Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween is coming!

It's that time of the season when one day it's hot and the next day it's cold. Rainy one day, sunny the following day. Football season is in full swing (pun) while baseball is coming to a close (will the Yankees do it again?) and basketball is making its first push. I love it! In October you seem to get all four seasons packed into just 31 days.

And then comes Halloween. I remember when I was a kid, Halloween was the second greatest day of the year behind Christmas. You got to dress up in your favorite costume (I was usually a ghost because it was cheap and easy) and go door to door in your neighborhood saying "trick or treat", and amazingly people would put candy in your bag, bucket, grocery sack, whatever you could find that was big enough to hold a neighborhoods worth of candy (I used a pillow case). Then you'd go home and pour out all that candy on the floor and separate it into your favorites (Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfingers, Tootsie Roll's) and the one's that weren't your favorites. You'd hide your favorites for later (although I would have to have a couple of favorites to begin with) and start in on the others that were good but not as good, and you'd be happy to share this candy with anyone who would like some. You'd eat candy until you couldn't eat anymore! Good times.

Then came the year that someone in our neighborhood (mind you I grew up in a nice neighborhood) put razor blades in some apples. Halloween was never the same. After that, for Halloween we could only go to peoples houses that our parents knew. Right then, our haul of loot went from 200 homes to about 20-30. Bummer to say the least. Then came stories of people poisoning candy with syringes making it difficult to tell if someone had tampered with it. My parents then made us pour out our candy, and they would inspect each piece individually. It really took a lot of the fun out of Halloween.

Here in the last decade or so, I've noticed that Halloween has made a resurgence of sorts. More kids are getting out and trick or treating and they're going to every house that has a light on, looking for that sugary treasure. I even see more adults decorating for Halloween. My neighbor down the street always has a mini haunted house. He has probably a dozen life-sized monsters that move and talk as well as one larger than life monster (it's a huge pumpkin ghoul about 10 feet tall and it scares me) and a bunch of other scary creatures that he makes you walk through to get to his treats. People come from all over the Katy area just to see what he's going to do each year. It's really great to see cars parked all up and down my street with parents and their children, in costume, heading towards Don's house. Did I mention he plays that scary music from the movie Halloween? He does. It's creepy.

So Halloween is back right? For now, but they're trying to take it away again. I keep hearing in the news that Halloween has too many religious overtones, and that with the separation of church and state in this county, we need to get rid of this special day because it may offend some people. Get serious! For one, if anybody was ever offended, why haven't we heard of it. I mean they want to get rid of Halloween before it offends someone. That's a new one on me. Preemptive offensive. Is that an oxymoron?

Well, I did some checking, and it seems Halloween has almost no religious overtones. And, the religious overtones it has, were put there by the church in the 9th century to dampen the effect of the pagan festival that took place on that day.

The Pagan festival that took place on October 31st each year was called Samhain, a festival to celebrate the end of the "lighter half" of the year and to usher in the "darker half" of the year. It was also believed that on this day, the spirit world had an easier time of crossing over to the living world. Hence the costumes, which were made to keep the bad spirits away.

Now stay with me here. The word Halloween comes from "All Hallows Eve", which is the eve of "All Saints Day". All Saints Day was on May 13th of each year until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved it to November 1st, which back in the era of the Florentine calendar, each new day started at sunset of the previous day (October 31st). With the Gregorian calendar, All Saints Day is now on November 1st. So Halloween is celebrated the day before, or the eve (e'en, evening) of a religious event, not the event itself.

So what do we do? Do we change the name of Halloween back to Samhain? Or do we get rid of Halloween altogether? Or move All Saints Day back to May 13th? Maybe we should just let people decide if they want to take part in an age-old tradition that started well before this country existed! If you don't want to be part of Halloween, don't. If you do, let's go trick or treating!

Question. When did we quit getting to choose?

Until next time,



  1. My dad insisted on X-raying all of my candy before I could eat any of this. This meant not eating candy until the next day, of course. I am glad to hear Halloween is making a comeback!

    My brother and I once walked up to a house in our neighborhood, and a large poster on the door read: "HALLOWEEN IS THE DEVIL'S HOLIDAY." My mom was not happy that her elementary-aged kids had just seen that.

  2. I agree, Darby! It's a free country and I, for one, plan to celebrate Halloween!