Trick or Treat?

By Jason Menard

My children are going trick-or-treating this year – apparently I should ask all of you to pray for their mortal souls. It’s happening more and more these days. In our misplaced desire to be non-offensive, we’re sucking the fun out of being a kid.

My son, who attends a local public school, is not allowed to dress up in costume this year, apparently because in doing so he would offend those who believe that dressing up for Halloween is a direct ticket to whichever version of hell they believe in.

Oddly enough, I don’t remember one of Dante’s rings including a section for sugar-crazed youth, but I digress.

My wife, who teaches at an area youth centre, is severely restricted as to what Halloween-themed activities she can introduce. No goblins, ghosts, witches, nothing that may be even construed as controversial. My two-year-old daughter will be dressing up as an elephant Oct. 31, 2003 – what kind of father am I?

Let me start by saying that my wife and I have fundamentally different views on religion and Christianity – in short, she believes, I don’t. But we both agree on one thing – this is ridiculous.

I had countless Halloween parties during my school years. Amazingly I’ve never felt the urge to hurt anybody or make ritual sacrifices. In fact, I try to lead a pretty good life, help others where I can, and teach my kids to respect others and appreciate everyone’s differences. And, other than a tendency to throw mushrooms in everything she cooks, my more religious wife — who also been known to trick-or-treat – displays no evil tendencies.

In fact, all I – and my Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish and Atheist friends – remember of that time was that we got to dress up, pretend we were our favourite superheroes, and get an obscene amount of candy!

So where’s the harm?

We’ve swung the pendulum way to far. In our goal to be all-inclusive, we’ve done the exact opposite. I may not agree with my wife on religion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want my kids to go through life with blinders on and not learn about it.

I want my kids to learn about all the world’s belief systems so that they can make their own minds up and make decisions based on what will make them happy. If they believe in a god – any god – then good for them. If they choose to not believe, as long as it makes them happy, I say go for it.

What we need to do – and at an early age, I may add – is to expose our children to more religion, not less as we’ve been doing. If a child is observing Yom Kippur, why not have them or their parents discuss the meaning of the day? If a teacher is fasting during Ramadan, let them explain what they’re doing and why.

We’re not indoctrinating our children or trying to convert them – what we’re doing is teaching them the precious lesson of tolerance.

The fact is that we live in an increasingly smaller world where we’re being exposed to a wide variety of cultures, religions, and belief systems on a more regular basis. Instead of insulating our children from the ebb and flow of the world, we should be encouraging them to learn from and appreciate people for who they are.

For a secular society, we’re still heavily influenced by religion. If people start playing the game of claiming offence for innocuous events like Halloween – which really has no religious connotation for any child I know – then what are we to say about enforced statutory holidays based on one religion?

Maybe if Halloween goes, then Christmas and Easter break should be scrapped as we’re not granting equal weight to everyone’s belief system. Or maybe, just maybe, we should all relax, teach our children well, and hope that they grow up to be well-rounded, compassionate, and understanding adults to whom the god you pray to means less than the person you are.

The irony of all this? My son chose to dress as a devil this year. Happy Halloween to all!

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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