When I was growing up, Hallowe’en was a thing we saw on American movies – it was never a big deal in South Africa, probably because our parents were concerned about the security of children wandering around the streets after dark, and because dressing up in black was probably against some apartheid law or other. While I think most parents still have security concerns, the advent of security estates and boomed off areas has created safe pockets for trick or treating – and then of course there’s the business opportunity for everyone from Pick n Pay and Woolworths to China City to make extra income from costumes and themed sweets.
Playschools, crèches, primary schools and communities have Hallowe’en themed parties across the suburbs now, commemorating a Celtic festival (or a selection of festivals, depending on your choice of origin) that they have little knowledge or insight about. Children whose parents have spent a small (or large) amount of money on costumes compete to see who is dressed the best, and who can liberate the largest haul of sweets from willing neighbours. Mostly, the ‘tricking’ is pretty harmless, but those houses who choose not to participate are at risk of the displeasure of mischievous participants.
So why am I particularly ‘omgekrap’ about an extended fancy dress party?
Hallowe’en is not a part of my culture, just as Makar Sankranti, Purim and Hola Mahalla are not part of my culture – and interesting though they are, I don’t celebrate them. Hallowe’en may have been a part of the culture of my Celtic ancestors, but it has never part of my culture as a Christian-raised South African. I don’t see why we celebrate summer’s end at the beginning of our summer (which is one of the backgrounds to Hallowe’en), and seeing as we are blessed with electricity these days, we don’t need to consider the intricacies of old fires and new ones.
My children are blessed to want for nothing. They have all the toys they could ever need, they have a warm bed at night, and while I’m sure they would say they could never have enough, they have plenty of sweets and treats to break the monotony of good healthy food!
Yet, each year, the note comes home from playschool – please dress your child up for Hallowe’en*. We see neighbourhoods organizing trick-or-treating – which in my (admittedly rather cynical) point of view is nothing more than door-to-door begging for something that you really don’t need.
So what do I do about Hallowe’en, without making my children the odd one out? Every year, I remember at the last minute that I need to buy a costume of some sort, and I tear out to the nearest shop and make a plan (adding stress to an already pretty full calendar). I put my boys in costumes because I don’t want them to be the only ones in ‘civvies’ at their school, completely left out of the fun of dressing up and shouting ‘BOO!’ at their friends all day (and I will admit – it is fun for them). Peer pressure is a wonderful marketing tool, isn’t it?
But I will not have my children begging for sweets when there are others not so far out there who don’t even have food for one meal a day, never mind three. If that makes me a horrible mother, then so be it.
*In all fairness, it is never an instruction from the schools my boys attend, it is always a request.
This blog post originally appeared on www.jozikids.co.za