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The ghoulishness of Hallowe’en?

(191 Posts)
MawBroon Sun 14-Oct-18 10:11:38

There was a letter in the DT yesterday from a woman who had recently lost her mother, saying she feels she cannot cope with the “ghoulish” imagery of Halloween.
Setting aside what I suspect most of us feel about the incredibly overdone Halloween “thing,” it got me thinking too.
OK it is all a bit of harmless fun for the kids, but the graveyard/skull/skeleton imagery is also very disturbing especially to the recently bereaved.
Graham Norton, the DT’s “agony uncle” gave this advice

Don’t focus on the morbid imagery and more ghoulish elements, listen instead to the excited screams of the children, their joy at dressing up, their laughter when they see their friends in costumes saying this is a reminder that life goes on.
I am sure he has a valid point, but this aspect of death (skeletons , ghouls, ghosties etc) is not one I am comfortable with dwelling on, nor I hope do the DGCs make that connection with the smiling loving Grandpa they have lost.
Any thoughts?

lemongrove Sun 14-Oct-18 11:17:14

I understand exactly what you mean Maw
My main beef with Halloween is the gory stuff, the bloodied knives, severed hands and so on all as you walk into a store.
I witnessed a sobbing 3 year old with his Mum in Tesco once, he was turned away from it all as she browsed through the tat, he was very scared and she didn’t care in the least.
It’s awful.
Yes, parents should be better parents, but stores should shoulder responsibility too, this stuff should be tucked away,
Not in the little faces of those who have to walk past near the entrance. angry

Jalima1108 Sun 14-Oct-18 11:23:04

Perhaps we should celebrate All Saints' (Hallows') Day instead

Grandma70s Sun 14-Oct-18 12:08:27

Hallowe’en never used to be like this. It has become something horrible and deeply wrong.

Bikerhiker Sun 14-Oct-18 12:11:21

Amazing really isn't it? Halloween is essentially concerned with death and horrendous injuries unyet as a society we abhor violence and don't talk about death until it affects us.
I can see how distasteful it is for the bereaved, myself included.
Do I disagree with celebrating it? I really don't know. Just an observation.

NanaandGrampy Sun 14-Oct-18 12:16:28

I can certainly appreciate where you're coming from maw and I think there are elements that are totally overdone/inappropriate.

But , when I talk to my little grandchildren about Halloween they talk about the sweets ! They never mention skulls or graveyards and the only mention of a skeleton was 'look at me Nana - my inside is outside!'

I think little ones don't link such imagery with anything ( until older maybe) and they take it all at a much lighter level than we do.

Chewbacca Sun 14-Oct-18 12:22:44

My 6 year old GD is absolutely terrified of Halloween and will not dress up, go out trick or treating in the dark and doesn't want to even look at the guisers who come knocking on their door. Some of the older kids, teenagers perhaps, had the most horrible masks on last year and they alarmed me, let alone a little child. It's all become very gruesome.

GrannyGravy13 Sun 14-Oct-18 13:12:25

My next door neighbours turn their front garden and drive into a graveyard, complete with tomb stones, half open coffins, body parts and skeletons.

It looks something from a film set, but I am not overly keen on it.

MawBroon Sun 14-Oct-18 13:24:34

That’s the sort of thing I mean. Thank God nobody around here has done anything like that.
How do I reconcile that with my daily walk up to the churchyard to DH’s grave?
How might the grandchildren regard Grandpa’s grave with these ghastly and ghoulish associations?
Is this the image of death we want to promote? And how hurtful is it to anybody who has been bereaved.

Luckygirl Sun 14-Oct-18 13:28:13

I have always hated it.

My children bobbed for apples - that was it.

