Red and green lights bounce and swirl around the otherwise dark school gymnasium. Unicorns, storm troopers, princesses, and ninjas run and dance and jump to the too-loud-for-these-old-ears music.
I watch my little pink octopus, her cheeks flushed, as she spins with Wonder Woman and a unicorn, her two best buddies. She is content to spend the evening with her friends, only checking in with me every now and then. So different from her younger siblings, who cling to me and are ready to head home to bed not long after we arrive.
The octopus pulls me (a pirate) to the dance floor so we can twirl together.
And I am filled with gratitude: for her laughter and joy, for a school that makes space for families to play together, for her friends, for a holiday that give us an excuse to pretend and wear costumes.
A few years ago I mentioned to a friend that I love Halloween. He replied that he hates it. He hates that Halloween has become so sexualized, especially among teens and young adults.
I was reminded of the complaints I’d heard about costumes even for young girls that are designed to be sexy. Really? Do we want our girls dressing as a sexy nurse or devil? I realized that I agree with my friend: I, too, hate that part of Halloween. The part that tells our girls that they are sexual objects. The part that invites our kids, whatever their ages, not to take on the persona of a superhero, but of a seducer. The part that tells a story where they have to use their sexuality to have power or to be popular.
I also hate the part that glorifies death and gore. The part that says we should somehow celebrate and be fascinated by darkness. The part that tells a story where evil is fun.
But I love the part of Halloween where we open our doors to our neighbours. I love that Halloween gives us permission to knock on someone’s door and chat with them for a minute or two. I love the part of Halloween where kids fill our sidewalks with their laughter and go take candy from strangers. I love the part of Halloween where we get to be creative and dress up as something or someone else.
So Halloween for me is as mixed up as the buckets of candy our kids come home with at the end of the night. Tootsie rolls and candy corn (ahem, the bad) are mixed right in with the Reeces Cups and Twix bars (the good, of course).
In response to this mixed-up candy bucket, we can adopt our culture’s practices, accepting the sexy or death-glorifying or culturally insensitive costumes and the messages they send without question.
Or we can hide from our culture. We can turn off our porch lights and refuse to open our doors on Halloween. We can ignore an opportunity to be part of our neighbourhood.
But I think there’s another option: we can tell a different story. We can tell a story that encourages our kids (and ourselves) to pretend and imagine and create things that speak life and hope. We can tell a story that reminds our kids that they can be world changers and heroes. We can tell a story that is honest about death, without glorifying it, a Story where evil doesn't win.
We can live a story where we love our neighbours and create community simply by dressing up, handing out candy, and taking a few minutes to catch up with the people who live around us.