As soon as October comes around, halloween decorations are already up and retailers are in full swing. For places that actually see a real autumn, there is a nice nip in the air and even the trees seem to be wearing colorful costumes. Hospital employees join in the fun as they decorate each floor with a different theme, much like around Christmas time. Clowns, however, should be careful not to assume that all families are open to this “holiday”.
Many people do not take part because they have a religious or cultural objection to this particular day. Halloween is technically not a holiday, but it has traditions that people like to take part in. There is really nothing to commemorate, however-this is mostly a holiday about superstitions, real or otherwise. Many of the traditions have pagan origins, which offends some; even magic tricks can be offensive. The hospital clown must therefore be prepared to entertain without involving halloween themes or tricks.
If you and your partner want to get in costume to celebrate, choose costumes that do not have traditional halloween themes. Avoid witches, ghosts, monsters, pumpkins and vampires. Get creative; make it so your clown character is the one dressing up. We had a puppet named Charlie at my former hospital, so I made myself a halo and wings and called myself “Charlie’s angel”. Two of my former colleagues switched costumes-she wore his top hat and tails and he wore her bumble bee tutu!
Do not try to convince them that there is nothing wrong with this day or that what you are doing is innocent. Respect their beliefs, entertain them in a different way or politely take your leave if they prefer that you skip their room. No matter what, hospital clowns are there for whatever the patients, families, visitors and employees need in the moment; they are not there to impose their performance on anyone.
Lucy E. Nunez has been a theatrical performer since 2002. She created Nurse Lulu for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in 2014. She was a resident clown there and at Baptist Children's Hospital. For more information please visit: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds