Dads: Halloween – great or ghastly?

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Another year, another Halloween. Every year it seems to get a little bit bigger, a little more commercial (and a little more likely to one day be sponsored by the British Dental Association). But is that a good thing? Is Halloween a day to be enjoyed … or endured?

We can always rely on John from Dad Blog UK to ask a thought-provoking question, and sure enough this October 31st he was at it again. Here are a few selected posts from his Halloween Twitter thread.

Not a fan?

Not everyone is a fan of Halloween, for a variety of reasons. That started me thinking. Do dads regard it more or less positively than mums? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps the biggest difference is between working and non-working parents. Or maybe everything changes the moment you become a parent, as James from A Life Less Ordinary suggests as he compares Halloween then and now?

That’s certainly the case for me. In the years BC (Before Children), Halloween pretty much passed me by. We never used to buy in the equivalent of a Cadbury factory’s worth of chocolate for the evening. And it certainly wasn’t something to get excited about. Halloween was a big event only when viewed through the prism of American TV shows. Even then, we were so out of sync with the US that we typically watched Halloween episodes at Easter anyway.

Now, however, we are in the AD (After Daughter) era. I leave work early every Halloween so I can be at home ready to fulfil my duties. Meanwhile my wife takes the kids out on their annual quest to accumulate and consume more sugar in two hours than they do in the rest of the year combined. I’m quite happy with this division of labour. We don’t go to town about it but we will put up a few decorations and place our pumpkins on the doorstep. I’ve come to quite like it, in the same way I like Christmas decorations. Mind you, the task of opening the front door once every two minutes for two hours does become quite wearisome after a while!

Over on the DaddiLife website, they ran a poll asking dads whether we should take our kids trick-or-treating. 71% said ‘yes’ – a majority, but by no means an overwhelming one. I wonder if that percentage has increased or decreased over the last few years.

The meaning of Halloween

John also raised a valid point about how the true meaning of Halloween is often lost on our kids. It’s not all about sweets. (It’s actually only 99% about them.)

It’s funny how a day whose origins lie in superstitious beliefs about the dead and evil spirits has become associated more with garish costumes, children’s laughter and the accumulation of sweets. I did once try to explain the origins of Halloween to our kids but it fell on deaf ears. And then Disney released the film Coco and did the job for me. Got to love Disney, right?

On the costume front, I suppose it also gives us parents a chance to recycle the kids’ Harry Potter costumes from World Book Day. Although I’m never quite sure what Captain America and Iron Man have to do with Halloween. (Or, for that matter, World Book Day – but let’s not have the discussion about whether comics count as books here.)

Reasons to be fearful

Some people are ambivalent about Halloween. But sometimes this tips over into an active dislike of the day – and with good reason.

I know from experience exactly what John means here.

We live in the middle of a large, middle-class estate packed with young families. Many of the children who knock on our door are ones I recognise from our kids’ school. There’s an unwritten rule locally that you don’t knock on a door unless there are decorations up or the porch light is on. People are generally good at observing this. So on the whole Halloween evening is a pleasant, civilised affair down our way. Kids circulate in excited groups chaperoned by parents. They’re polite, good-humoured and grateful. The most aggravating thing that happens is having to gently remind the occasional child to only take one sweet each.

It hasn’t always been that way, though. We used to live adjacent to a rather less salubrious estate. As Halloween evening went on, the kids from the other side of the tracks road got progressively older and, sometimes, more threatening. After our first experience of sullen teenagers throwing eggs and soggy loo roll at our house, we learned to go from work straight to a restaurant for dinner to avoid the unpleasantness. Our neighbours, however, weren’t so fortunate. They were elderly, didn’t like to go out after dark and were more than a little scared. Every year they would barricade themselves in their back room with the lights turned off until the coast was clear. How sinister and horrible is that?

Of course, there’s more to Halloween than just trick-or-treating. The tradition of pumpkin-picking and carving is a big source of fun for many, as Christopher from The Mad Maker Dad highlights from his visit to the Sunnyfields Farm Pumpkin Picking Festival. Pumpkin-carving is a must-do in our house. I was particularly pleased with my Pac Man/ghost design this year.

In the end, whether or not you embrace Halloween is a matter of personal perspective, isn’t it? Some of us are happy to let the kids have some fun. Others don’t see the point. Some even actively dislike it.

What do you think? Do you find Halloween great or ghastly – and why?

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About Tim Liew

Tim, also known as @thatchamdad, is a blogger, a podcaster, a father of three (aged 11, 9 and 7) and a master of none. By his own admission he’s forever stuck somewhere in the mid-1980s, probably a Thursday. In between bouts of nostalgia, complaining about his aching joints and compiling endless music playlists, he has been writing about his experiences as a working dad on his blog Slouching towards Thatcham since 2008.