Should parents try to take the fear out of Halloween?

Okay, so maybe these "Spooky Town" skeletons don't appear to be having such a great time, but everyone has a bad day once in awhile!
Okay, so maybe these “Spooky Town” skeletons don’t appear to be having such a great time, but everyone has a bad day once in awhile!

My house can’t compete with the Catacombes de Paris, but there are still plenty of skeletons here, and even more when you step outside. Does that make my home a frightening place? I hope not, because it’s not meant to be.

A bony chef whips up something delicious over our kitchen range. Anyone who has eaten my cooking can attest to the appropriateness of the decoration!
A bony chef whips up something delicious over our kitchen range. Anyone who has eaten my cooking can attest to the appropriateness of the decoration, which is a permanent fixture, not a Halloween decoration.

At this time of year, skeletons are a common theme, and in my opinion, one of the most benign. I guess I had lots of Halloween costumes as a child, but the one I remember most was the gauzy black thing with a reflective white skeleton printed on the front, and a plastic skull mask that fit over my face with an elastic band. It seems that even then I had a thing for skeletons!

I suppose I was banking on the fear factor when I donned my skeleton suit as a child, but my views have matured with age, and now I see the skeleton as a symbol of the season, and nothing to fear.

A friend told me recently that her child is frightened by some of the images he sees at this time of year, and it made me wonder about my own displays, and about whether parents should make an effort to take the fear out of Halloween.

In an upstairs hallway, a Day of the Dead shrine honors the dearly departed from my wife's family and mine. This isn't a Halloween display. It's there 24/7 and 365.
In an upstairs hallway, a Day of the Dead shrine honors the dearly departed from my wife’s family and mine. This isn’t a Halloween display. It’s there 24/7 and 365.

Of course being opinionated on the subject is easy for me since skeleton trauma was never an issue here, and because my three kids are now grown and have children of their own.

I’ve always felt that a little bit of education goes a long way, and that parents would do well to explain that at its root, Halloween is a seasonal celebration that is not about Skittles and Snickers bars, but about one all-important phase in the cycle of life — namely death — and our proximity to it. Halloween is about that liminal time when all things change in preparation for the long death of winter.

Other cultures seem to have a better grip on things. Dia de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead — is celebrated throughout Latin America, and the skeleton is prominently featured, with celebrants honoring their departed loved ones with food, music and costumes. Why at this time of year? Again, because it is that liminal time when the living and the dead are seen to “co-mingle” due to the changing of the season. It’s really pretty cool when you think about it!

Detail of the Dia de los Muertos figures above our family shrine. The delicate figures were painstakingly collected over many years of trips to Mexico and South Texas, and I'm always looking for more to add to the collection.
Detail of the Dia de los Muertos figures above our family shrine. The delicate figures were painstakingly collected over many years of trips to Mexico and South Texas, and I’m always looking for more to add to the collection.

Hollywood has taken what should be a beautiful holiday and turned it into something about torture, murder and pain, things that I feel have no place during Halloween. I know it’s not easy for parents. Heck, anybody who has read my voluminous Year in the Death of One Man project knows that I’ve grappled with the subject myself, and maybe that’s why I believe it’s good to develop healthy attitudes from an early age.

This pressed-tin mirror with imbedded Dia de los Muertos tiles is right by the front door, and is a permanent fixture in our living room, not a Halloween decoration.
This pressed-tin mirror with imbedded Dia de los Muertos tiles is right by the front door, and is not a Halloween decoration, but a permanent fixture in our living room.

Perhaps fear has a role during Halloween, but for youngsters, let it be a healthy fear of the unknown. Temper those fears with solid knowledge about the cycle of life and the changing of the seasons. Some skeletons are scary, but hey, most of the ones around here look like they’re having a pretty good time!

You may see leaves that need raking outside my house, but I see skeletons by the thousands, just our trees marking the season with their own decor.
I spoke of skeletons outside, and this is what I meant. You may only see leaves that need raking, but I see skeletons by the thousands. It’s just our trees marking the season with their own decor, and is nature’s symbol for what Halloween is really all about — a bit of recycling!
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6 Comments

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  1. Never thought of leaves as skeletons before. I like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed this blog. I have always been interested in the Day of the Dead. I think it is an interesting concept. However, I was a little surprised to see my picture on the Day of the Dead shrine. Hey, I am still here!

    Like

  3. pumpkin

    Like

  4. Your mirror is beautiful! I’d have it hanging up all year, too! Your family ofrena, or shrine is very nice, and a wonderful way to honor those who have passed on.

    Like

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