Halloween is fast approaching. In a world where offense-taking hides behind every corner, it’s a wonder this holiday hasn’t been eliminated completely by the politically correct police. Trying to dress up as something that won’t ruffle the feathers of someone else’s chicken costume can feel nearly impossible, but it can be done. We just need to use common sense.
Quick history lesson: Oct. 31 marked the end of summer and the yearly harvest. It marked the beginning of winter, and for the Celts, who many credit with the origin of the Halloween holiday, a beginning of a new year.
The day was associated with human death. It was believed that on the day before the new year, the veil between the dead and living worlds became very thin and spirits of the deceased would visit. To avoid any unwanted run-ins with ghosts or ghouls people would dress in animal heads and skins to scare off these spirits.
Halloween in America was only observed in certain areas of the colonies because of rigid Protestant beliefs. However, the Irish Potato Famine brought millions of Irish immigrants to the United States during the latter part of the 19th century, which helped popularize the holiday nationally.
As Halloween’s popularity grew, there was a move in America to make the holiday more of a community affair, and less about witchcraft and ghosts. Passing out candy to children as a way to prevent a prank or “trick” being played on their neighbors, and birthed the phrase “trick or treat.” Parents were urged to take anything gory or frightening out of the festivities. As a result, Halloween has lost most of its superstitions and religious overtones.
Halloween is second only to Christmas when it comes to consumerism, generating nearly 6 billion dollars in spending. As you can see, our adulterated version barely resembles the harvest festival it was intended to be.
Sorry college girls, but as much as you’d like to think Halloween is about you and your ‘sexy-fill-in-the-blank’ costume, the holiday’s focus is generally on children. Each parent feels that unspoken pressure to make every year special. Many parents go to great lengths and expenditures (I’m looking at you Wal-Mart. $20 for a plastic mask and fabric too flimsy to be pajamas? No thank you!) so their child can transform into Minnie Mouse or the Hulk.
Nobody wants their kid to get made fun of and a less-than-par costume, when everyone else’s looks perfect, could do just that. The point is that with the increasing amount of stress to meet higher expectations, parents don’t need any more anxiety worrying if their child’s costume choice is insensitive.
Rather than trying to decide ‘if’ you should let your child go dressed as Moana, just use common sense. Of course your child can dress as a character who happens to be a different race, just avoid darkening their skin to complete the look. There is no need to decide ‘if’ you should let your child go dressed as Black Panther if you’ll just use common sense. No one should accuse you of cultural appropriation for a costume choice rooted in pop culture if you avoid obviously problematic practices like skin darkening.
If you are still unsure if your costume is appropriate, ask yourself if it plays into cultural stereotypes or uses sarcasm as the source of its appeal. If the answer is no, then spread the joy to every girl and boy by handing out your favorite candy. If you’re concerned with contributing to the rotting of young teeth and want to be more inclusive you can give small toys, so no one feels left out.
Well-meaning parents can take things too far by robbing their children of the chance to play out their favorite fantasy when they should instead be worried about robbing their children’s candy bucket when they’re not looking. Let’s all use common sense and enjoy a safe and happy Halloween.
As a middle child, Carly Roes has a fine-tuned sense of justice. A mother of two and master of none, she enjoys her experience one day at a time.