Posts Tagged “all hallows eve”

Jack O'LanternHalloween is one of those odd things that most Americans don’t think much about, but a small number obsess over. It’s become a vast economic boon, being one of the most profitable retail holidays. It’s a major driver of social events, with people holding Halloween parties all over the place, and businesses hosting Halloween events, too.

But some Americans don’t see Halloween as fun, they see it as downright profane. Back in my own fundie days, the circle of Christians I was part of, didn’t care for it much, viewing it as a pagan — if not Satanic — celebration that Christians had to stay away from. Influential Christian leaders like Marion “Pat” Robertson have condemned Halloween as “Satan’s night” (WebCite cached article). Some Christians who’ve shunned it even came up with a simultaneous alternative they called “JesusWeen” (cached). Yes, that’s right … JesusWeen. Another Christian anti-Halloween phenomenon are the many “Hell houses” hosted by churches around the country, this time of year (cached). Some Jews have reservations about Halloween, too, and for similar reasons.

Once in a while this tension between Halloween-as-an-all-American-tradition and Halloween-as-profane-diabolical-celebration breaks open into something unexpected. An example of this just occurred in my home state of Connecticut. Milford public schools, as Milford Patch explains, cancelled an annual Halloween parade, and some aren’t happy (cached):

Halloween has been cancelled in the Milford Public Schools this year and that decision isn’t sitting well with numerous city parents.

In a note sent home to Milford parents last week the seemingly unpopular decision was announced.

“This year the Milford School District has decided the following: Halloween parades will not take place in any Milford elementary school. The decision arose out of numerous incidents of children being excluded from activities due to religious, cultural beliefs, etc. School-day activities must be inclusive. Halloween costumes are not permitted for students or staff during the day at school.”

The sanctimonious outrage as a result of this decision has been palpable. Online petitions have demanded Halloween be restored in Milford schools. The rage has been particularly loud amid the Right-wing media, such as on Daily Caller (cached) and National Review (cached). In the eyes of the Right, this is “political correctness” (aka Leftism) run amok. The curious part about this, of course, is that it’s religiously-conservative Christians who’re the ones who usually object to Halloween (as I noted above), and nearly all of those are politically conservative, just like the rest of the Right. So I have no idea how or why there could be any clear Leftist agenda behind a school system not having its Halloween parade.

At any rate, the Milford schools couldn’t withstand the Right-wing campaign against them, and as Milford Patch reports, yesterday evening they surrendered on the matter, and explained what they had done and why (cached):

Just before 5 p.m. Milford school officials released a statement to the media regarding Halloween in schools.

The statement was written by Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Feser.…

We are writing to you in response to the accusations that have been made against the school system around how we celebrate Halloween in the schools.

The misinformation around the decisions the school made tied to celebrating Halloween is huge, and the spreading of untruths by parents and members of the community very disturbing.…

Ultimately, all eight principals, with my endorsement, chose to focus their energies on a family Halloween celebration, and forego the 20 minute parade in school. The thinking behind this decision was that a family event in the early evening would enable all who wanted to be a part of a Halloween celebration to do so.

Meanwhile, children who for religious or cultural reasons would not take part, could easily, and without stigmatization, not attend the event. In addition, in recognition of many working parents who have difficulty leaving work to come to school, an evening event would allow them to be present with their children.…

Sad to say, while careful and sensitive thought went into the decision to celebrate Halloween at a school/PTA-sponsored major event outside of the school day, there are those who unmercifully attacked the decision, falsely accusing the Milford Public Schools for banning Halloween.

We have been accused of being un-American, of denying children participation in an American tradition, and that we should be ashamed. We struggle to understand why we should be ashamed about the Halloween celebration that each school/PTA is sponsoring, wherein children are encouraged to wear costumes, will be given candy, will spend an hour or more in fun and games.…

There are those who feel a 20 minute parade is more important, however, and its elimination is contributing to the demise of Milford as a city and Milford as a community, as well as the demise of the Milford Public Schools.

Once again, then, we see America’s Right wing flipping out, going berserk, and mercilessly bullying people due to an outrage they’ve worked up among themselves over something they never understood in the first place. Way to go, guys. Way to go! You must be so proud of behaving with just as much immaturity as the young grammar-school kids whose Halloween parade you’ll tell yourselves you saved. Well done!

For the record — and to clear away any of the misconceptions associated with Halloween in the US — here’s the real scoop on it: Halloween as it’s celebrated in the United States, is more or less a modern holiday created by a culture which happens to be majority-Christian. Sure, it has elements of the old Celtic Samhain, as well as a few other pagan influences. But it also has more modern influences, e.g. Guy Fawkes Day. It is firmly pegged on the Christian calendar as the evening prior to All Saints’ Day (aka All Hallows’ Day, hence, Hallow E’en). Halloween is, in short, an amalgam of pre-Christian as well as Christian-era practices, contorted by American commercialism into something which has completely lost any tangible connection to anything the Druids were doing in ancient Europe on Samhain, or even to the Gunpowder Plot cooked up by Guy Fawkes.

Put another way … Halloween is not a religious holiday. It is also not entirely an areligious holiday. It has little to do with Christianity, except that it happens to be the evening before All Saints Day, which is a Christian holiday (although it’s one few Christians really “celebrate” any more).

So just go to your favorite Halloween celebration, and if you have kids, let them go out trick-or-treating, and enjoy the day. But without any of the religious or ideological baggage it seems to have kicked up.

Photo credit: Patrick, via Flickr.

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No less an authority on the matter than Pope Benedict XVI has declared Halloween to be “anti-Christian.” The (UK) Telegraph breaks the news:

The Holy See has warned that parents should not allow their children to dress up as ghosts and ghouls on Saturday, calling Hallowe’en a pagan celebration of “terror, fear and death”.

The Roman Catholic Church has become alarmed in recent years by the spread of Hallowe’en traditions from the US to other countries around the world. …

The Vatican issued the warning through its official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, in an article headlined “Hallowe’en’s Dangerous Messages”.

The paper quoted a liturgical expert, Joan Maria Canals, who said: “Hallowe’en has an undercurrent of occultism and is absolutely anti-Christian.”

Let’s be clear on the matter: Halloween as it’s celebrated in the United States, is more or less a modern holiday created by a culture which happens to be majority-Christian. Sure, it has elements of the old Celtic Samhain, as well as a few other pagan influences. But it also has more modern influences, e.g. Guy Fawkes Day. It is firmly pegged on the Christian calendar as the evening prior to All Saints’ Day (aka All Hallows’ Day, hence, Hallow E’en). Halloween is, in short, an amalgam of pre-Christian as well as Christian-era practices, contorted by American commercialism into something which has completely lost any tangible connection to anything the Druids were doing in ancient Europe on Samhain, or even to the Gunpowder Plot cooked up by Guy Fawkes.

Put another way … Halloween is not a religious holiday. It is also not an areligious holiday. It has very little to do with Christianity, except that it happens to be the evening before All Saints Day.

The Pope makes the mistake of trying to relate everything to his religion, and because he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about, he decides it can only be “against” Christianity. Well, your Holiness, this time it’s not about Christianity or Catholicism at all. Put your Christian persecution complex away for once and try to grow up just enough to understand that. OK?

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