Stop Decorating Your House For Halloween Unless You Want The REAL Scary Monster To Appear
The 20th of September this year was a good day for the spirit.
Even old cynics like me felt a tiny ebb of hope as we watched hundreds of thousands of people taking to the street and marching to deliver a message to the government about how strongly we feel about climate change and a secure future for our children and our planet.
My soul was fed by the visions of young kids marching with posters painted by young hands, by parents marching on behalf of their children’s futures and by businesses committing themselves to actually making a difference.
Some of the joy leaked out when I saw the government’s response, which was anticlimactic to say the least. But, I thought, at least we have hundreds of thousands of people on board. And while we need the government to make radical and important changes, at least if we all believe in the importance of the environment we can start making the changes we want at home. We can commit to reducing, reusing and recycling -- and continuing to show our interest in and love for our planet.
But September quickly turned to October and as the threats against Greta Thunberg stopped making headline news, the spirit of consumerism started to take over from the health of the planet.
The shops started to flog Halloween paraphernalia and reinforced that the only way to celebrate this ancient Celtic festival it is to decorate. This in spite of the fact the Celts didn’t actually decorate their homes, they tended to light bonfires and dress up to scare away the ghosts. But, I realised when I protested against ghoulish plastic decorations on my Facebook page, people believe decorating their houses for Halloween is a right and a tradition they feel threatened about losing.
I tried to learn from the people who told me they’d been using the same decorations for years and while I believe (some of) them, it seems odd that the shops sell more and more spiders, skeletons, pumpkins and witches each year. If everyone already owns all this gear who are they selling it to? Are the people paying money for these decorations the same people who took a poster out on a march in mid-September? I can’t reconcile the two.
I was feeling like Scrooge but with a Jack-O-Lantern face. I was not-so-silently resentful of this tendency to decorate rather than celebrate. It scratched at my fears over the future of our planet and the constant creation of more and more “stuff” that we are told we need in order to take part in neighbourhood celebrations. I thought back to the climate change strike with a wistfulness that hardly seemed appropriate for something that had happened last month.
Simmering in my plastic pumpkin induced rage I took time out to reflect on whether I was overreacting to Halloween decorations. Maybe it’s just because I don’t celebrate it. Maybe I was coming to this debate with my own filter of fear over the production and disposal of unnecessary junk, and yes I realise that’s a loaded word because some people believe deeply in their right to decorate on Halloween.
But then scrolling through Instagram I was hit by something far worse. A sponsored post for, I kid you not -- designer clothing, accessories and props for Elf on the Shelf (an elf-themed 'tradition' that's been doing the rounds since about 2005) . It’s no longer enough to make sure you buy Christmas decorations -- now you have to start much earlier by decorating your house with a rogue elf from the North Pole who encourages your kids to behave by watching them and then reporting back to Father Christmas at headquarters.
This is not a tradition. This is consumerism.
I fully respect anyone’s right to celebrate Christmas -- I can grit my teeth over tinsel, fairy lights, stockings, plastic trees and decorative Santas. If that’s the way you want to acknowledge the birth of Christ that’s your prerogative. I’ll still mutter “celebrate, don’t decorate” under my breath, but I’ll say it so you can hardly hear it.
But I draw on these elves and decorations like them, and I completely lose it over props and clothes and the packaging and pollution that come with them. I hate the whole idea of Christmas spies, but I’m not even going to address that -- I’m going to go back to the beginning, which was only a month ago when an estimated 300,000 Australians took to the streets to rail against the destruction of our planet.
If we are taking our kids to marches calling for the government to help us take care of the planet, surely we can also be teaching them we don’t need to have more “stuff” to encourage us to behave or to celebrate. An elf that comes out once a year for a month does not need clothes and pets and props. In fact, the elf doesn’t need to exist at all.
How can we listen to our children’s fears for the future and then arm them with manufactured toys to monitor their behaviour? Why do we recycle cardboard to make posters protesting against landfill and pollution in the ocean and then buy a reindeer for a plastic elf to pose with for a shot on Instagram?
I guess a little elf makes the frightening decorations seem more acceptable… but actually no. It’s all nonsense. We don’t need to theme our homes for the holidays. We don’t need to create more landfill and we do need to create more awareness.
It is fully possible to celebrate without decorating.
You just need people (and food). And if we don’t care for the planet we will have neither.