Scared of Halloween

Edward Hudgins
Issue CCXV - October 30, 2009
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Halloween has its origins in superstition, and sadly, it invokes old and new superstitions still. Halloween, from "All Hallows Eve," was the evening before the Catholic All Saints Day and was supposed to be haunted by demons jealous of the holy day to follow. It also had roots in prehistoric Celtic mythology.

But in modern times it's developed into a fun day where children dress in ghoulish or cute costumes and canvass the neighborhood for candy while adults at masquerade parties imbibe more mature fare. Granted some juveniles get more into the tricks than the treats. And the occasional morbid-Goth youth can make it into an obsession with darkness and death, though they probably do that on the other 364 days of the year as well. But generally Halloween is about having fun.

Yet in our politically correct age this fall tradition is falling on hard times, under attack from, shall we say, rather diverse sides. Some extreme Christian groups oppose Halloween because the day represents the worship of Satan. Declares one Christian website, "Our forefathers recognized Halloween's association with the occult. The Pilgrims banned celebrating Halloween in America. The ban lasted until 1845." According to that site it was those damned Irish Catholics who raised that tradition from the dead.

On the other side of the—what to call it?—religious/political spectrum, in Canada a memo from the Toronto District School Board cautioned teachers that students from different backgrounds won't understand "the Christian, sexist demonization of pagan religious beliefs as 'fun.'" It went on to state that "Halloween is a religious day of significance for Wiccans and therefore should be treated respectfully." Wiccans are witches, that is, grown-ups who dress up funny but make a show of taking primitive superstitions seriously—worshipping the Earth-goddess Gaia, magic spirits they imagine populate our world, and the like.

And we find Europeans reacting against encroachments of Halloween back into the Old World from whence the tradition came. Some, like Catholic theologian Giordano Frosini, complain that it's a "manifestation of neo-paganism." But most nay-sayers just don't like American-style commercialization of that day—sales of costumes and candy—which, says Frosini, "undermines our cultural identity."

If you like to have fun on this day, fine. If not, if you think it's silly, fine as well. But it's sad that a jumble of competing superstitions and sensitivities is politicizing what was once a lark of a nice autumn night.


Dr. Edward Hudgins directs advocacy and is a senior scholar at The Atlas Society, the center for Objectivism.

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