Sunday, November 4, 2012

Our Halloween

Today:  Mom!  You spend so much time looking at your computer and your iPod, we don't have any time left to do things like look at clouds!

I was secretly thrilled at my 5-year-old daughter's rebuke.  What does this have to do with Halloween?  Well, I'll tell you.

First, unrelated to Halloween, I have been growing increasingly frustrated with my children's fixation on screen-delivered entertainment.  I know that they are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves with other things when they can just stop thinking about the TV/computer/iPod for 2 minutes together, they just can't seem to get that far without weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I also realized that in order to enact this, I must set a better example.  I use my screen time for more than just consumption, though--communication, financial organizing, trip planning, research, etc., but they can't tell the difference.  All they know is mom is looking at a screen and telling me not to.  And the truth is I also watch videos and play games, too.  So I asked the kids to remind me to spend less time on the computer, even as I encourage them to do other things.  

Now, the Halloween connection.  

I have had a long and troubled history with Halloween.  for the first, oh, 9 years or so, we celebrated it without a second thought.  And then abruptly, my family stopped celebrating it.  It was a slightly traumatic experience to begin with, but I came to embrace the reasoning--why should I celebrate witches and monsters and frightening experiences?  There is nothing in that worthy of celebration.  In fact, it is exactly not what I ever want to celebrate.  Even digging deeper to the roots of the celebration didn't help.  I don't need to worry about warding off spirits roaming the earth or anything like that.  So no Halloween for me.  But I surely did miss dressing up.

This was the status quo until I got married.  Then I had another's opinion to balance with, and slowly, a growing family to teach, and things weren't so simple any more.  Through many years of discussion and pondering with my patient husband, my narrow minded and somewhat self-righteous opinions began to soften.  Not that my initial declaration wavered -I will not celebrate scary, creepy, or evil.  And I will not celebrate pagan holidays.  But that doesn't have to be what Halloween is.  And that concludes the long path of Halloween self-discovery and brings me to my opinion today, which I know you are dying to hear:

Yes, the deep roots may be in the Pagan celebration of Samhain, but Halloween--All Hallows Eve--is a Christian holiday.  I will not argue that All Saints, or All Hallows day was not placed on November 1st specifically because it was already a celebrated time by the people who converted from Paganism to Christianity.  Obviously it was.  But so what?  The date of Christmas was chosen the same way.  Does that make Christmas a less Christian holiday?  What of the traditions surrounding the holiday pre-dating the Christian conversion?  As long as they are in and of themselves innocuous and free from deference to other gods or dark powers, how is there any harm?  Like a Christmas tree or a Yule log--we can make those things whatever we want.

With these decisions, Kevin and I have tried to carve out for our selves our own Halloween traditions.  Yes, we will dress up ourselves and our children, but never as anything creepy, scary, or remotely evil.  We will trade candy with our friends and neighbors, but I will never instruct my children to say, "Trick-or-Treat."  Even if everyone else in the world argues with me, I know that that is play-acting at extortion, and that's not OK with me.  And if we are celebrating it as a Christian holiday--All Hallows Eve, then we will spend the evening and the day in celebration of our beloved and righteous dead.  (As LDS, we know that all of us are Saints, so it's really easy to find ones that we know to celebrate.)  

So, this October 31st, we sat around, ate candy, and read from my grandmother's journal.  I read to my 5 year old daughter my grandmother's memories of her first year in school.  About how her father had a honey house, and her cousin was so disappointed when he discovered it wasn't actually made out of honey.  And I read to her how one of Grandma Elaine's favorite things to do was lay on the grass and watch the clouds.  And I was struck by the fun she had in her childhood without electronics.  I pointed this out to my children, and encouraged them to find fun things to do outside of the house and lighted screens.  

So when Willow brought up her intense new-found desire to watch the clouds, I made it happen--even though it had been raining all day.  She got on a coat and took a tarp to the back yard to keep the wet of the grass off her.  

Because of Halloween, I remembered to take the time to introduce my children to my grandmother--to learn of my grandmother myself--someone I never had the opportunity to know before she passed way, and someone that I come to love more and more the more I learn about her.  And I love my mother all the more, knowing how much she loved her mother, and remembering the stories she has passed on to us about her. I love Halloween.

And here are some pictures, because I know you want to see them:

We gave out saran-wrapped brownies at our ward trunk-or-treat (at which I tell my kids to say, "treat-or-treat" because that's really all there is to it.  Just give us candy.  We know you will.  Tricking is not an option.)

The kids getting candy.  It was inside because of the rain.  What a sugar frenzy!

The kids and Aunt Delilah (a friend aunt), who recently moved in with us.

The kids and I were fairies and painted up our faces.  Here's me:

I didn't get a picture of Kevin, the poor huntsman who stumbled upon our fairy circle--but just know that he never escaped us.  :)

Happy Halloween!