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Non-Violent Halloween Costume Ideas

>> Saturday, October 24, 2009

Today's guest article is from Deltaflute from My Twisted Life's Journey

Pacifism, I feel, is very much a part of our Catholic faith.  The Catholic Workers Movement and Pax Christi are two prominent organizations that “fight” against violence and oppression.  Jesus also speaks of “turning the other cheek.“  As a pacifist, Halloween is a difficult time of year for me.  Many of the Halloween costumes are equipped with weapons and blood.  The holiday is about honoring the dead; it’s not supposed to be about guns and guts.

I’m having a baby boy in January, and in the next few years, I’m going to have to talk about non-violence extensively.  Little boys enjoy violent fantasies.  Games like “bad guys vs. good guys” with imaginary guns are very common.  Many super heroes use violence as a means to “keep the peace.”  I won't allow violent figures or play weapons in my house even though my husband thinks that I‘ve gone too far.  I know that rough housing and drawing pictures of killing “bad guys” is perfectly normal, but I want to use those times to talk about resolving conflicts in non-violent ways.  I would be wrong to equate my son’s violent fantasies with real-life conflicts, so I think the best way to handle the situation is to give him latitude as long as he understands that these fantasies can’t happen in real life. 

I’m also concerned that he’s going to feel left out because I won’t allow him to choose violent characters for his Halloween costumes.  Play guns, play knives, and play swords are included in a lot of children's costumes.  I've tried to do a Internet search on costumes that are non-violent, and since I couldn't find a specific list, I decided to compose my own.  My list isn’t gender or age specific so I would suggest anyone who reads the list to keep this in mind.

Famous People: Elvis, the President, the Pope, Cleopatra, Hanna Montana, Jonas Brothers

Professionals: doctor, nurse, veterinarian, firemen, teacher, lawyer, librarian, nun, race car driver, sports outfits (baseball, soccer, etc), astronaut, pilot, rock n' roller

Cultural costumes:
Roman in toga, hippy, cowboy/girl without the gun (substitute a rope), Geisha, Native American, Pilgrim, disco, any country’s traditional garb

Traditional Halloween costumes: pumpkin, bat, cat, ghost*, skeleton*, angel

*note:  These costumes are common for the Day of the Dead.  I don’t condone turning them into something scary with gore or blood.

Funny costumes: clown, juggler, acrobat, magician,

Nature costumes:
pumpkin, flower, gourd,

Food costumes: cup cakes, (well any food really)

Animals: most pacifists would deem that all animals are acceptable even predators, I would stay away from fake blood, think cats and rabbits for girls, dinosaurs for boys

Myths: unicorn, fairy, good witch, wizard, gnome, alien, king, elf, hobbit

TV, Movies, Books: Bob the Builder, Harry Potter*, Dorothy, Madeleine, Nemo, Ariel, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Thomas the Train, High School Musical characters, Lightning McQueen, Scooby-Doo, Curious George, Super Why characters, Veggie Tales characters, Backyardigans characters, Cat in the Hat

*note:  While Harry tends to resolve his conflicts with a wand, he doesn’t use kill blows and casts defensive spells.  It’s up to the pacifistic mom or dad to decide whether Harry uses an acceptable way of defending himself in the face of imminent death or if he is still too violent.  Some parents may decide to leave out Harry because they feel uncomfortable about characters who use magic.  Harry Potter may be a better suited costume for teenagers who can discern the difference between defense and violence as well as real and fantasy.

I also have a few tips for those parents who want to avoid a fight with their child over Halloween costumes.  I know that I’m not a parent yet, but these are ideas I’ve given/received while working at a day care center.  Most day care centers do not allow play weapons. 

A good way to come up with non-violent costumes is to have your child choose his or her favorite book or movie. Then build a costume around their choice.  Most movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Spider Man, Bat Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Transformers are rated PG or PG-13.  Most G movies don't have any violent content, so young children won't be given the option to choose a violent character.  Be careful about some super heroes in G rated movies or some books.  They do not tend to resolve their conflicts peacefully. 

Teens have to be given more freedom to choose their costume.  If they choose a violent costume, try having a discussion with them about alternatives.  Strongly discuss how disturbing the costume is and why.  If they still persist, you have at least talked to them about non-violence.  Many older teens aren't big into trick-or-treating anyway. They enjoy haunted houses which is an opportunity to discuss real violence vs. fantasy violence.  They also like handing out candy to young trick-or-treaters or taking younger children out to trick-or-treat.  Teens are better equipped to understand fantasy vs. real-violence and to learn about what Halloween is: a religious holiday.  However, I think discussing real violence vs. fantasy violence with teenagers is still important even though they probably know the difference.  Violent videos of teenagers beating each other up are being posted on the Internet everyday, so I don‘t believe the message is being spread

I hope that this article has helped you choose a Halloween costume for your child this year or given you a moment to pause and think about what Jesus felt about peace and non-violence.  Jesus is the ultimate super hero.  Wear reflector tape, carry a flashlight, and have a safe and non-violent Halloween this year.  God bless.  

View my blog "My Twisted Life's Journey":

photo by  dchrisoh

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