What's wrong with Halloween?
The Halloween season arrived and we are torn. Not the creepy bloody rubber zombie hand sort of torn, but mentally and ethically torn. While most of population hurries to get their nun or skeleton (or skeleton nun) costumes, we are, very much our style, taking a judgmental step back and giving all the Halloween craze a head-to-toe look saying “Do you really need to be here?”. Sorry. If you love Halloween more than anything, maybe don’t read on.
Don’t get us wrong. We actually used to like Halloween. When else in the year can you unapologetically dress as Frida Kahlo or a flapper and go out for a party with friends and see all the other innovative costume designs? For some people it really is art - to find, sometimes hand-make and customise, and proudly wear the Halloween outfit. Lets not take the fun out of it, when it is clearly there. But it's always good to ensure we don’t digest things with zero reflection whatsoever. This year, we decided we won’t digest it. While in all the previous years Halloween has been rather playful or at least just indifferent to us, this year we decided to protest it a little bit. And all because one creepy plastic-rubber doll.
The story of the doll goes back to one of our last trips to Sham Shui Po district in Hong Kong during which we hoped to find some leftover fabrics. On the way to lunch, we found ourselves among street shops selling Halloween accessories, toys and costumes. One of the stalls (or maybe more of them, the shock made us forget) offered the toy we are talking about. The doll was resembling a very very creepy but tragic image of a dead baby. It was semi-mechanical and gave out sounds. It was crawling like a one-year old would and emitted a creepy, and probably what intended to be dead-like, laugh. It was all blue-ish, wearing rags instead of baby clothes, with wounds and blood splatters on it. What was it laughing about - still no clue. The whole thing was supposed to be scary and horror-like, and truthfully - it reached the objective perfectly. We stood there looking at the toy for quite some time and wandered if it’s more appropriate to laugh or cry.
And it kind of hit us. When did it start to be okay to make toys that look like dead toddlers? What’s so entertaining about it? How did we get from pumpkin carving to carving into babies’ flesh? How sick are we? And finally - who the f*ck buys it?! I mean… it seems fine to carve scary-ish faces in pumpkins and put them at your front door or play with the lights a little bit. It does not feel fine to have a dead rubber baby doll strolling around your house. Sorry, it just does not. We don’t think we are being particularly unreasonable here. Normalising death, especially death of children, trivialising violence has no effect other than shallowing our sense of empathy and depriving us of our basic humanity. The dead baby is just one of a thousand examples everyone of us will probably see this year. We are not even mentioning all the deadly bloody masks that you can put over your own face, severed arms and legs, skeletons in the bags, dead animals, all the gore of it. And producers of such accessories seem to be getting more and more creative about it too. Are we really not noticing the gross perversion of it? Has this become something we are into as a society?
What does Halloween stand for anyway? It originated from the cult of the saints, the day where we think about those who left us but still take care of us. In Poland, where we both come from, this tradition is still very much alive but celebrated on November 1st. On this day, we all meet with families and go visit graves of our loved ones, tend to them, make them clean and organised. There are other countries where people celebrate it either around the same time or on different times of the year, but the point is always the same - honouring the dead and offering them respect. How did we evolve from this amazing and empathetic celebration of humility towards death into cheap plastic toys, “slutty nurse” costumes and, worst of all, dead baby dolls?
Lets stick to another key word for a moment here - plastic. We produce billions of pieces of decoration destined merely for this one day among 365 days of the year. One day. 24 hours. Billions of pieces of unnecessary stuff, made of plastic or poliester which will literally never decompose. Please explain to us - where is the sense in that? How did we ever learn to accept that? What mind process lies behind not seeing anything wrong about this? The argument titled “oh come on, let’s have some fun once in a while” does not do anymore. It does not do to justify such wastefulness of materials and ignorance to symbols of sorrow with “having fun”. We are all innovative, creative and imaginative and even while multitasking, we can discover at least a couple of other ways of having fun that don't blunt our sense of empathy and destroy the planet at the same time.
You have to forgive us the negativity. Halloween is not the only thing people are into nowadays, naturally not everyone is celebrating it and we really hate pinning blame on anyone. We all have free will, interests, hobbies, dreams and preferences on spending our time. If anyone loves buying Halloween costumes and decorations every year and it makes them really happy and fulfilled, then, hey, who are we to judge. But maybe next time you celebrate something, anything, try to understand its purpose. Is it Cristian baptism, Ayahuasca ritual, Voodoo possession, Inuit drum dance, Dia de las Muertes, or even Halloween, try not to just consume it on the spot with all your preconceptions of it, because they might be mis-guided. The point where Halloween goes even a step further though, is its commercialisation. We forgot about the real essence of this day and replaced it with products, tangible things that we buy, consume for a couple of hours and then discard - because their quality is often far from good. And where does the discarded plastic go? We all know the answer by now - nowhere, it stays here with us, on Earth, in our oceans, rivers, lakes, in throats of whales and stomachs of seagulls. In the soil we plant trees in, in the water we drink. In the wake of the environmental crisis that we are all facing now, maybe Halloween is one of those celebrations we actually don’t need that much after all?
Happy October 31st.