It didn’t use to be this huge back when we were kids. I remember reading books about Halloween and watching movies with kids trick or treating and feeling totally bummed that we didn’t have it here. I mean, dressing up as my favorite character and going door to door to get candy, that’s almost as good as tearing open presents on Christmas morning. Ok, we do have Chinese New Year where we got real money instead of candy but in exchange, we had to all dress up in red like an ang pow and carry oranges around.
In recent years though, Halloween celebrations seem to be catching on. We still don’t do much trick or treating because the aunty next door would probably stare open-mouthed before giving the kids an awkward pat on the head and shooing them out the door. But Halloween parties are a lot more common these days and Singaporeans are putting in the effort to dress up for a themed party – that’s a big deal in my books.
So considering that we’re sort of new to this Halloween thing, it’s understandable that parents are a bit iffy about the whole shebang. Like all of a sudden, there are vampires and skulls and mummies (not the good kind) and fake blood – it’s all a lot to take in.
I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember and coming from a Christian perspective, I understand why Halloween celebrations are seen as pagan and evil. I’m not a huge fan of the macabre myself because my tolerance for the dark arts are limited to um, Indiana Jones. I watched Lord of the Rings and when the dark riders appeared, I freaked out. I read Edgar Allan Poe once and I couldn’t sleep for days. I had to finish Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for a Literature class and I made the husband (then boyfriend) hold my hand as I read. I closed my eyes the whole time during the Haunted Mansion Ride in Disneyland. I don’t do horror shows or search for adventure in haunted houses.
I also am very careful with exposing my kids to scary stuff. They don’t have the maturity to deal with gory images at the moment and we believe that it’s our job to shelter them till they’re mature enough to deal.
But that being said, I’m ok with Halloween.
Just like I’m ok with Chinese Lion Dance performances (traditionally a pagan exercise to ward off evil spirits). And the Mid Autumn Festival (which celebrates Lunar Worship). If you think about it, there are a lot of similarities between them.
They carve pumpkins into Jack-O-Lanterns, we carry lanterns to pay respects to the moon.
They dress up as various characters to ward off evil spirits, we put on a lion head and dance around to ward off evil spirits.
They eat candy, we eat mooncakes.
I’m not saying that I agree with the philosophy behind it but all these traditions are culturally bound and to write it all off as evil seems a bit harsh. The truth is that cultures evolve and some of these symbols no longer hold the same significance as it did a hundred years ago. But yet we still do it because it’s part of our history and it’s something that brings us together. Which is great because we get to eat mooncakes even if we’re not moon worshippers.
A good friend once told me that just because it’s potentially dangerous to eat fish in case we swallow a bone and die, we shouldn’t avoid it altogether. Fish is awesome so just eat the fish and spit out the bones. In other words, there’s no need to condemn something just because we don’t agree with some parts of it.
If my friend is throwing a harmless Halloween-themed party, I’d let my kids attend as long as they’re not going to have vampires jump out of coffins and chase them while they’re eating. It’s a time to get together and dress up and eat candy and have fun so if it’s in the name of Halloween, that’s fine by me. I let the kids watch Lion Dance performances in school and if they come back jumping around pretending to be a lion, that fine by me. The kids eat lots of mooncakes and that’s fine by me.
And come on, we can’t the shelter the kids forever. There’s lot of evil in the world and they’re going to know it sooner or later. I’d much rather that they know of the existence of bad stuff and develop the maturity to deal with it than to pretend it doesn’t exist only for them to find out from a friend’s friend’s neighbor. Our job is to raise them right so that when they’re inevitably exposed to the bad stuff, they’re equipped to know it’s bad and avoid it.
All I’m saying is if you’re not comfortable with Halloween, that’s cool. And if you are, that’s also cool.