Halloween is fast approaching and my children are asking yet again about costumes and jack-o-lanterns. It amazes me how quickly they forget my statements of the previous year, and we have to go over this every October as soon as the media frenzy on television begins and the shiny displays at Wal-Mart appear. My son is older and more mature, so he knows there’s no use arguing. But my five-year-old daughter is still at that age where she thinks pleading can actually make a difference. The conversations go something like this:
“Mom, why can’t I wear a princess costume? Please, please, please, please, please?”
“You know the reason. We are Muslims, and we don’t celebrate Halloween”.
“But why? What’s wrong with a princess costume?”
“Don’t get me started about princesses! Even if it’s not Halloween, I have issues with Disney and their insidious ways of instilling dependency in young girls that hinder their empowerment…”
“Never mind, mom, forget the costumes… how about candy? Please, please, please…”
SIGH! Some in America don’t realize how difficult a holiday Halloween is to handle for American Muslim parents. More than Christmas or Easter, Halloween is supposed to be fun, and who kills fun for little boys and girls… except their mean old mom? I hate being the bad guy for absolutely everything under the sun. I refuse to let my son play outside in the summer because ant bites give him spectacularly painful reactions complete with ugly boils and fever; I don’t let my daughter drink juice more than once a day even though she insists she will die if she doesn’t drink it; and I keep a very strict limit of one hour of screen per day on weekdays, only allowed when homework is complete. Yes, I am an awful person.
But even mean old moms let down their hair on Halloween, don’t they? Not me, and I have recently come to know that it’s not only Muslim parents but also Christian, Jewish and other religious minded folks who frown at this beloved national pastime when adults and kids go nuts for candy and costumes. I have noticed an increase in alternative events on Halloween eve at churches, and of course the articles and other media pieces about the pagan roots of Halloween are making the rounds yet again this year.
Last week at my children’s Sunday school at our mosque, there was the inevitable discussion about “why Muslims shouldn’t celebrate Halloween” despite the fact that many do and will. I asked my children when they got home what they had learned; their responses were interesting, to say the least. My eight-year-old son explained to me about the billions of dollars wasted on costumes and candy each year. According to him, “That’s just messed up. Imagine how many kids could get food if we sent all that money to Africa”. Yes! I will confess that many of my lectures about ingratitude center around starving kids in Africa, so I was happy to see him make that connection. I’m finally making some inroads, I thought, even if I have to show some pretty gruesome pictures of African poverty on the internet now and again to prove my point.
However, my five-year-old daughter, as I mentioned before, is a tougher nut to crack. She wisely informed me that Halloween was actually an old holiday in which they wore evil costumes and left candy on the doorstep to scare away evil spirits of dead people. Her advice, “let’s just be on the safe side and wear the costume anyway in case there are still some evil spirits lurking around.” I had to laughingly explain that a princess costume wouldn’t scare away any spirits and may in fact encourage an evil-minded person (I made sure to let her know there weren’t any spirits flitting about) to think she was incapable of defending herself. I think she got the picture. I think, but I’m not sure. We still have another day of pleading left, so I think I’ll buy some ear plugs on my next trip to the grocery store.
But on the whole, I feel that this year’s family arguments against Halloween were well received. I figure that this will be the end of our annual discussion, but I’m also well aware that candy is never far from the little ones’ minds, of course. We finally arrived at a compromise: I would get some candy with the scary ghost pictures on the packet for them to enjoy… one per day, after homework and dinner. Agreed? Let’s forget all this Halloween nonsense now, until of course the doorbell starts to ring incessantly on October 31st. We may have to watch a Disney princess movie that night just to distract the kids. I’m game, are you?