Halloween ain’t what it used to be


Before I begin let me point out that I’m fully aware that Halloween in North America is windfall for junk food companies because homemade goodies are believed to be dangerous, even fruit gets chucked into the trash can as worried parents can’t even be bothered checking for needles and razor blades embedded inside them anymore.  I’m forty-four, I think I’m from the last generation of people who went trick or treating in the glory days of shelling out – the 1970’s. But even back then, my mother chucked all the home made goodies and fruit because there just might be someone with a hate-on for kids out there.

But that’s not what this posting is about. Instead, I raised my eyebrows when I read about this news story from my hometown of Calgary: Two Calgary Schools ban scary Halloween Costumes. Why? Because scary costumes might offend someone. Yep. You read that right … someone (presumably a student or two?) might become upset if they see a fellow student dressed, for example, like, I don’t know – Frankenstein’s monster. The other reason we’re hearing is because someone might not celebrate Halloween, and we need to “strike a balance” between those who celebrate Halloween and those who don’t.

The solution? Well, kids are still allowed to dress up in costumes at school this coming Monday, but the costume has to be “caring”. So, no violent costumes with toy guns or knives (duh, that’s a no-brainer) but I haven’t found a list anywhere dictating what is violent and what is not. I’d heard on a talk radio show that kids weren’t even allowed to dress up as superheroes.

Also, it’s not Halloween at the two schools this Monday, it’s a “celebration of caring” where the kids will have an assembly in the school gyms and they’re going to learn about healthy eating which is kind of pointless since the parents are going to be chucking out all the fruit the kids will be receiving after an evening of trick or treating … assuming they actually go trick or treating because fewer and fewer children do it these days.

Now I could rant away about the political correctness gone to hell overtone in the decision the school principal came up with when they decided on a celebration of caring instead of a celebration of all things spooky, but I won’t. I’ve long since come to the conclusion that the education system in Canada is determined to homogenize anything that might be considered fun or in politically correct groupthink terms “offensive to a certain group.” But come on … it’s Halloween! Kids love spooky stuff! They love it so much that they continue to love with when they become adults – that’s why shows like The Walking Dead are massive hits on TV!

I know that Halloween went commercial even before I was born, but it was still a fun night out. It was always a big thing for me and my friends growing up to come up with the spookiest home made costume. Back in Grade eight, my friend Wes and I spent four hours pasting small dabs of freak fur to our faces because we’d just seen An American Werewolf in London and we were bound, set and determined to go to the school dance dressed up as proper werewolves. (Yes, I got a rash from the freak fur, but dammit, we had a blast!)

Even when I was in grade school, it was a big thing to come up with an original spooky costume. For me, it was all about the realism – I’d spend weeks immersed in books about how Lon Chaney came up with his dazzling makeup effects for The Phantom of the Opera or London after Midnight. I’d experiment with all kinds of home made concoctions to create a believable ghoul. I even won a costume contest.

But time marches on, doesn’t it? We can’t risk offending anyone so we might as well come up with school policies that eliminate anything perceived as being spooky or violent.

So does this mean a kid can’t come to school dressed as an infantry soldier avec camouflage paint on his/her face, a helmet and combat fatigues? Is that too violent? And while we’re at it, what’s so darned violent about Superman because you can’t dress up like him this year. No Man of Steel for you, thank you very much. (Note to the principal – Superman is a really nice guy. He loves everybody. Seriously, look it up!)

Maybe I’m romanticizing Halloween because it was always such great fun when I was growing up and that’s why this story bothers me so much. I’m mindful that we must never offend, but I do long for the days when fun wasn’t banned from the public school system over fears of marginalizing another group. And this brings me to a final question: what happens if a child comes to school dressed up as a vampire? Are they going to be shown the door?

Time will tell, I guess. I’ll read the papers on Tuesday morning and see how the celebration of caring went. Maybe the schools in question will have figured out a way for worried parents to get that fruit into their kids after all. You know, healthy eating is important when there’s free Kit Kat bars available for only one night of the year.



7 thoughts on “Halloween ain’t what it used to be

  1. I agree. In most big city NC schools they don’t celebrate *any holiday because it might offend someone. They have “fall festivals” and “winter festivals” but nothing during regular school hours. Kind of sad…and homade snacks got banned a while back because of kid allergies and fear of hepatitis type of things.

    We moved to a *very rural NC town recently and at least they do celebrate holidays in school, but nothing violent or scary.

  2. Pingback: Costume Contest! |

  3. Things haven’t gone quite that far here yet, but a couple of the local elementary schools have canceled their annual Halloween parades because not everyone celebrates the holiday. That made me sad. Dressing up is fun and good for kids’ imagination. I really don’t get this attitude of “one person doesn’t want to participate, so no one can.” They could have scheduled an alternative activity for kids whose parents don’t want them to celebrate Halloween.

    Thankfully, the elementary school in my neighborhood is still having its parade. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day, to go out on the front porch and wave to the kids and ooh and aah over their costumes. And during trick-or-treat hours, we’ll hand out enough candy to decay the teeth of a small village. 🙂

    • I agree, Nancy. I think that every time I hear of a story like this, I can’t help but feel that kids of today are losing those precious bits of childhood magic. Political correctness bugs the hell out of me and Canada has to be the most politically correct nation on the planet.

      • When my daughter was little, we’d spend weeks planning her costume. She did everything from funny to scary to silly to elaborate. (The best costume we made for her was the Empire State Building, complete with King Kong climbing up the side and being attacked by planes.) As an adult, she still loves Halloween–this year she’s going as a Roy Lichtenstein-style pop-art comic strip character. She also happens to be a very caring person, despite the fact that she’s dressed up as Wednesday Addams, a blood-soaked vampire, and a Viking (different years LOL). She didn’t learn about caring in a school assembly.

        Do administrators seriously think kids won’t see the “celebration of caring” as a lame replacement for something that actually would have been fun? That sort of thing tends to backfire. I bet the kids will make fun of it, not to mention resent it for replacing a “real” Halloween party.

        • My money is on some kids showing up in a spooky costume – children aren’t stupid and they can spot this kind of BS from a mile away.

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