GrannyGravy13 Sun 14-Oct-18 13:28:49

Maw in our part of the road we are just 3 houses and then a Pre-school/primary school, the house that is decorated is immediately next to the school. I would be really surprised if they haven't received complaints from parents if the little ones.

trisher Sun 14-Oct-18 13:56:58

I lost my mother recently as well and quite honestly the imagery of Haloween has little impact on me. It does seem that we are developing split personalities as far as death is concerned. The Victorians who were far more familiar with it had a number of practices we would describe as 'ghoulish' today. Among them photographing the dead body with the family (painting the eyes on the photo so they looked open), jewellery made from hair and other mementos. Perhaps if we spoke more openly about it and it wasn't completely wiped from normal life the paraphernalia of Halloween wouldn't seem so shocking. I sympathise with those who are upset by Halloween but I do wonder , do they find paintings like those of Stanley Spencer upsetting as well?

MawBroon Sun 14-Oct-18 14:21:53

The Victorians did not go in for open graves and body parts!

Do you really want your DGC to make this association of blood and gore and death, which is certainly a part of life but need not be violent or horrifying.
How would you react if a DGC asked “is that what has happened to Grandpa?”
It seems to me that those who most get off on the horrors of Halloween are those to whom death seems a distant prospect.

BlueBelle Sun 14-Oct-18 14:33:45

I don’t like Hallowean and feel it gets more ghoulish each year When I was in Ireland they follow US and have much more houses decorated with nasty things than we do over here There were houses done out with scary skeletons sitting in a doorway of cobwebs etc
Not for me

trisher Sun 14-Oct-18 15:01:00

Stanley Spencer certainly went in for open graves, and body parts are much in evidence in Hieronymus Bosch paintings. My DGC who was very close to my mum often asks questions about what happened to her Nanna. We explain she was very old and ill and her body was very tired. I would far rather talk to her about this than have her worry silently and if Halloween brings up a reason to do so then it's actually a good thing. None of my GC's think skeletons are scary. They know we all have one and are interested in how their body works. They also know the tat on sale is fake, probably because they have been talked to about it. Children who aren't of course may be scared and worry, but children worry about many things including monsters under the bed and noises in the night. We can't shelter them completely we can make sure they can talk about their fears and help them come to terms with them.

MawBroon Sun 14-Oct-18 15:38:55

Stanley Spencer was not a Victorian and his war paintings had a very definite message. The graphic depictions of Hell in the paintings of Hieronymos Bosch will have given many people nightmares over the centuries! That was their point. You may think me squeamish, but after our baby boy died I had weeks of nightmares about what night have been happening to his little body in his little white coffin.
I try not to let myself “go there” with “Paw” but were one of the boys (8 and 6) to ask if that is what has happened to Grandpa, I would find it distressing. There’s open and there’s allowing thoughts to grow which cannot be unthought.
I also find the equation of death/bodies/skulls /blood and gore a regrettable reflection of an age in which most people have very little direct experience of death - the elderly or indeed children dying at home, a family member laying out a body, keeping an open coffin in the house to be watched over and for neighbours to pay their respects etc
Nowadays we have a sanitised view of death , we leave it to undertakers, and crematorium staff, many people have never been present at a death or even seen a dead body.
So we might as well agree to differ.

trisher Sun 14-Oct-18 15:48:18

I know Stanley Spencer wasn't Victorian but he did paint people coming out of graves. I am sorry about your experiences but really we all have emotional stories, why they should impact on people enjoying an evening of dressing up and fantasy horror I don't know. I know stories have been sanitised over the years to accommodate children but they cannot be protected from all things. Horror and violence were originally part of many fairy stories. It is something that has its place in our culture and children growing up. Denying that place and trying to over protect children is of no help to them.

lemongrove Sun 14-Oct-18 16:13:30

Over protect children?
Stores having shelves of gory body parts and bloodied knives and saws etc on display near the entrance?
Nope, we don’t protect children enough.

GrannyGravy13 Sun 14-Oct-18 16:21:55

We had to explain to our 6 GC aged then 2 - 15yrs of age that my mother had died recently, we answered all their questions and reassured them she was safe and at peace with my Father.

