Girl holds pumpkin on Halloween.

Change doesn’t look the way you think it might.

2018 has been a year of change. Before delving into what that means, it’s probably more important to mention that change isn’t experienced as the typical person might think. Change is a quiet whisper, the kind of thing you’re not sure you heard right. It’s a soft scent carried on the breeze – it catches you off guard. Like seasons slipping past, change comes and goes before you recognize it sometimes.

The trend of change in 2018 has to do with our sensitivity. It’s become apparent as time goes on we ascribe new meanings to words. Definitions are not quite what they once were with labels attaching meaning derived from a cultural climate that hasn’t seen stability in a few years. Cultural sensitivity can be described in one way though, especially now.


Cultural appropriation can and quite often does turn Halloween into a nightmare. The evening itself is already a nightmare, with masked people running around hiding from the evil spirits beneath their costumes, asking the (un)suspecting neighbors for tricks or treats.

To put it plainly, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, especially in this cultural climate.

One of the best things about Halloween is that for an evening, you don’t have to be yourself. You get to pretend to be someone else, literally masquerading as someone or something else. The whole point is to be otherwise for an evening, living if for just a moment beneath that mask. However some costumes take it too far. They add elements of misogyny and racism. They’re offensive. ThisIsInsider named the most offensive costumes of 2017 and the list included a “Men’s Arab Sheikh” costume as well as an “inflatable Ballerina”. Both costumes run the gamut of offensive to downright racist. This year, the general consensus is that culture is not a costume.

Offensive Halloween costumes may be somewhat understandable when coming from an adult. Alternatively, it seems far more likely an adult might wear that sort of costume. But that’s not to say parents aren’t worried about the implications of their child’s Halloween costume. It’s not a news that parents worry about their children dressing up as some of the Disney Princesses.

These beloved characters are historically some of the most popular Halloween costumes. Girls worldwide love the collective Disney Princesses. They’ve been reminaged over the years to stay relevant with time-honored traditions woven into their modern tales. Diversity in mind, some parents aren’t comfortable with their child wanting to dress up as one of the princesses. In fact, Moana is one of the most controversial and divisive costumes of 2018 – really, of children’s costumes overall.

Some parents are comfortable with their children dressing up in costumes that represent other cultures, but they do accept the popularity of the Princesses and aren’t against them as a whole. Merely the representation of another culture. This mom describes it with a fascinating and eye-opening view, suggesting that she doesn’t mind her child dressing up as a princess that’s a made up character. Like Elsa or Anna from Frozen! However, she’s not behind allowing her daughter to choose a costume based on the history of a people (Moana is from Polynesia for those of who don’t know).

The debate is divisive and real, that’s for sure – with some believing the concept is over the top while others celebrate the decision to respect another’s culture.

Change comes slowly. Suddenly it’s winter and the leaves have left the trees bare – all before you know it. With open minds and a general understanding of cultural appropriation, we’ll be able to intercept the climate change before it does more damage. Before we’re more insensitive and indignant. 

So you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. At the end of the day, celebrating Halloween is a tradition generations have enjoyed for whatever reason they may choose. Halloween as we know it may be changing alongside of our cultural climate, sculpting a less insensitive and less indignant future.