3 days ago, I was walking through one of those "we have it all" stores for a few groceries, when 2 elementary school-age girls past me with this year's Halloween costumes. Racks & shelves of costumes, candy, decorations surrounded us.
To be honest, our family "did" Halloween.
When my son was a preschooler, I'd invite 2-3 of his friends over for cookie baking on Halloween. We'd cut out pumpkins- by the time we were done, there was flour everywhere! While the cookies baked, we read stories. Then the mothers returned for cookies & milk with us. It was fun & Halloween was never mentioned.
But things changed when my son started school. Halloween was a big deal & I gave in. Except costumes were homemade. Later, in private school, they wore costumes of important people. And they had to tell the class about that person.
Churches began having "Harvest" parties, but the trimmings were the same: candy, decorations & costumes. (No witches, fairies or ghosts allowed.) The games kept the kids off the streets, but it still was Halloween.
Time past & I continued to give coins for Unicef & healthy, wrapped goodies for the little trick or treaters until my son was in high school. But those little ones grow up, too, & true to the night, pull pranks. I can't count the times I cleaned up smashed pumpkins & soap off my windows.
Then I discovered a phenomenon. As the Halloween items were bought, Christmas gifts and decorations replaced them. (And maybe, one small shelf for Thanksgiving.) Along with that, attitudes were being affected. My staff's behaviors began to change. They were becoming irritable, short with one another, & grumpy. Their emotions simmered & intensified. Because my staff were caregivers, their patients were also affected.
It took me a while to figure this out, but the sight of Halloween stuff in the stores- especially as the shelves were emptying- triggered thoughts of Christmas. My staff was counting the weeks, the number of paychecks & trying to figure out how to buy all the things "needed" for Christmas. They were frustrated & becoming depressed.
After I recognized what was actually happening, I developed a plan & used it effectively for years. I presented an inservice called "The Cinderella Syndrome" around Halloween time, & instituted a Celebration Tree.
"The Cinderella Syndrome" discussed the illusions of life, the false expectations of Christmas and their effects on them as individuals, and to those around them. Each year, I challenged them to change one unrealistic expectation.
Uncle Joe is always going to get drunk & ruin the family's get together. Why are you going year after year only to be miserable? Your children want this & that, but a week after Christmas, they quit playing with them. Maybe new sleds & mittens for all & sledding together as a family would be a better option. Rather than trying to buy for everyone, you could exchange names with your families. Traditions had to begin somewhere. Why not start a new one?
Our new tradition was placing leaves on a 6 ft. paper tree to recognize good deeds. At first, putting up a paper tree, like in preschool, was seen as... yep! Childish. But everyone wants to be recognized & "named." As the leaves began filling the tree, some were figuring out what good deed to do, so they'd get their name on the tree. I laughed a lot behind closed doors, but most important, I heard & saw behaviors change.
Once Thanksgiving was over, we took down the paper tree & began Christmas decorating contests, & special events. The staff's attitude remained positive & the patients stayed in the spirit of the season.
All this flashed through my mind, as I watched those 2 little girls chatter about their costumes.
Halloween stems from pagan practices, but I won't even go there. Simply said, I strongly believe we should not have Halloween. And that includes the false substitutes.
The store racks & shelves become empty of all that Halloween stuff- so somebody buys them... many somebodies. In this economy, money spent on costumes & all the Halloween candy & decorations, could be better spent. We have hungry people- children to seniors, the homeless; and many, who are barely surviving on small wages, that need help. That probably includes some of the costume buyers.
There are other ways to have fun! Making popcorn balls, playing charades, having a picnic on the living room floor, playing Monopoly... as a family. Even putting up construction paper trees that say I love you & thank you.
Churches could have a family potluck on Halloween night with a non-Halloween movie & pj's encouraged for the 2-10 year old children. Or make pumpkin cookies or pies to share with those who can't afford "treats" or seniors living alone. Or giving the money usually spent on "Harvest" parties to local agencies to keep the food banks filled.
Recognizing what we do have, remembering the many people involved with bringing the harvest to our tables, and spending time with our children will produce wonderful memories for a lifetime! I think that's the new tradition to start!