They know about death and illness, but the tinies do not need to see a makeshift graveyard complete with body parts, open coffins etc when they come to visit.

I actually enjoy Halloween, the tinies,dressing up,as pumpkins, pumpkin carving and apple bobbing, but do,think it has got far to,ghoulish of late.

MawBroon Sun 14-Oct-18 16:41:11

but really we all have emotional stories, why they should impact on people enjoying an evening of dressing up and fantasy horror
I know you don’t like me Trisher you have made that plain enough in the past, but to dismiss a young mother without a child’s experience as “emotional stories” is plumbing the depths. My argument has clearly bypassed you, my fault for not explaining myself better. The obsession with horror and violence today is totally at variance with most actual lives.
If you go back to my OP I said that the graveyard ghoulish imagery can be particularly upsetting especially to the recently bereaved I also said this aspect of death is not one I am comfortable with dwelling on.
You choose to dismiss this, fair enough, that is your opinion, hard on many of us recently bereaved but why should you even consider the feelings of others?

paddyann Sun 14-Oct-18 16:41:24

we were a large Irish catholic family who grew up on horror" stories and ghost stories ,lights were switched off and we sat round the fire and granny scared the bejesus out of us not just at Hallowe'en.We LOVED it .We used to fight to see who would sleep in her bed for an extra dose of horror.I think you are all being a bit precious about children who are often the most accepting of what death is .The vast majority will react as my GD does and tell you that sometimes people are sick or very old and just need to die.And yes she wants details.Not that we give them as detailed as she'd like but much healthier that she knows and understands what happens.She spent the day with her great aunt recently.The day before auntie died .She was very philosophical about it said auntie was ready to die she was sore and not at all well,it was the cancer .No doubt you'll be the same folk complaining young folk are all "snowflakes".

MawBroon Sun 14-Oct-18 16:54:37

I regret starting this thread. My emotions which are especially fragile as the anniversary of paw”s death draws near have taken a battering from some who simply refuse to see my point of view. Children may possibly understand the concept of death - we do not ask them to understand decay, the decomposition of the body and that daggers through heads or eyes weeping blood are not in the slightest bit funny. What paddyann describes is not entirely unlike my own experience of Halloween in Scotland but much was left to the imagination not graphic depictions of open graves or body parts. As a child neither women nor children attended funerals by the ay. I wonder why?
But I’ll shut up now, you can go on with your own lives.
I’m out.

Grandmashe43 Sun 14-Oct-18 16:57:01

Maw I know exactly what you mean, I dislike all things ghoulish, and when recently bereaved it all seems so insensitive and really unnecessary. Please be kind to yourself and know many of understand and sympathise with your feelings.x

lemongrove Sun 14-Oct-18 16:57:17

Young children can be philosophical about it paddyann simply because they have no understanding of it.
Particularly when the older person who dies isn’t involved in bringing them up so it hardly impacts on them.

I know exactly what you mean Maw in thinking of our loved ones once they are buried, and I have tried myself not to think about it, particularly a child.It still comes into my mind sometime, to be pushed quickly away.?

trisher Sun 14-Oct-18 16:57:59

MawBroon I neither like nor dislike you. I have absolutely no personal relationship with you whatsoever. I don't actually know you. I do find it very hard to have discussions with people who insist on using their own personal stories as ammunition. And I try not to comment on those posts.
All sorts of things upset the recently bereaved and it would be impossible to remove everything that did. In fact I don't think it's a bad thing at all, being "upset" is part of the grieving process.
This isn't real horror we are discussing it's fantasy. It's plastic skeletons, plastic coffins, painted knives and saws. If it has to be criticised let's do it on the basis that actually it's a complete marketing scam selling plastic tat, and not on the grounds that it is real horror children need to be protected from. (Although actually it seems to be the adults on here who are most affected by it)
And paddyann is right it probably replaces many of the horror stories and other events children once experienced.