Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day
Public opinions about Halloween
Attitudes of the public:
A poll of visitors to the Beliefnet.com
website before Halloween for the year 2000 showed that a
wide range of beliefs exist about Halloween. The beliefs probably have not
changed much over the intervening years:
|"It's a fun holiday for kids and adult parties. I don't take it seriously."
|"It's a wonderful time to remember the dead
and celebrate the end of the year."
|"We shouldn't celebrate it because it has
occult origins and morbid overtones."
|"I celebrate it as a Christian holiday, the
ever of the Feast of All Saints."
|"It doesn't mean anything to me one way or the
The second category might be confusing to some. The high number (28%)
was probably generated largely by Wiccan and
other Neopagan surfers. Even though the total
number of Neopagans in North America probably doesn't exceed 1 million,
they often seem to be over-represented in religious Internet surveys.
The third category (12%) probably represents mainly conservative Christians
who tend to take a very
dim view of Halloween, because it includes references to Witchcraft,
Witches, ghosts, vampires, death-related topics, etc.
A survey of American adults was conducted by Scripps Howard News Service
and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University,
about one month before Halloween on 1999. One of the results was:
|Are books, TV shows and movies about vampires, Witches etc
Philosophy professor Cynthia A. Freeland of the University of Houston
has published a study of horror films about supernatural evil. She has found
that they are watched almost entirely by teens and young adults. Freeland said
that young adults,
believe the genre is harmless." On the other hand, "older
Americans are overwhelmingly concerned. People who have attended worship
services in a church of synagogue recently are much more likely to be worried
about occult books and films than are those who have
not. Women and parents were much more likely to be concerned than were men
or adults who have no children."
However, all of these concerns did not seem to dampen adults' enthusiasm for
Halloween. The same survey showed:
|Did you go trick or treating as a child?
|Will you allow your children to go out this year?
|Do you enjoy seeing the children in their costumes?
A special problem for 2004, and any other year where Halloween is on
Halloween is gradually increasing in popularity each year. There is
considerable opposition to its celebration by many religious conservatives,
both Christian and Muslim. But for one in seven years when Halloween falls
on a Sunday, a special problem surfaces. Some religious folks do not like
little demons and witches ringing doorbells on a Sunday -- a day
traditionally set aside by most Christians for God-honoring activities. Some
municipalities switch Halloween to the previous night. Some comments:
|Sandra Hulsey of Greenville, GA said: "You just don't do it on
Sunday. That's Christ's day. You go to church on Sunday, you don't go
out and celebrate the devil. That'll confuse a child." |
|Veronica Wright of Newnan GA, who bought a Power Rangers costume for
her son, said: "Moving it, that's like celebrating Christmas a week
early. It's just a kid thing. It's not for real."|
|Starr Burbic, longtime secretary to the mayor of Vestavia Hills, AL,
said: "About 15 years ago, we decided to have Halloween on Saturday
instead. People went crazy. We said, 'Never again.' It messed everybody
up to move Halloween. Some people don't like having it on a Sunday, but
we just couldn't find a way to make everyone happy."|
Many children like the chaos generated by a Halloween on Sunday. They go
out on Saturday and Sunday and clean up on all the goodies they can
collect. Some people solve the conflict by simply turning on their front
lights if they are open to trick-or-treating, and turn the lights off if
they are not. 1
Banning Halloween angers community:
The school board of Puyallup, WA decided to ban Halloween festivities
during class time for 2004. They had a number of reasons:
|Celebrating Halloween would offend Wiccans.|
|It would take away too much time from regular classes.|
|Some students cannot afford costumes.|
The public reacted angrily. UPI reported that: "Noisy parents and
children, most in costumes and bearing picket signs, angrily denounced the
decision..." One Neopagantold the board and the hundreds of parents at
the meeting that Witches are not slighted by the event. Larry Klingele said:
"I want to assure you that Wiccans, Pagans and Witches and other members
of our faith community on the whole are not offended."
Local parent, Bebe Colley, said: "It's rare for our town of Puyallup
to make the national news. Unfortunately we did not make it by greatness of
achievement -- we made it by being ridiculous."
United Press International referred to Klingele as a "self-proclaimed
Wiccan." The term "self-proclaimed" is often used by the media
when describing Wiccans and other minority religions. Followers of
Christianity are called "Christians;" followers of Islam are called "Muslims."
But followers of Wicca often become "self-proclaimed Wiccans."
A UK petition to ban Halloween:
In 2007, Harry Griffin of The Erasmus Foundation has
initiated a petition to the UK government to ban Halloween. The Foundation
is based in Suffolk England and channels the teachings of Desiderius Erasmus,
the Dutch philosopher and humanist.
His petition states:
"Should we be doing something to ban Halloween?"
"Should we really be sending out our children on a dark night to knock on
strangers' doors to demand money? Although the Christian Church celebrates
All Hallows Eve, Halloween has always been and continues to be a celebration
of Satanic ritual, witchcraft and a salutation of black arts that promotes
sending children out on a dark night, sometimes on their own. Are people
that ignorant about pedophilia and often its connection with the darker
side of life?"
"It is also becoming the practice of older children to blackmail people
by demanding money or face physical damage to their person or property. What
kind of sad world are we living in where we celebrate the black arts by
dressing our children in ghoulish costumes and send them out on a satanic
festival to highjack people for material gain?"
The reference to "pedophilia and often its connection with the darker
side of life" probably refers to beliefs in Satanic
Ritual Abuse (SRA). They started in the early 1980s and went into
decline in the mid-1990s. There is now a near consensus that SRA either
never happened or occurred at an undetectable level.
The UK government responded:
"The Government values the rich cultural diversity of British society and
is of the opinion that we should respect the right of individuals to follow
their own cultural traditions, as long as they remain within the law. The
Government accepts that many people choose to celebrate Halloween and would
not consider it appropriate or feasible to ban such occasions. There are
already laws in place which legislate against behavior considered illegal
and it would be the responsibility of the police and the judicial system to
take action against such criminal activity. Anyone who feels that they have
been the victim of any crime is strongly encouraged to report such incidents
to the appropriate authorities." 3
- "Sunday Halloween Irks Some in Bible Belt," Associated Press,
2004-OCT, at: http://beliefnet.com/story/
- "School Halloween Ban Riles Parents," United Press International,
2004-OCT-26, at: http://beliefnet.com/
- "halloweenban - epetition response," Number 10, 2007-FEB-22, at:
Copyright © 1999 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-OCT-29.
Latest update: 2009-OCT-04
Author: B.A. Robinson