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The Gremlins and the Princesses
Every Friday I write a syndicated parenting column that appears in a bunch of newspapers. Here's my Hallowe'en one!

Interestingly, the first hate mail I ever had was on my premier Hallowe'en column seven years ago. I wrote about how much I hated spending money on costumes kids would only wear for one night, and a woman wrote in saying I had no right to say that since my husband was a doctor and I was a stuck up snob. And thus began the glorious tradition of having idiots write in to criticize me every week. I have learned now to delete them without actually reading, once I ascertain the tone.

Anyway, hope you like this week's offering!

Jeff Foxworthy once said you know you’re a Canadian when you design Hallowe’en costumes to fit over snowsuits. I think he’s got a point. One year I stuffed Katie into a white turtleneck covered by a huge pink sweater, and then added two pairs of heavy white tights, a pink ballet tutu, a magic wand, and a pink tiara. In terms of layers she probably resembled a linebacker more than she did a princess, but at least she wasn’t shivering.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been an issue if I had let her dress as a ghost. She could have donned a woolly parka under that sheet and nobody would have been the wiser. But ghosts have never been my thing.

Hallowe’en revelers tend to fall into those two camps: the gremlins and the princesses. Either we celebrate Hallowe’en as an excuse to play dress-up, or we think of Hallowe’en as a time to scare ourselves silly. I’ve never liked being scared, except when it could cure me of hiccups, so I’m more the princess type.

What is this fascination we have with fear? It certainly isn’t unique to our culture; almost all cultures have some sort of celebration of the dark side of life. And one glance at our entertainment fare reveals how much our culture is preoccupied with the gruesome. Our TV shows depict the most perverted murders. Slasher films are still popular. And take the gore away from the video games and very little would remain. An alien watching our media would easily believe that murder is a raging epidemic, rather than a thankfully rare occurrence.

With our fixation on this dark side of life, then, it’s hardly surprising that Hallowe’en has become the second or third biggest party of the year, still behind New Year’s but competing strongly with the Super Bowl. But maybe there’s something deeper going on beneath the surface. The Hallowe’en imagery, it seems to me, is all about trying to stare death in the face. Grim reaper, ghosts, gremlins, and demons abound. And if we can laugh at death, then maybe it’s not so scary.

Perhaps that sounds too philosophical for an evening whose primary aim, to most, is to fetch as big a haul of candy as possible, but I do think those are the roots of the Hallowe’en tradition. And therapists have been using this desensitization method for years. If you’re scared of something, the thought goes, you just expose yourself to ever larger doses of it until it loses the power to render you weak-kneed and weak-bladdered.

While this may be a good idea if your fear is something that debilitates you in everyday life, like a fear of the dark or a fear of spiders, I’m not sure it works in the truly scary situations.

Ultimately the really hard things can’t be prepared for in the traditional way. When my son was gravely ill, one of the worst parts of the whole ordeal was how the diagnosis kept changing. I spent all my time trying to prepare for all these different scenarios, yet in the end the one that played out wasn’t one that we had foreseen. All that worry had been for nothing, and it made it harder to enjoy the twenty-nine days I did have with him.

Lots of terrible things can happen in our lives. We can choose to focus on these, or we can choose to focus on love, on faith, and on character. You can never prepare for every contingency, and quite frankly, who knows how you will handle anything until the time comes anyway? How much better to strengthen your inner reserves now, before hard times come, rather than focusing on all the crises that may befall you.

Whatever you do this Hallowe’en, I hope you get lots of chocolate! But when it comes to life, live it as a princess and not as a gremlin. Why try to prepare for every evil that may lurk around the corner? After all, the best way to deal with darkness is to shine some light, and that’s what I’d rather do.

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At 9:48 AM , Blogger BarbaraLee said…

The scary moment right now is the elections.


At 11:10 AM , Blogger Pogue Mahone said…

As Christians(and homeschoolers as well) we don't even celebrate Halloween due to it's occult nature. We turn towards God and not towards the world, which is so seeped in the occult, new age, and ungodliness to such an extent that they aren't even aware of it.We are in the world but not "of' it.The Bible commands us to stay away from *anything* and everything to do with the occult and this includes Halloween, the holiest day to occultists where they glorify and honor Satan.I was actually surprised you as a Christian homeschooler celebrate it, in fact.


At 1:38 AM , Blogger Kathy said…

pogue mahone, you might be interested in these links, which provide a well researched history of Halloween by a Christian pastor:


At 2:36 PM , Blogger 2nd Cup of Coffee said…

Hi, first time here. I'm happy to find someone else who writes a column in a similar tone as the one I write. However, let me point out quickly that mine is in ONE paper, stuck back on the "religion page," which hardly anyone reads, including my own mother, unless I say, "Hey, I'm in the paper today!" I noticed that even this post garnered a critical comment. I have yet to receive one. I'm thinking I'm not controversial enough! Loved this post and look forward to reading more.

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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