Explaining Halloween to the Little Ones (Or Not)

Eliza Clark
October 19, 2016

We originally thought we'd write today about the historical origins of this wacky holiday, and how to explain to our little ones why it is that everyone spends the last weeks of October carving pumpkins and obsessing about what costume to wear on the big night.

But it turns out that no explanation is needed. Like so many things, the little ones take Halloween in stride and accept it as a fact of life, and, indeed, a pretty fantastic fact of life! Halloween seems like just a natural extension of the preschooler predilection for dress up and role play, not to mention candy consumption.

Still, some inquiring little darlings have a few questions. And so do their parents who sometimes ask themselves why, oh why it is that they are required to spend precious weekend hours discussing and stitching (or shopping for) new costumes, stocking up on "treats" for the entire neighborhood, and decorating their houses with skeletons and black cats and flickering jack-o-lanterns.

The answer may be a bit too complex and scary to share with our tender young things, what with their overactive imaginations and all. But it is pretty fascinating stuff, and may just give some of us the motivation we need to get cracking on those costumes. A sense of the history also helps us to appreciate the magic and mystery of the ancient Celtic tradition of All Hallow's Eve, the night when the worlds of the living and dead co-mingle. (Our grown up imaginations need inspiration too, remember?)

Indeed, we are rather taken with the idea that costumes are needed so that the ghosts walking the earth won't recognize and harm the living.  And who needs that protection more than children? Our kids do understand the power of disguise, and feel much braver and bolder in their costumes than usual—brave and bold enough to knock on the doors of complete strangers and demand treats! Hmmm. Do we really want them that brave and bold?

For this one night a year, absolutely.

From the Parents

  • Dawn Jan

    Fantastic article! I love Meet Me In St. Louis and even as a child could not believe those kids were allowed to create a bon fire in the middle of the street!

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 1

    As a grandparent and survivor of many halloweens I prefer having my grandkids celebrate the freedom to be free of the horrors that this Satanic celebration represents. The real saving grace is not in the costumes that are embraced in this dark day but in the person of Jesus Christ who sheds light in the darkness to dispel our fears and strengthen our faith in all that is good. Dave Boneck

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    If you haven't seen Meet Me in St. Louis, you must, just for the Halloween night scene. It's so different from what our children do today, like a glimpse in the way back machine. Little Margaret O'Brien, with her bag of flour, bravely walks up to the scariest house on the street to "kill" her neighbor and is roundly cheered by her peers. I love the scene -- and Margaret O'Brien -- but I'm also glad that the most my kids are doing is saying "trick or treat!"

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 3

    Visit boston.savvysource.com for a history of Halloween Boston-style!

    over a year ago


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