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.