Halloween is so misunderstood. How did an evening devoted to kids, costumes and candy turn into something so controversial that schools are banning it? Now that I’ve asked that question I think I know the answer. In fact, I can give you a timeline that will prove adults ruined Halloween. Well, really it’s two intersecting timelines.
Give me a second, I’m getting woozy here. I’m having a flashback to ninth-grade geometry and it’s not pretty. Is it just me or did that last sentence just sound like the makings of a geometry word problem? The whole two lines intersect and form a linear pair blah, blah, blah. Deep breaths, deep breaths. Alright, now I’m better, still a little lightheaded, but I’m going to power through. So, let’s get back to the original topic — Halloween.
Let’s first examine Timeline A, which I will label Gruesome Grown Ups. This is where adults have taken Halloween and over the years have turned it from a focus on costumed kids collecting assorted Hershey’s miniatures into a hoochie fest that today has swelled and festered into to a downright tramp-a-doodle-do. I’m not saying we all need to shop the Duggar costume collection of biblical characters at Hobby Lobby, but come on, if you’re a 45-year-old mother it might be time to retire the French Maid Costume with white thigh highs. Same for you dads. Some things you can never unsee like your accountant in a “hottie Scottie mini kilt.”
To prove my point, all I need to do is suggest you walk into any Halloween superstore, which is doing double duty as a wholesale club for Frederick’s of Hollywood and the lair for the criminally insane. It could just be me, but I don’t think the “Star Wars” and toddler Disney Princess costumes should be next to a life-size bloody female torso. And this is just a personal aside, but can we all just get over zombies?
Timeline B is Halloween Whiners (also known as anti-Halloweeners). This is where some parents have imagined Halloween to be a sinister celebration. (Can you say overthinking trick-or-treat?) Using anecdotal evidence, I will now flesh out a series of events that illustrate the disintegration of Halloween.
October 31, 2001: My son at that time was 5 (we were not living in the Midwest during this juncture) and his school embraced a full Halloween environment. Lesson plans included a study of spiders and Sam the Skeleton was used to teach about femurs and fibulas. By the time he was 7, due to parental concern over a “ritualistic Satan-based event,” Halloween was replaced with a Fall Festival. This was basically Halloween without using the H word.
Two years later, the Fall Festival gets kicked to the curb and it’s a Storybook Spectacular where kids are required to come as a character from their favorite book. Most parents didn’t so much as ignore the edict but sashay around it by explaining that Spider-Man was in a book and just a little fun fact here — there are more than 35 children’s books that feature candy corn as a character. How do I know this you may ask? Well, I had a kid that wanted to go as a candy corn for Halloween so I made sure it was book-related.
By 2006, due to parents who didn’t follow “the spirit of the guidelines,” Halloween became “Great American Day” and kids were instructed to dress up as their favorite historical figure from the good old U.S. of A. This prompted a PTO throwdown due to parents complaining that they now had to do two costumes for their child. One for school and one for Halloween. Also, there were problems with some families being confused over just which historical figures are American. Two kids came as Jesus. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these children were both from the same family that always brought “Jesus is the reason for the season” cookies to the winter party.)
By 2007, the school staff had given up. No matter what they did parents complained, so Oct. 31 became just another day of reading, writing and arithmetic. And who can blame them? It’s the educational equivalent of “so this is why we can’t have nice things.” Schools don’t have the time to waste negotiating the emotional and politically correct minefield that is Halloween.
This is why I believe we can blame the take down of Halloween on the timeline intersection of the Gruesome Grownups and the Halloween Whiners. That’s all it took for a kid-centered event to go poof and disappear like someone cast an evil spell of childhood disappointment.
Sherry Kuehl of Leawood writes Snarky in the Suburbs in 913 each week. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and at her blog at snarkyinthesuburbs.com.