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Monday, October 24, 2011

Leave Halloween alone

As a pre-teen, I fondly remember all of the neighborhood kids heading off to school on Halloween Day dressed up as our favorite movie character, or frankenstein monster. Our teachers also got into the act - my language arts teacher came dressed as a witch, my math teacher - as a 50's greaser (truth be told he probably grew up a 50's greaser!). Led by our Principal, we participated in the annual Halloween Parade through the hallways which always ended in the auditorium where were treated plenty of candy and a Dixie cup's worth of fruit punch.  The lights were dimmed and we watched a silly slide projector show accompanied by scary music.  It was all harmless fun, and -- nothing more than that.

Leave Halloween to the kids; keep the
bureaucrats out of trick or treat
I also remember that our teachers were smart enough to incorporate the season's myths into learning opportunities; they read us stories like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, and others.  Art and music class were also holiday-themed; we drew pictures of black cats, made ghosts out of tissue paper and yarn, and cut-out Jack-O'Lanterns from construction paper.  Yesterday's teachers seemed to understand the value of encouraging imagination and creativity - while today's curriculum is hell-bent on cramming vocabulary and math down the throats of Kindergartners to meet idiotic testing standards (perhaps a topic to be discussed at a later date).

Halloween is not a real holiday in the sense that we don't close businesses, markets, or public offices as we do when we celebrate Thanksgiving, or Christmas.  But it is a long held North American tradition that, according to most sources, has been in practice to one degree or another since 1911 - and perhaps much earlier than that in small villages up and down the eastern seaboard. 

Halloween is largely a product of European immigration - mostly that of Scotland, Ireland and England where the practice of celebrating All Hallows Eve was widespread, and believed to have originated in part from Middle Age druid practices. It's not a surprise given the early 20th century influx of immigrants from that region that their traditions and superstitions took root in America. The term Halloween is of Scottish origin - the word Hallow means blessed, and e'en is an old word for evening.  Further, you may have noticed that in most traditional Christian Churches, the first Sunday in November is referred to as All Saints Day.  The creation of which was originally meant to co-opt the existing Pagan holiday and provide a Christian alternative in its place.

We are all willing to accept that Halloween contains elements that are full of idiocy.  Every Halloween we see kids (and adults) dressing like evil deities, invoking the dead, sometimes damaging personal property, and of course - the very act of sending our children door-to-door to threaten people and demand candy is obnoxious - these are among the accepted negatives associated with this nutty holiday.  But for the most part, All Hallows Eve goes as quickly as it comes, and our children go back to their November classrooms - to learn about Pilgrims and other such things.  All that is left behind from our Halloween traditions are bags full of candy, that us parents will bring into work to atempt to pawn off on our fellow office workers.  So, fear not - no mass conversions to Witchcraft or Devil Worship have been known to ever take place on the trick-or-treat route.

Hey Teacher... leave them kids alone!

Over the last ten years, we've seen a concerted effort by the political fringe on both the left and right to minimize, if not out-right ban Halloween.  In some religious towns, authorities have sought to ban the act of trick-or-treating in places such as Dunkard Township, Pennsylvania and Bellesville, Illinois, and other places across the Country.  Several Church groups have distributed pamphlets warning Christians not to participate in Halloween claiming that it's Satan's own holiday.  When I see the Republican Party get mixed up with these religious extremists, I can begin to understand why the GOP can be a very hard sell to some people.

But anti-Halloween activists are not limited just to right-wing zealots. Indeed, the more successful campaigns to eradicate Halloween from American culture have come from the loony left. For example, in Springfield, New Jersey the school board has sought to ban the wearing of customs in schools under the guise of political correctness. School administrators have taken the position that long-practiced "western-European traditions" have become a form of oppression for the more recent wave of immigrants.  It's hard to image exactly how a one-hundred year old tradition openly inclusive and embraced by nearly everyone in the country can be considered exclusionary

What ever happened to the belief that people coming to America were expected to accept and adopt our traditions, language, and values - no matter how quirky some traditions may seem?  No one is forced to abandon their principles or heritage, and always have the option of opting-out where public celebrations are concerned. So why in a society filled with a million choices,  must the minuscule minority viewpoint take precedence over the majority?   In our new, over-sensitive society where everyone's feelings are hurt if you look at them cross-eyed, we've become subject to tyranny by a select few self-centered malcontents who feel obligated to make things better for themselves at the expense of everyone else.

Pagans are concerned that they
 won't be taken seriously if they
have to compete with Star
Wars and Tinkerbell costumes
Damn commercialism!
Lately, some Pagan groups have gotten into the act of pushing for Halloween's removal from public school, too.  These folks find Halloween to be abhorrent because they claim witches and warlocks are misrepresented through the myths circulated by our commercial version of Halloween.  Of course, Halloween in its secular form - bobbing for apples and collecting candy - has nothing to do with the Wiccan practice of Samhain. But many school districts, fearful of a lawsuit lead by the goon-squad at the ACLU have shelved their Halloween in-school activities.  It's an atrocity that laws protecting the right to religion have been twisted to be used against fun-filled fantasy, in the name of pure fiction.

All of this lunacy by extremists on both sides of the spectrum leave all of us normal people in the middle - plainly dumbfounded.  Is Halloween a Satanic strategy meant to drag Americans down a hell-hole to worship evil as the far right suggests, or is Halloween a massive tool of oppression to coherce Eastern and Latin American immigrants to adopt western traditions and practices and surrender their own? Which is it?

I suggest that it's neither.  It's a bunch of kids and adults - dressing up in silly outfits, and indulging in candy and sweets to the point of sugar overload.  For God-sakes, let's let our kids have their right of passage - just like we did not so very long ago.  And just leave Halloween alone!

Rep Tim Larson (D-11)
still waits long into the
night for the arrival of
The Great Pumpkin.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the latest controversy here in Connecticut involving Halloween.  Fresh off the press, we see this great take in a Human Events column by John Hayward which is based on a news report which appeared today in the Associated Press. AP reports that East Hartford/South Windsor Democrat Tim Larson wants to formally move Halloween so that it always takes place on a Saturday regardless of the day of the week October 31 falls on.  It's great to know Rep. Larson has such deep thoughts.

Governor Dan Malloy, who's known to have a few dozen skeletons hiding in his own closet, made jest that it would confuse the ghosts and goblins if the night were moved.  I'm sure this will get big play down at DNC Headquarters.  Connecticut Democrats have had a big week in the National Press - first Rosa DeLauro wants a free diaper mandate, and now Connecticut Democrats want to move Halloween to aid them in their post-Halloween Bash hangovers.  As Chris Shays would say, "It's Outrageous!"

One prominent West Hartford businessman became visibly upset when he heard this news; he told The King, "That's the problem with the time we're living in. Festivals and celebrations come when they come, not when they - these self-indulgent b*stards want them to f'ng come. These people are selfish - trying to regulate everything, including holidays to meet their conveniences." 

He continued, "This nonsense reminds me [of] when the West Hartford Teacher's Union tried to push forward a change in the school start time to 10 am.  They used the archaic logic that kids are having trouble waking up to get to school on time - so let them sleep in. Again, another decision made without taking account of parents who might have to get to work.  It's me, me, me - all the time, and for every decision!"

I couldn't agree more.

Whether you're a Christian, Pagan or some creature from the netherworld, I hope you enjoy your Halloween.  And if you see your local school board or politician trying to mess with our traditions... again I say - just tell them to leave Halloween alone!



The original blog entry can be read at

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