I blame author Rick Riordan and his “Percy Jackson” book series. He suddenly made it cool for 21st Century American kids to be into Greek mythology, i.e. gods, monsters, flying horses, women with snakes for hair… the whole Megillah.
Then again, I suppose the name I chose for my daughter didn’t exactly help. (Spoiler alert: It’s Ares.)
Because here’s where we are today: My 8-year-old daughter wants to be Artemis for Halloween. My 16-year-old, ever the costume maven, has leapt enthusiastically into the fray, re-purposing a pillowcase for a tunic, an old sheet for a sash, and bobby pins for the appropriate hair-do. My daughter provided her own bow, arrow,, and quiver, ‘cause that’s how she rolls.
There’s so much talk these days about raising strong, confident girls who will go out into the world and single-handedly fix both wage inequality and figure out how every woman can Have It All ™ (with or without leaning in any particular direction). My daughter has fixated on Artemis because she’s the Goddess of the Hunt, chastity (which, as far as my daughter currently understands it, means Artemis and her tree/ocean nymph maidens took vows never to marry—close enough), she’s good at archery, has a pet deer, wears stylish, high, colorful boots, and she can turn people into constellations (only in the “Percy Jackson” series, not in “real life,” as her brother is quick to point out from the heights of his world-weary 12-year-old-ness).
Artemis seems like the perfect role model for a 3rd grader to fixate on (last year, she fixated on Helen Keller, and next year it will be who knows what). Except for one thing: Should I really be encouraging a Jewish girl’s fascination with Greek gods?
My daughter has already asked me about the Syrian Greeks and the story of Hanukkah. Did those Syrian Greeks want the Jews in the story to pray to gods like Artemis? (I have no idea. I keep meaning to look that up.)
Furthermore, she goes to a Jewish Day School. Can a Jewish girl be a Greek god in the celebration of a pagan (is it? I need to look that up, too) holiday?
Fortunately, her school doesn’t do Halloween. (They lump it under no Mother’s Day, no Father’s Day, no Valentine’s Day, no Hallmark holidays, period; only Jewish ones). But many, if not most, of the kids still go trick-or-treating. And kids talk.
It’s not that I’m worried about what other people will think. (I am very, very bad at worrying about what other people will think, as those who’ve read me regularly might have noticed). I am more worried about what I should think.
Now, I don’t think that one Halloween costume is going to make my daughter turn her back on Judaism and embrace running through the woods with a tribe of loyal, perennial virgins as they pray to the gods of Mount Olympus. But I do wonder about the message I’m sending. Mostly because I have no idea what message I’m sending.
Am I suggesting to her that one god—one religion—is as good as another? That there is fundamentally no difference between any of them, save some cosmetic details? That they’re interchangeable? I wouldn’t agree to my daughter dressing up as Santa Claus, or, to stick to more actual religious imagery, the Virgin Mary. So why is Artemis fair game?
Or am I doing the opposite? By not making a big deal out of it, am I ensuring that this too shall pass (and, along the way, my daughter will become familiar with the stories that make up a great deal of Western civilization to this day, which I certainly have no problem with)?
Honestly, sometimes I think that if I’d just let her watch more soap operas, she’d have gotten her fix for convoluted family drama somewhere else—like I did.
As things stand now, it looks like Artemis will be heading out on October 31 in search of ceremonial offerings in the form of Snickers and Jolly Ranchers. (Though, considering how cold it’s been in New York the past few days, I’m wondering if she’ll be Artemis in a winter coat, and the whole issue will become moot.)
I haven’t exactly broached the subject with my daughter—as you can tell from above, I don’t know what I could, should, or would say. But I suspect she’s picked up on my issues, nonetheless.
Just this morning, she reassured me, “Don’t worry, Mommy, I’ll think of another costume to wear to school for Purim.”
At least I won’t have to worry about that.
Unless she’s planning on being Poseidon (her favorite male god), instead.