The Un-Halloween Parade!

In lieu of a Halloween Parade, my twins’ ultra-politically correct school held a “storybook character parade” this morning (Nov. 1st). As I discussed in my last post, while it’s not a violation of the First Amendment for American public schools to sponsor Halloween activities, I can’t blame our school for wanting to avoid controversy by renaming and repurposing the parade. The controversy relates to Halloween’s Pagan roots, which some claim conflict with their Christian beliefs even though these parades neither endorse a particular religion nor inhibit a person’s ability to practice her own religion. However, to the extent a new name (“character parade”) and a different purpose (promoting literacy) will defuse the controversy, I support the change. In the end, for my bibliophile children, it turned out to be more fun than a typical Halloween parade (though they didn’t like how many pictures I took of them this morning!*).

So, which characters did they choose?

One was a PANDA (not Kung Fu Panda!)

The other was a FOX (not because of Ylvis’ “What Does the Fox Say?”!)

They went as “Stillwater” from Zen Shorts & “the fox” from Fox Tails: Four Fables from Aesop.

Mar and Sa as Fox and Panda (2) (450x430)Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts, published in 2005, is a Caldecott Honor Book that features a panda named Stillwater who befriends three siblings. He tells them stories, two of which are from Zen Buddhist literature and one of which is from Taoism. As the Author’s Note explains, “‘Zen shorts’ are short meditations—ideas to puzzle over—tools which hone our ability to act with intuition.” I love this book, and so do my daughters. It is thought-provoking, calming, and simply beautiful.

Amy Lowry’s Fox Tails: Four Fables from Aesop unites four well-known fables — “The Fox and the Grapes,” “The Fox and the Crow,” “The Fox and the Goat,” and “The Fox and the Stork” — into one story. My daughters, who are already familiar with Aesop’s Fables, really enjoy Lowry’s retelling and her illustrations. The morals of these stories, which the Author’s Note explains in the back for anyone who can’t otherwise figure it out, always spark an interesting conversation with my girls. I was surprised my daughter would want to dress up as the fox, considering how mean he is. She seems to find his bad behavior intriguing. Hmmm. 😉

Overall, while I don’t want to see Halloween disappear at school, this was a nice alternative to a traditional parade of goblins, ghosts, and witches. It’s interesting that my children chose characters from one book related to Buddhism and Taoism and another based on fables authored centuries years before Christianity. I offer no apologies if that offends anyone.

*Pre-parade. I had to go to work, and so my mother went to cheer them on. It’s very nice to have a large extended family in the area!


  1. Don’t the pagans have any say AMB? Why should their traditions be forgotten? Seriously though I wonder how people these days are so easily offended (or pretend to be) and need to be placated. I’m sure the kids would be equally happy to dress up in accordance with any theme and wouldn’t care a jot about the (flimsy) religious connections. It ought to be fun, that’s all.

    1. It certainly isn’t necessary for the school to placate people who are overly sensitive about Halloween (it’s not a violation of the Constitution), but I don’t really mind if they’re able to find a compromise. As you said, the most important part is that the children still get to have fun. I think the character parade accomplished it. 🙂

  2. I think a storybook character parade (not as a replacement for Halloween mind you) is a fantastic idea! What a creative way to get the kids thinking more about the books they’re reading. And cute costumes! 😀

  3. They look adorable in their costumes from the books. I still think it is sending the wrong message to children. How will most kids grow up having so many things banned or renamed in the shadow of being PC. It will likely be a generation questioning the religious implication of everything. And to me, it will be at some point, be a divide only making the differences between religions only greater, just by what we are losing – resentment at some point. Considering what happens around the world today with countries at odds over beliefs and the hatred from that, does it not seem petty for the US to keep drawing attention to these seemingly harmless holidays? And the marines being defunded by not removing references to God in oaths? Where does it end?

    1. Thank you! I loved the costumes and books they chose for the parade. I agree that political correctness can be taken too far, but I don’t think it’s worth fighting the school’s decision to be overly cautious (not as long as the kids still get to celebrate and as long as the school understands that it doesn’t actually have a constitutional obligation to appease the most sensitive members of our community).

  4. It is interesting how you point out Halloween’s pagan roots, but many Christian (Catholic) festivals celebrate the day as well. And boy, do they celebrate! Mexico’s Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos) begins on Halloween and is a fantastical celebration that uses costumes and characters to celebrate one’s ancestors. The celebration lasts three days. I think the school administrators are looking for excuses not to celebrate (nod, nod, wink, wink). I think it would be a good lesson on multicultural traditions. 🙂 I know the east coast does not have as many people of Mexican ancestry but here in California they are a very large percentage of the population.

    1. Yeah, the school administrators are definitely looking for a way to tone down Halloween, which is a headache for them for a variety of reasons. It takes away from the regular curricula and it also raises controversy. There is definitely overlap with Dia de los Muertos, which Nicolas Rogers discusses in his book (the one I discussed in my last post). He says, “Halloween and the Day of the Dead share a common origin in the Christian commemoration of the dead on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. But both are thought to embody strong pre-Christian beliefs.” I think there will be some people who will find fault with Halloween no matter what it’s history is. I don’t really mind if the school decides to celebrate it in a more inclusive way, as long as the kids still get to have fun. Halloween is always evolving. Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

    1. Zen Shorts is such a great book! I enjoy reading Fox Tails with my kids (and my kids love it), though I prefer other versions of Aesop’s Fables. I particularly like Jerry Pickney’s version.

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