This weekend is Halloween apparently. Here in the Netherlands it’s getting bigger and bigger too. Scary costumes with blood, dead things and other horrible creatures. It’s supposed to be fun and all, but I really don’t see why. However, no one seems to make a problem out of this holiday. Well, I do have a problem with it and I don’t like it at all.
First of all, Halloween has a clear religious connection. It originated as the day when the departed are remembered. Some say that it comes from a Celtic harvest feast that was turned into a Christian holiday, others claim it never had any pagan connections and has been Christian from the start. There are a lot of old traditions, yet I don’t think children these days pray for their deceased grandmother or cat when they trick or treat at the neighbours. My problem isn’t with the carved pumpkins, the decorations of harvest and autumn or with the candy. My problem is with the scary costumes and fear this feast induces.
In the Netherlands there has been a discussion now for years about another holiday. Again a Christian connection to remember the death of Saint Nicholas. Everyone has a different understanding of where he comes from, but still we have a huge celebration in early December where everyone gets presents. Especially for children it is a big holiday. As a little girl I absolutely loved it and never saw any harm in it. Yet there is a problem with this tradition. Sinterklaas, as we call the man with the white beard and horse, has helpers. They are black. The UN even mingled in the national discussion. For me it has been clear from the beginning that it’s racism. It’s linked to a history of colonization where the Dutch weren’t very nice to say the least. Even though as a girl, I never linked it to slavery, I see who it divides our society. Next generations won’t have a less fun feast if we change traditions. I think we would make it more inclusive by getting rid of the racist elements.
But then I don’t understand why we need to introduce children to Halloween with it’s scary monsters and horrible creatures. Introducing the next generations to violence, blood and ghosts doesn’t really sound very nice either. Scaring other people is normalized this way, but I don’t think it is normal. Feeling terrified isn’t something that I wish for a child to feel during a holiday weekend. That’s why I don’t celebrate Halloween. I make pumpkin soup and pumpkin cakes, but I won’t dress up or encourage the scary elements of it. That’s why I won’t support zwarte piet anymore. After all, traditions will never change if we don’t start the change ourselves.
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.