I’ve noticed a troubling trend over the last several years. It seems to get worse with each passing year. The trend is that Halloween is no longer scary because parents don’t want their precious children to actually get scared. It’s understandable. Most parents have a very strong instinct to protect their children from anything dangerous. But as helicopter parenting has become more and more prevalent, so have children that are now raised to be terrified of everything. Personally, I find it very annoying.
I may be too young to go on this kind of a rant but when I was a kid, Halloween was all about getting scared. It would always happen at one point or another. We had a neighbour who went all out with her witch costume and would scare the neighbourhood kids. There was always the requisite “scary house” that I ended up visiting, usually convinced that I wouldn’t survive whatever its owners had in store for me. But at the end of the night, I had survived through whatever thrills and chills had seemed so terrifying just a few hours before and usually felt more confident because of it.
Nowadays parents are so apprehensive about letting their children experience Halloween that they organize “trunk-or-treat” events instead. Parents gather in a church or school parking lot and have their children go from car trunk to car trunk to get candy. What’s even more hilarious/sad is that a lot of these groups insist that there be absolutely no “frightening” decorations or costumes including but not limited to blood, bats, spiders, witches, monsters or gore. In that case they may as well not bother celebrating Halloween at all.
The lack of scariness isn’t just limited to Halloween celebrations either. As a child of the 90s, my life revolved around the Goosebumps and Fear Street books as well as TV shows like Eerie, Indiana and Are You Afraid of the Dark? Each year from the 80s to the mid 90s there were numerous Halloween television specials that were specially designed to give kids a scare. It was all age appropriate and looking back it was occasionally cheesy. But most importantly, it says a lot that parents were okay with letting their kids have the occasional fright because they knew it wouldn’t scar us for life. Nowadays I’ve been hearing parents complain about horror movies, even when they are made for kids, like the new film Paranorman. I saw this film and theatres and although I could see how very young children might get frightened, it seemed totally acceptable for any child over the age of 6 or 7. It might sound a bit dramatic but I am actually saddened to see the lack of special Halloween episodes and tv specials for kids today.
I guess what I’m trying to say is parents, scare your children. Don’t terrify them, just scare them, even if it’s something as small as yelling “Boo!” when they least expect it. And although I know that kids should have free reign over their Halloween costumes, try to remind them that Halloween was once about making yourself look ghoulish so that you would fit in with the souls that came back to earth and wouldn’t be dragged to hell or tortured by evil spirits. Go old school and encourage them to dress up like witches, goblins and vampires (without sparkles). Let them learn what it’s like to feel the adrenaline rush of getting scared and then realizing that they are safe. And for heaven’s sake, take them out for regular trick-or-treating! After all, that’s what Halloween is all about.