Do we need to save Halloween?

As a little kid, there were three days out of the year that filled my youthful soul with unparalleled excitement: Halloween, Christmas and my birthday — in that order.

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As a little kid, there were three days out of the year that filled my youthful soul with unparalleled excitement: Halloween, Christmas and my birthday — in that order.

In our house, we were free to dream up our own costume ideas, which was always an ordeal in itself. I’d draw sketches, then supervise as Mom laboured over the sewing machine to bring my outlandish visions to life.

When I was younger, I chose costumes like a Smurf or Garfield. As I got older, I preferred the more horror-based costumes — executioner, zombie, devil, blood-pumping skeleton, etc. Much to Mom’s dismay, the costume designs seemed to get more elaborate each year.

We all proudly wore our costumes to school, playing the role of our chosen characters for all they were worth.

On the big night, my siblings and I would go out trick-or-treating together, revelling in the cool, creepy October darkness while Mom and Dad followed along in the car.

Even as an adult, I still get into the Halloween spirit each year, going out to parties or dressing up for work.

But like most of our beloved traditions, Halloween has become a target for the over-protective and the over-thinkers, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to come across a couple of recent stories about a few educators’ efforts to suck the fun out of Halloween.

The first article described how a school in Barrie, Ont., sent out notes to parents earlier this month stating that students in Grades 3 and up were prohibited from wearing costumes this year.

Another article talked about a Calgary school principal’s campaign for ‘caring costumes’ to replace outfits that could be interpreted as scary or violent in nature.

Score another victory for the buzz-killing, politically correct, squeaky wheels of the world. …

Curious about what was happening locally, I called up Bruce Buruma, director of community relations for the Red Deer Public School Division.

I was surprised to learn that many schools in the division have had longstanding Halloween policies of their own. Buruma said each school in the division handles Halloween differently.

“There is a recognition that there is a wide variety of beliefs,” Buruma said. “Some want more (Halloween), some want less. The thing for us is to find the right balance.”

Instead of allowing students to wear costumes to class, some schools have opted to hold Halloween dances to avoid the distraction of costumes in class. Some schools hold special events, like Glendale School’s Pumpkin Extravaganza, while others encourage students to wear orange and black clothes instead of costumes.

For me, this ranks right up there with the annual campaign to change the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ to ‘Happy Holidays.’

Have we become so ridiculously oversensitive as a society that people are now offended by the sight of a little kid dressed up as a vampire or a skeleton on Halloween?

Where does the madness end?

I’d suggest that Halloween provides a chance for us to make light of the things that scare us most — namely death itself.

Most importantly, it’s a chance for kids to put their imaginations to work and play make believe in whatever role they can dream up. Who cares if it offends a few oversensitive people or disrupts class for one day?

If we let the complainers have their way on this one, what will Halloween eventually become?

Ten years from now, will our kids be sitting in around a computer doing Halloween-based learning activities instead of putting their imaginations to work by dressing up and acting silly?

I have a seven-month-old boy at home about to embark of his first Halloween simply because his Mom and Dad thought it would be fun to dress him up as a tiger and take him out visiting.

But when the day comes that he asks to be a zombie, a vampire or a headless corpse for Halloween, I’ll gladly take him out to buy some plastic fangs or help whip up a batch of fake blood.

Leo Pare is the Advocate’s online editor.