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Sep 21

Halloween Isn’t a Fit for All Families, But We Can Navigate Differences With Love.

by Meghan Fitzgerald

Fall is here, and Halloween is coming. Maybe you can smell it in the air, or maybe, like my kids, you’ve been planning your costume since June (literally). Or, maybe that kind of joy is quite the opposite of what you feel as October 31st rolls around.

It turns out that, when you control for the impact of COVID, 70% of Americans celebrate Halloween. So, that means that many people celebrate, but certainly not all—nearly one out of every three people don’t. And, it’s not only people who have aged out of the holiday—for many families, the holiday itself doesn’t feel like a match for who they are and what they believe. No matter how you celebrate (or don’t), we see and value you!

Though I never questioned celebrating Halloween as a kid, experiencing Halloween with the wonderfully diverse set of families and educators in our Tinkergarten community has taught me so much—not just about Halloween but about how to stay curious and how to navigate differences with love. 

Navigating Strong Reactions

When a topic like Halloween surfaces, I’ve noticed that many people initially dig in and share strong reactions in ardent defense of their positions (we humans are pretty good at that). The responses include things like: 

  • expressing a disbelief that a holiday that feels so clearly joyful to me could give someone else pause
  • feeling like Halloween, as celebrated by most people, fails to honor those whose deep beliefs formed the roots of the holiday
  • questioning the commercial nature of the whole business
  • and rejecting Halloween and all that it stands for because it simply runs counter to their deeply held beliefs.

The range is wide, and the feels are deep for many.

In so many spaces these days, these strongly held positions would be the end of it. But, I’ve also noticed that, if we stay curious and open, we can engage in conversations that challenge us, stretch us and make us think and feel so we learn how to understand one another.

Staying Curious

I can recall having one of those same initial reactions in the early days of Tinkergarten. A teammate who was very open about why Halloween was not a match for her approached me with genuine wonder about how we could support all families this time of year. Instead of sticking to my desire to defend the holiday, I listened and leaned in to better understand. 

And she listened, too. She respected my joy for Halloween. As a result, we were able to bring in other teammates and start what has become our ongoing, active and reflective work at Tinkergarten—to figure out how to show up and support all families as we, a diverse community, celebrate that which brings some of us joy while leaving space for why those same things do not bring joy, and possibly even bring pain on others. This messy, wonderful work still includes but reaches far beyond Halloween.

Scholar and activist Loretta Ross teaches about how to “call in” instead of call out and engage in productive conversations around differences. She defines a movement—and I believe ours is a powerful  movement—not as people who are thinking the same way and moving the same way, but as people who are thinking differently while moving the same way. 

What a wonderful shift—we can be different and united, not around all of our beliefs, but around a powerful shared purpose. In our case in Tinkergarten, that is a shared love of our kids, nature and play.

Why Do We Value Days Like Halloween?

First, celebrations, traditions and rituals often have deep connections to the natural world, and they can serve as a way to strengthen kids’ ties to nature, to family and to community—all things we know help kids thrive now and in the future. Halloween celebrations, in particular, are filled with the sensory experiences and pretend play that are two super powerful ways to spark wonder in kids and to activate young brains for learning. Children’s minds are wired to pretend and operate outside of the literal—and for good brain-building reasons. So, we welcome opportunities to help them wonder and explore the world through an imaginative lens.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”—Albert Einstein

Where We Are Today

In this October’s edition of our free outdoor play calendar, you’ll see that we share activities that families can choose to connect to either Halloween or Harvest—or just the joy of pretending and playing outside. The calendar also includes call outs for other holidays and days honoring specific traditions and ways of being and believing in the world—celebrations like Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Diwali and Yom Kippur. 

We’ve paired DIY activities with these days to offer families flexibility in approaching playful learning. Check out Amazing Apples for an example of how we weave together playful learning and making connections to our diverse community: 

  • Activity Ideas: Fall marks the start of apple season. We included 7 ways to explore this remarkable fruit!
  • Making Connections: Apples also play a special role in holiday rituals like the apples dipped in honey for Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of a new year in the Jewish tradition! Even if you don’t celebrate this holiday, you have the option (and, we encourage you!) to spark conversations with your kids about this tradition that is so special in the Jewish tradition.
  • Use What Works: Grown ups are also welcome to take inspiration in a way that works for their family! If you want to dive deeper into learning about Rosh Hashanah — go for it! Or, if it’s a better fit, simply try just the apple play ideas for now. 

And, we will continue to highlight a range of identities, cultures and approaches to celebrating, knowing and being–and we’ll insist on respect for differences and all people in our community. 

Difference is a reason for celebration and growth rather than a reason for destruction —Audre Lorde

Curiosity is a Superpower

It’s so important that we can have conversations and hold space for differences— differences in perspective, identity, personal experience, and community culture. 

We don’t all approach our work or lives in the same way, and though that makes moments like Halloween more complicated, curiosity about our differences is real, and it can be a superpower. We just have to remember that we are learning and listening to each other as well as teaching one another. 

“Curiosity is the one thing invincible in Nature.” —Freya Stark

Happy October

However you celebrate this October, we see you, value you and welcome you in!

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Meghan Fitzgerald

Founder

After 20+ years as an educator, curriculum developer and school leader, I have my dream gig—an entrepreneur/educator/mom who helps families everywhere, including my own, learn outside. Prior to Tinkergarten®, I worked as an Elementary School Principal, a Math/Science Specialist & and a teacher in public and private schools in NY, MA and CA. I earned a BA with majors in English and Developmental Psychology at Amherst College, an MS in Educational Leadership at Bank Street College, and was trained to become a Forest School leader at Bridgwater College, UK. My worldview is formed in response to a my environment, culture, family, identity and experiences, and I love to learn from others. What I write in this blog will inevitably betray the blind spots I have as a result—we all have them! Please reach out if there are other perspectives or world views I could consider in anything I write about. I welcome the chance to learn and update any pieces to broaden our shared perspective!
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