Laughing at our fears
To show that at this time of year children can have fun, but consideraton for others is very important. To consider why we make fun of potentially scary things.
by Jan Edmunds
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To show that at this time of year children can have fun, but consideration for others is very important. To consider why we make fun of potentially scary things.
Preparation and materials
- Music from Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens would help to create the right atmosphere as the children enter the room.
- A pumpkin lantern could be displayed.
- The apple-bobbing game, if demonstrated, would need a shallow bowl and several apples. A towel is useful!
This is a time of the year that can be great fun for children. Halloween and Bonfire Night come within one week of one another. I wonder how many of you know why we celebrate Halloween.
31 October was known as All Hallows (meaning holy) Eve and in ancient Britain, before people knew about the teachings of Jesus, it was the eve of the New Year, when people celebrated their Harvest Festival and when their animals were brought in for the winter. It was also a time when people believed that the souls of dead people came back to life. Fires were lit to guide the spirits back to their homes and food was put out for them.
- Years later, when Christianity had been brought to England, some people still continued to believe that supernatural creatures roamed on this special night. Many superstitions still existed, such as if girls combed their hair three times in front of a mirror they expected to see in the mirror an image of their future husbands.
Point out that very few people believe this kind of thing happens on 31 October now and Halloween has become more of a fun time, with games such as ‘apple bobbing’ and ‘hide the ring on a string’. But some Christians believe that there is something serious behind the fun and they warn people not to play around with things that they don’t understand.
- The tradition of gouging a pumpkin or turnip to make a grinning face developed as a way of scaring away evil spirits. A candle was placed inside and the lantern was put in the window to warn the spirits to keep away. Some of these traditions still exist today but they are treated as fun. (Here is an ideal time to light your lantern and/or let some children demonstrate apple bobbing.)
- Halloween was also a time for making mischief. In many parts of England it is still known as Mischief Night. Trick or Treat has become a tradition where children dress up in costumes and knock on doors demanding food or money from the householders, threatening mischief unless they are rewarded.
- Halloween is another excellent excuse for eating or drinking, for having parties and having fun, but it is important that we do not forget that there are those for whom it is not so amusing. It can be very frightening for elderly people or those who live alone. Many animals can also be disturbed by the frivolities. So do have your fun but please have some consideration for other people.
- Point out that Halloween events should be organized by a responsible adult so that any activities are safe and children are not out alone after dark.
Time for reflection
People make fun of things they are scared of, and then those things don’t seem so frightening. That’s why a scary night when people believed that evil spirits were flying around has become a time for dressing up and laughing at scary things.
What are you scared of?
Can you learn to laugh at it?
When we are overcome with excitement on occasions such as Halloween and Bonfire Night,
teach us to have consideration for other people.
Remind us that there are those who do not share our exuberance
and can be worried by our actions.
Help us to be sensible in all that we do
and keep us all safe this day and always.
‘He who would valiant be’ (Come and Praise, 44)