The Kiddy Pool: Happy Dress-Up Day!

Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.

Playing dress-up is practically a daily activity at our house. It’s not uncommon for my toddler to grab a sequined purse, slip on her sparkly red shoes, don dada’s reflective orange running hat and tell me she’s off to work. I still haven’t figured out where she works. We are now, of course, approaching that momentous holiday when playing dress-up becomes a national event and when those who refuse to participate risk being labeled “non-funsters.” Halloween, of course.

Yet as much as I love the dress-up aspect of Halloween, I can’t, as a Christian, condone approaching this day without thoughtfulness. I see a number of potential objections to this holiday, and all of them fall within the realm (or ought to) of Christian reflection. There’s the nutritional argument, where the practice of grubbing candy to fill a pillowcase seems to further the national pastime of gluttony. I like candy as much as the next girl (OK, as long as I trade for the good stuff, like the peanut butter cups), but moderating the collection just makes good nutritional sense.

Then there are costume issues. For smaller children, many of the costume selections can be terrifying. For older participants, there are issues of modesty and age-appropriateness. I have no objection per se to supernatural figures (like witches and werewolves) in contexts where the costume-wearer can understand what the roles do and don’t mean. But that means that costume selection requires a broader discussion about the holiday itself, and often about the reading and viewing material that inspires a costume decision. Those kinds of conversations can’t be limited to a single day each year.

For instance, I could never allow my daughter to dress as a devil, at any age while she remains under my jurisdiction. The critical difference for me is that I don’t actually believe werewolves and vampires exist (though they too can signify sinister spiritual forces), but I’m certain that Satan does. To treat the devil too casually is to buy into what C.S. Lewis terms Satan’s greatest lie—“convincing the world that [Satan] doesn’t exist.” I can’t forget what Halloween means to many people, and my participation in it will always be measured and restricted by the fact that my understanding of the spiritual realm is quite different from the mainstream’s.

So whether you celebrate dress-up day on Halloween or every other day of the year, have fun, be safe, go easy on the candy, and don’t forget whom you represent as you canvas the neighborhood for sweets.

About Erin Wyble Newcomb

Erin Wyble Newcomb earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Women's Studies from Penn State University. In addition to parenting her daughters, running marathons, and making things with glitter, she teaches in the English Department at SUNY New Paltz. Follow Erin on Twitter @ErinWyble or at http://phdmama.com/.

  • http://soundingplumbline.blogspot.com/ Steve

    Speaking as an accused non-funster, I’ve never been comfortable with Halloween. Even as a kid, the donning of masks and scary new personalities made me uneasy and I never did it, not even for the allure of candy. I can remember thinking, at some point around 7 or 8, what if you put on a mask and became this other person and then couldn’t come back? I have a more measured and reasonable view now, but that question, in a spiritual sense, still lingers. Great article, Erin.

    And I wonder, perhaps Lucy works in a costume shop, and her multivaried outfits are worn in order to showcase the merchandise? Or she’s a costume tech at a theater or drama school and gets to augment her wardrobe from the available clothes?


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