become an annual event, you see the occasional news story pop up of some group or individual attempting to ban Halloween from their school, community or organization. Inevitably, it seems, critics of Halloween point to issues of safety ("there's too many 'weirdos' out there") or ethics ("Halloween is 'evil', it promotes vandalism"), or religion ("my non-pagan child isn't going to celebrate a 'pagan holiday', Halloween promotes 'devil-worship'") to try to justify spoiling what has traditionally been one of most fun dates on the kid calendar. To kids, of course, these arguements are all wet. For the vast majority of kids, thoughts of using Halloween as a gateway drug to the order of Wicca or a way to garner "street cred" to impress the local chapter of the Hell's Angels is the furthest thing from their minds. For kids, Halloween is costumes, and candy and spooky thrills. It's a carnival ride with a personal stash of junk food at the end of it. Quite simply, Halloween is just "fun". As adults, however, we like to think that we're able to see the deeper meaning of things. For all the adults who think they see evil lurking behind every smiling pumpkin, I ask that you please consider the following. Halloween is important in a child's development because it's one of their earliest opportunities to practice for their eventual emancipation and development as an adult. When a child chooses or makes a Halloween costume, it's their usually first chance to decide on who or what they want to become. If you think about it, it's their first personal transformation they are, for the most part, in control of. Don't we hope our young adults to be able to basically "create" themselves when they reach maturity? Stop acting like a child and start acting like an adult?Halloween is their first dry run! Once tranformed into a new being of their own choosing, the child at Halloween sets out after dark, exploring new and unfamiliar territory, just as the young adult explores new territory when they move into apartments, dorms or residences. As the child make their way to new and different houses, they are unsure, and perhaps a little frightened, of who (or what!) they will find (still sounding familiar?). Even the traditional call of "Trick or Treat" is a learning experience. While the usual interpretation of "Trick or Treat" is a bold warning to residents to "pay up or pay the penalty", there is also the implication that, while new experiences have a potential bonanza, there is also the danger of having a not-so-pleasant outcome if you don't stay on your toes. That would seem to be pretty sound advice for young adults leaving the nest for the first time, don't you think? Sadly, even the occasional lunatic who spikes candy with with foreign objects or poisons drives that point home. Finally, Halloween is traditionally a time for monsters. For kids, it's a monster they can understand. The big green guy with the bolts in his neck, the gal with the pointy teeth, or the furry, snarling dude with the fangs and claws definitely belong under the category of "don't touch", but they still get viewed as something you can cope with and avoid if you're prepared. If not, they can do some real harm when they spring up in front of you. Young adults need to be prepared for their "monsters" as well. So thank you Halloween. Your early frights and dares and treats and tricks help preare us for the real-life challenges we face when we set out on our own. When we're no longer just "son" or "daughter" or "brother" or "sister", but something new and different; something we choose for ourselves. There's a bonanza waiting to be had out there in the world, and we need courage to go get it. But we also need to be smart, because there are some real monsters lurking in the shadows, waiting to bring you down. Monsters called addiction or abuse or hatred or debt, things we need to prepare for when they spring up in front of us; things we need to control, or they will certainly control us. Maybe this is why, as adults, we end up seeing our childhood "monsters" as our friends.