Is It Wrong to Celebrate Halloween?
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October 27, 2013
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

One October you’re happily giving out candy and sending the
kids to parties dressed as mini ghosts and zombies, the next you’
re branded a devil worshipper. Every year newspaper articles
and website reports attest to how Halloween has gotten out of
hand. Doesn’t Halloween glorify evil? Isn’t it wrong to scare
children and celebrate death? Aren’t you hedging into Satan-
worship by carving pumpkins and putting on ghoulish masks?

Halloween is traditionally a time of superstition and celebration,
when fall turns into deep, dark winter and the boundaries
between the spirit world and the everyday world become
blurred. Today, Americans spend around $6 billion every year on
Halloween, making it the US’s second largest commercial holiday
after Christmas, according to the History Channel. Halloween ---
is it harmless fun or something more sinister?

Ancient Origins of the Halloween Festival

Halloween is believed to have begun as an ancient Celtic festival
called Samhain. During Samhain Celts would light bonfires, tell
fortunes, and don costumes to protect themselves from
marauding ghosts.

The Celts lived in Ireland, the UK and northern France over
2,000 years ago and Samhain marked the end of summer and
fall, and the beginning of winter. Celtic New Year fell on 1st
November and on the night of the 31st October they believed
the spirits of the dead returned to earth, wrecking crops and
causing havoc.

Pagans believed that ghosts could be placated with treats and
spirits would be confused and tricked by putting on costumes –
hence the tradition of trick-or-treating and wearing costumes.
Masks would hide your identity and prevent dead relatives from
hounding you. Candles and fires kept spirits from your door.

In Roman times two festivals were combined with the
celebration of Samhain – Feralia commemorated the dead while a
celebration of the goddess Pomona honored fruit and trees. By
1,000AD November 1st had become All Saints Day; a Catholic
commemoration of saints and martyrs that was later expanded
as a way to honor the souls of the departed.

Halloween in America

So far, so superstitious. Early cultures often held rituals
associated with the changing of the seasons and the memory of
the dead in order to understand and cope with the calamities
that a death in the family or a terrible harvest could cause. But
surely modern America has no place for such irrationality? Early
Puritans certainly seemed to think so. Puritans banned both
Christmas and Halloween. In England, the Puritan parliament
outlawed Halloween and its associated Pagan festivities.

It was only in the 19th Century that Halloween began to be
celebrated in its familiar form. Immigrants from Ireland coming
to the US in the wake of the potato famine in the second half of
the 19th Century brought their traditions with them and
Americans began dressing in costumes, bobbing for apples,
carving pumpkins, and going door-to-door to ask for money or
treats. Initially Halloween was celebrated only in Irish Catholic
settlements but by the 20th Century Halloween celebrations
were more widespread.

Where in the World Do People Celebrate Halloween?

Today Halloween is celebrated across Europe and in many
countries around the world including America, Canada, South
America, Australia and Japan.

In Latin America, "Dia de los Muertos" is celebrated with a three-
day festival designed to honor dead relatives and friends that
are said to revisit earth. Families set up altars and burn incense
and candles. Graves are tidied and decorated with flowers and
wreaths. Relatives gather at the shrines to talk about the dead
and to remember their past.

But Halloween is not a universally-accepted festival. Many
religious leaders and concerned parents and teachers have
objected to Halloween and attempted to ban Halloween
celebrations and festivities.

A Day for Devil-Worship? Halloween and Satanism

Halloween and devil worship go hand-in-hand, some church
leaders claim. In the 1970s, opposition to Halloween grew
strong. Look at the fact, opposers stated, that when Anton
LaVey formed the Church of Satan he made Halloween one of
the organization’s holidays. Because Halloween celebrations
consist of dressing up in ghoulish costumes and messing around
with black cats, devil masks, and skulls, opposition links it to a
celebration of evil spirits and an attempt to conjure them into
our everyday lives.

Today, however, Americans are more likely to suffer stomach
upsets than spiritual encounters – one quarter of all candy sold
annually in the United States is for Halloween. And Halloween
fans point out that Halloween is actually based on the practice of
scaring spirits away and keeping them out of the home, not
attracting them. In this way Halloween could be seen as the
opposite of Satanic.

Politically Correct Backlash

Opposition to Halloween in schools and colleges today has less
to do with fear of turning the nation’s youth into devil
worshippers than it does with political correctness and safety

Every year Halloween hits the headlines after schools ban
celebrations because they take up too much curriculum time, and
churches call on families to keep their children indoors. We
shouldn’t be glorifying extortion, claim community leaders, when
talking about the practice of going door-to-door demanding
candy corn to prevent vandalism. Halloween comes under fire
when homeowners associations consider trick-and-treating
soliciting and it is therefore banned – even if the solicitor is a
five-year-old dressed up as a fairy.

Students at the University of Colorado Boulder were banned
from wearing offensive Halloween costumes including dressing
up as geishas, native Americans, cowboys, “white trash”, and
sex workers. The dean of students wrote, “Making the choice to
dress up as someone from another culture, either with the
intention of being humorous or without the intention of being
disrespectful, can lead to inaccurate and hurtful portrayals of
other people's cultures.”

Actress Juliet Hough is currently trying to quell a backlash
against her choice to put on blackface and dress up fro
Halloween as a character from a TV show on prison inmates,
"Orange is the New Black".

Halloween Fear Factor

Halloween really put the fear into parents in the 1980s when
urban legends spread like wildfire of heroine-laced candy and
poisoned treats intentionally given to children. Every parent
went through their children’s candy stash with a magnifying
glass, terrified by stories of children dropping dead after trick-or-
treating. The panic turned out to be unjustifiable. Research later
found that no child was seriously injured or killed as a result of
eating poisoned candy or apples on Halloween. However,
research also shows that children are four times more likely to
be hit by a car on Halloween than any other date, a statistic
worth bearing in mind if you are considering whether to
accompany your child treat-or-treating or to a Halloween party.
Plus, a major purpose of Halloween is clearly to frighten people
– should we be welcoming fear in any form? Is it wrong to
celebrate Halloween?

Like other holidays in the US Halloween is potentially over-
commercialized and can be seen as bereft of any family values
when all kids do is put on a white sheet and demand candy with
menaces. And it’s true that children can be sensitive and risk
being upset by practical jokes or Halloween costumes.

But it is up to parents to set boundaries and make sure the
celebration is full of laughter along with spooky noises and bags
stuffed with sweets. Halloween provides a safe environment in
which to experience being frightened. Halloween is also a great
way to meet your neighbors, get outdoors and have some fun
with your family, attend a community party, or dress up your
pets – 11.5 percent of Americans make their pets part of the
celebrations, according to the History Channel.

While dressing up in an inappropriate costume and going out of
your way to terrify three-year-olds may not be the best way to
spend the evening, there are many ways in which you can
celebrate Halloween according to your own family values. A
festival with roots in wintry Pagan superstition at least gives a
different perspective to modern lives lived under florescent lights
and in centrally heated homes.

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