This is cross-posted from Everyday Mom.
Halloween is tomorrow. Our house is ready, the pumpkins, not yet carved, sit in a pair on our front stoop. We've dragged the box of decorations down from the top shelf over the laundry machines and picked some to air for a week. Faux cobwebs greet visitors to our home. A two-foot spider perches over our front door light. Frankenstein leers from a plastic sheet covering our only window to face the street.
We like Halloween at our house. It's fun. There are parties ahead of time. Trick-or-treating with neighbors. A local parade. It's among our few national traditions that bring people out of the house, and together in public space. My daughter Samira looks forward to Halloween all year. On Wednesday, you can bet that she'll start planning next year's costume.
I like it all the more because Halloween is now such a bugbear to conservative religionists in our country. When I grew up, our Christian friends trick-or-treated. Our Jewish friends trick-or-treated. Even the bad boys down the street trick-or-treated. No one's pastor or rabbi admonished them to stay home. Never.
What has happened in the intervening years? Halloween has been re-paganized. Not by actual pagans, who have gone on with their quiet ways, but by people who've been intent on moving our nation's religious traditions to the right. Now, it's become more common for religious American to demonize Halloween. For the first time, my daughter came home and reported that two Christian kids in her class aren't allowed to do Halloween. Friends whose kids go to conservative Jewish schools, too, report that Halloween's a non-entity, and tell me about letters from the head of school that explain why children shouldn't go door to door, or dress up as witches and vampires and ghouls. The move to make religion more religious, to detach religious life from the shared secular sphere, and to shore up the boundaries between religious practice and the secular, public world means that Halloween is no longer a shared American tradition.
So celebrate Halloween. It's a celebration I now see as political: a celebration of American childhood, of families getting together. It's a celebration of the traditions that connect us, and on happy terms. Yes, the commercialism is over the top. Yes, the stores stock costumes starting on Labor Day and it's ridiculous. Yes, the outfits offered for girls are horridly slutty. Make a decent candy policy so our kids' teeth don't rot, absolutely. But don't get hung up on the negatives. Slide around them, laugh. Find your own ways, enjoy what's "pagan" and secular and American and good.
See it from my daughter's bright-eyed perspective: the one night a year when you can stay out late with your friends, knock on everyone's door, and get a big hello and some candy.
With all that's going wrong these days, what can be better than that? I say, if anyone should stay home on Halloween, it's the mean ole bad boys (and girls) with their teasing, mischief and eggs. Get the Christians and Jews, and anyone else who's been in retreat, to come back to the Halloween street. It's about nothing less than saving our American spirit of sharing.