No Stigma For Halloween, Please

When I was a kid Halloween wasn’t an event we marked in any way. Here in the UK we were busy making our guys for the forthcoming Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night celebrations on 5th November, and hadn’t yet imported the commercialisation of Halloween from the US. So I’m sorry to say, American friends, that your celebration for tonight rather passes me by! That doesn’t mean that I don’t recognise its importance to you, but it does seem to me to be a little artificial for it to be ‘celebrated’ here. Of course, I have some treats ready in case I have some little visitors this evening, but this will be my 9th Halloween at my current address and I’ve yet to see any trick or treaters!

As retailers fall over themselves to make money from Halloween the boundaries of taste have often been forgotten. I recently reblogged a post I wrote three years ago about Asda – and to a lesser extent, Tesco – selling costumes that mocked mental illness. The message that these were giving children, that it was somehow acceptable to make fun of people with mental health problems, was appalling, and the retailers had to give in to the outcry and withdraw the products from sale. But, as I mentioned in a more recent post on the stigmatisation of mental health issues, you could still find such costumes for sale this year among the specialist fancy dress retailers. The two I found, with very little effort, were Partypackage Ltd and Wonderlandparty, but no doubt there are others. This is a shameful way to make money, but I guess that as these companies are much smaller than the likes of Asda and Tesco they have managed to slip under the radar. That doesn’t make them any less guilty, in my eyes.

I have no problem with anyone wanting to celebrate Halloween, though I imagine most outside the US would be hard pressed to explain exactly what it is they are celebrating. But as these little posters from the admirable Time To Change organisation remind us, these celebrations have absolutely nothing to do with mocking mental illness.

 

So please, by all means enjoy any celebrations you may be having this evening, but don’t mock those who are unable to defend themselves against unfair stigmatisation.

Happy Halloween!

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26 thoughts on “No Stigma For Halloween, Please

  1. I would ban halloween in Britain and France if I could – the one has Guy Fawkes, a perfectly laudable celebration of the execution of the man that tried to blow up parliament and peppered with my own happy memories and the other has Toussaint. Both are being overshadowed by the march of Halloween across the Atlantic (and here it is a thing and a thing that they have done for many full moons) which is tragic, Even more tragic is the excuse to mock afflictions. That is inexcusable.

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    • It’s yet another example of the export of American commercialism, like Black Friday. Whilst it does have a traditional meaning that has long been lost, I think. Hopefully the mockery is on the decline, as far more influential people than I have drawn attention to it.

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      • I have a theory that Britain latches on to all the worst things about the US whilst singularly ignoring the many good things. As for Halloween, I’m sure that awareness will help wipe out the nastiness – certainly One of the good things to come out of Social Media is that issues that have traditionally been swept into a locked cupboard or stigmatised are aired and people get good traction behind educating the masses that actually mental illness accounts for 1 in 3. You are doing great work in helping that education and I thank you

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    • It has a long tradition in the Celtic countries and a few parts of England, but not where I’m from! My only callers were next door’s two little girls dressed in pink party dresses – rather proved my point about people not knowing what it was about!

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  2. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, although I suppose I should refer to as Samhain. I actually like Halloween better than Christmas..always have.. I don’t care for the portrayal of witches as ugly, scary, etc.. but each to their own..Spending the day watching witchy stuff on tv and cooking a pork roast in the crock pot to make some pulled pork. We have five acres and live at the end of a nearly 800 ft driveway, so we don’t get any trick or treaters either. Which is fine. We consume too much sugar in this country as it is.. 😉 Blessings!

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    • That’s what I find so interesting about blogging – the range of views and interests you come across. I know Samhain has thousands of years of tradition, but in the part of England where I grew up it meant nothing, until the more commercial aspects were imported from the US. Witches have been portrayed like that since Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, and probably beyond that, but nowadays most people who dress up like that have no idea of the significance. I’m glad you can avoid the trick or treaters, an aspect I’ve always been uncomfortable with. I hope your Samhain is going well and the pulled pork tastes as good as it sounds 🙂

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  3. Well said! Yes, it is only very recently that Halloween has taken off here and I’d rather it hadn’t. We used to have Mischief Night but in the main it was all about Guys, bonfires, fireworks in the back garden, treacle toffee and parkin.

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  4. Many groups are hurt by the stigmatization prevalent in Halloween costumes—physically disabled, black people, people from different cultures. It’s something we are finally considering, after decades of just making fun of everybody! A good trend, in my view.

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    • A very good point, Diane. Hopefully people will be more considerate in future. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun but there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.

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