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Religious Tolerance logo

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day

Public opinions about Halloween

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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:

Belief % Response
"It's a fun holiday for kids and adult parties. I don't take it seriously." 42%
"It's a wonderful time to remember the dead and celebrate the end of the year." 28%
"We shouldn't celebrate it because it has occult origins and morbid overtones." 12%
"I celebrate it as a Christian holiday, the ever of the Feast of All Saints." 9%
"It doesn't mean anything to me one way or the other." 9%

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:

Question

Yes No
Are books, TV shows and movies about vampires, Witches etc harmless? 39% 54%

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,

"said they 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:

Question

Yes No
Did you go trick or treating as a child? 83% -
Will you allow your children to go out this year? 77% -
Do you enjoy seeing the children in their costumes? 87% 10%

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A special problem for 2004, and any other year where Halloween is on Sunday:

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:

bulletSandra 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."
bulletVeronica 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."
bulletStarr 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:

bulletCelebrating Halloween would offend Wiccans.
bulletIt would take away too much time from regular classes.
bulletSome 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." 2

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

References used:

  1. "Sunday Halloween Irks Some in Bible Belt," Associated Press, 2004-OCT, at: http://beliefnet.com/story/
  2. "School Halloween Ban Riles Parents," United Press International, 2004-OCT-26, at: http://beliefnet.com/
  3. "halloweenban - epetition response," Number 10, 2007-FEB-22, at: http://www.number10.gov.uk/

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Home page >  Christianity > Practices > Holy Days > Halloween > here

Copyright © 1999 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-OCT-29.
Latest update: 2009-OCT-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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