I’ve long thought of Halloween, and its various traditions, as pretty daft. It seems mostly like a colossal nationwide waste of resources, engineered by the marketing departments of a few large corporations. My tune is changing, though.
On Halloween, we teach our children that their neighbors will help them. Specifically, we teach them that
- if you use a bit of common sense, you can safely approach anyone and ask them for something
- if you follow the customary etiquette and ask politely, people will try to satisfy your request
- this is true even if your request is not something especially useful or worthwhile
- this is true even if neither of you can identify the other
Not only do we teach these things, but we actually demonstrate them. I can hardly think of another festival that so directly instills a culture of communal trust and mutual assistance.
I don’t mean to claim that this lesson is deliberate, or that it’s particularly well absorbed, but it’s enough to make me rethink the holiday. At least for kids. I haven’t yet figured out the psychosocial benefit derived from dressing up as Sexy Nemo.