New York State Funeral Directors Association

This blog usually focuses on death and dying, but the candy corn must have gotten to me.

My thoughts are stuck on this week’s pseudo holiday Halloween – once considered “hallowed evening,” so that’s my focus this week.

It wouldn’t take an outsider long to figure out that Halloween in America has turned into another commercialized excuse to celebrate – and there’s actually nothing to really celebrate.

But in these hectic, modern days, any excuse to party is a good one. And in terms of children, any day they can be important is good for them as long as it’s safe and they get to feel special.Kid in Gunslinger Costume

But for parochial, traditional people like myself, there are only a few costumes I see marketed to our youth that have any real value.

Before I get into my non-expert critique of Halloween costumes, however, I have to confess I was no great example of good values in terms of costumes I chose when I was a child.

And I don’t blame my parents at all – if I wanted to “be something” for Halloween, my mother would make it happen, even if she had to buy fabric and create a costume from scratch.

I remember learning about St. Isaac Jogues in elementary school.

He was a French missionary who came to early America to convert natives to Christianity – this all took place about 30 miles from where I grew up.

I’m pretty sure we were all told Jogues wasn’t received too well by the natives – he was tortured and put to death along with some of his colleagues.

But after hearing the Nuns describe him, I was convinced he was a hero and sure enough, that was my choice the next Halloween.

“Hey mom, I want to be St. Isaac Jogues.”

My mom obliged me and she made, by hand, a costume.

I can find good and bad in it. On one hand, it’s not really right to force your religion on another person. And it’s certainly wrong to torture and kill somebody.

As a child, my Halloween persona has taken on various characters – I was an “Indian” one year and I think my older sister was the “Cowboy,” another example of how pervasive violence is in humankind’s history.

Nowadays, our catalogs for Halloween costumes – the outfits kids wear to go beg for candy – and that adults wear to reminisce about being kids begging for candy – say a lot about our society.

Some of these costumes – if there’s any discussion about them – can clearly help a youngster adopt values held dear by their parents and their society.

Others can help youth escape from reality – something many adults recognize the need for.

Others costumes, in my opinion, are just plain counterproductive and, often, they place too great a value on violence.

Sometimes, these costumes serve as meaningful remembrances of important people whose lives contributed, in a positive way, to humanity.

That’s not what American Halloween is all about, but costumes that remember good things in history are worth recognizing.

So here’s some thoughts about costumes as I go through a list I found on an Internet catalog that’s quite easy to find if you’re looking for Halloween costumes (dot com).

The Wizard of Oz series has several valuable costumes – like the Tin Man who just wanted a heart and the Scarecrow who wanted a brain.

Plus Dorothy, who just wanted to go home. They all teach values, I suppose.

Of little value – the “headless horseman” and the “NFL Broncos” and other professional football player costumes.

Kid in Vampire CostumeThere’s been too much cutting off of heads recently, and too many concussions for the meaningless purpose of getting a ball across a line.

Another set in the list that I believe are valuable are all the animal costumes.

Kids can be mice, dinosaurs, a gorilla, a monkey, bumble bee, elephant, piglet, wolf and lion to name a few.

We share the planet with all of them, so I see value in kids taking on their essence, if just for a day.

Perhaps they’ll think a bit about what it would be like to NOT be human.

Some costumes, I hope, get kids thinking about what they might be when they grow up.

There’s a slew of them: firefighter, police officer, soldier – Navy Seal or U.S. Army Ranger – and scientist, lab coat and all. boy in vampire costume

Of less value, to me, are the costumes that recognize fictional characters that had very little, if any, positive values to share.

These include vampires (which I’ve been several times on Halloween) – they apparently drink blood which is not a good value.

The same goes for the werewolves and the “cutthroat pirate,” and the inmate costume replete with handcuffs. None carry values worth remembering.

Well, I’ve already reached my personally-set word limit and only page six on this catalog, and I’ve only found two historical figures that may carry some value in terms of learning.

They are Michael Jackson with his Thriller jacket, and a British Red Coat, also wearing a red jacket, coincidentally.

I think I’ll stop. Clearly, there are few historically valuable lessons being shared with kids as they gear up for their annual candy expedition.

But I don’t knock it. At least they’re getting a day to look forward to when they can dress up and feel special.

I can’t be judgmental, though. I’m past 40 and I’ve already dressed up for two Halloween costume events this season. I was a Templar Knight for one, and a Peshmerga soldier for the other.

In terms of society and culture, however, I’m not sure I could put on a good argument on what good comes from what we in America call Halloween today.

EdsPhotoEdward Munger Jr.
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association