I’m in the field of education. And I live in Toronto, one of the most multicultural cities in North America. Those two qualities together means that Halloween is, rightly or not, a pretty touchy topic.
And I know Toronto, and education, are not alone in this regard. Popular stereotype usually only has orthodox Christians opposing the mass celebration/consumption of a rite that has its origins in pagan beliefs. They don’t know how to have fun! They take it too seriously! It’s just a night for kids (and adults) to dress up and have fun before winter kicks in! But plenty of people choose not to participate, or permit their children to participate, in anything relating to Halloween, for reasons secular and sacred, moral and ethical, gastronomic and medical.
From an educative perspective, schools in urban, multicultural Toronto take positions across the spectrum, but more and more schools are looking to be inclusive by being exclusive. In other words, classrooms vary, but there’s a better and better chance that mentioning Halloween, or suggesting to have kids dress up as fantastical creatures or products of their perhaps forbidden fantasies, or passing out extra sweets, or whatever, is going to have a parent complaining because it offends their beliefs, morals, or ethics. And aside from the possible offence, there are students for whom Halloween is simply culturally irrelevant. So safer to let parents make the Halloween decision at home – as teachers we can talk about it in class on a personal level, but to make it an official part of the classroom content? Or have a school Halloween dance or lunch? Better not.
Speaking as someone who hasn’t dressed up for Halloween since grade school, I sometimes think about all the holidays we celebrate in North America, and I have to say Halloween seems the most…arbitrary, or at least far removed from its origins, for most people. Choose one day and celebrate love and romance? Sure. Honour your mother? Great idea. Christmas, Easter, New Year, Hanukah, Moon Festival, Diwali – all and more have deeply rooted secular traditions or sacred beliefs that hold prominent places within the celebration.
But Halloween? I’m not against the principle of pretending to be something you’re not and getting heaps of sweet stuff. But compared to all the other holidays on the calendar, to me it sticks out like a sore thumb. If anything, it’s more like a holiday to celebrate Fun than anything else.
What’s your take on Halloween – is it dangerous, useless, innocuous, or a great holiday? If you have kids, would you allow their schools to celebrate it? Would you celebrate it yourselves if you didn’t have kids?
– Jean AAR