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Halloween

Part 2 of two parts

Origins, customs and traditions

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This topic is continued here from the previous essay.

pumpkins Halloween in North America: Some interesting facts about the celebration of Halloween (Continued):

bulletSome Evangelical Christian churches offer alternative methods of celebrating Halloween:
bulletSome urge their members to distribute Bible tracts along with or instead of candy treats.

bullet Light the Night is an Evangelical Christian outreach in which trick-or-treaters are invited into a home where they watch a puppet show. The theme is the Gospel, interpreted from a conservative Christian perspective. The sponsors note that Halloween night is "an excellent opportunity to take back ground in which the enemy has controlled for too long." (The site's webmaster clarified that the "enemy" here is  Satan) They say that by "...allowing our 'light' to shine on a very dark night, it is a very simple way to combat that darkness with the love of Christ." 1 As of mid-2002-OCT, the program has sold "Light the Night" kits to people in 146 cities in 25 states.

bulletOthers have "Trunk or Treat" parties in which members park their cars in the church parking lot, distribute treats from the trunks of their cars and invite the children into the church hall for a Christian party.
bulletOther congregations hold parties for their families. Costumes are allowed, but expected to be appropriate for a Christian environment. Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, CA, has been offering a Family Fun-Fest since the early 1990s. Each year they expect 5 to 10 thousand visitors who consume close to a half-ton of candy. 2

bulletVerbal attacks by conservative Christians appear to reach a peak at this time of year. They are often directed against followers of two very different groups of religious traditions: Wicca and other Neopagan faiths, and Satanism.  This form of religious hatred is often based on beliefs that can be traced back to religious propaganda during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, when the Church actively burned tens of thousands of Witches, Pagans, and other heretics at the stake.

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bullet A growing Halloween tradition among Evangelical Christians is to provide a type of horror tableau which promotes public awareness of conservative Christian concerns. In Arvida, CO, the Abundant Life Christian Center built a haunted house for Halloween 1997. It includes simulations of:
bullet a bloody abortion in progress,

bullet a ritual human sacrifice by a Satanic cult,

bullet a teen committing suicide,

bullet the funeral of a homosexual AIDS victim, and

bullet a live action scene of a date rape.

bullet The Home Sewing Association released its "Top Ten" list of costume ideas for the year 2001. They are:
  1. Wizards on the theme of Harry Potter -- the most popular; they were rated #6 in the year 2000.

  2. Witches. They were not among the top ten in 2000

  3. Rock stars (Britney Spears or J. Lo)

  4. Professional sports figures

  5. A uniform of your own

  6. Super heroes and action figures

  7. Historical figures (Henry VIII, Cleopatra)

  8. Vampy and Sultry (from the movie "Moulin Rouge")

  9. Western wear

  10. Animals

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Halloween in Mexico

In the fall, countless numbers of Monarch butterflies return to Mexico and the shelter of its oyamel fir trees. The beliefs of the Aztecs live on in many contemporary Mexicans who believe that the butterflies bear the spirits of their dead ancestors. It is these spirits that the people honor at this time of year, during "Los Dias de los Muertos" (The Days of the Dead). 3

It is a joyous, happy holiday - a time of remembering past friends and family who have died. It is celebrated, during Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, OCT-31 to NOV-2. Altars in the homes are decorated with bread, candy, fruit, and flowers. Candles are lit in memory of their ancestors. The people dress up as ghouls, ghosts, mummies and skeletons. They parade a live person in a coffin through the streets. Vendors toss fruit, flowers and candies into the coffin. Families visit the cemetery carrying tools to spruce up the graves and decorate them. They stay over-night.

American Halloween customs are gradually taking over this traditional celebration.

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Halloween in Other Countries

Halloween is celebrated outside of North America, particularly among American emigrants, but not to the extent that it is in the U.S. and Canada. 

In England, some of the customs of Samhain are seen on Guy Fawkes Night each NOV-5. The celebration is also known as Bonfire Night; "Bonfires burn in almost every street in England." 4 These are in memory of Guy Fawkes who attempted to blow up the House of Commons in London in 1605 CE. He died a gruesome death, imposed by the courts. "It was believed that the pope of the time was using the revolutionaries to restore Catholicism in Britain. Most bonfires burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes." One city, Lewes in East Sussex in southern England, still burns the Pope in effigy." In 1999, Jonathan Quinn, secretary of the Lewes Bonfire Council, told the Catholic Times that they were commemorating an historic event. They are not angry with Pope John Paul II. He commented that Roman Catholics in Leeds are not offended by the celebration. 4

Safety Considerations

Darkness, cars, drunk drivers, and children dressed in costumes with limited visibility can make a deadly combination. Harvard University's Police & Security Department have prepared a list of "Halloween Safety Tips for Kids." 5 The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a list of "Halloween Tips." 6

The American Animal Hospital Association has a description of some of the hazards that this holiday can pose for family pets. 7

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References:

The following information sources were originally used to prepare and update the above essay. Unfortunately, the sources have all since deleted their essays.

  1. "Light the Night" has a web site at: http://www.lightthenightpa.com
  2. Steve Jordahl, "Alternative Halloween Celebrations Abound," Focus on the Family, 2002-OCT-14, at: http://www.family.org/
  3. CLNet has a series of essays on the Mexican Holiday "Los Dias de Los Muertos" (The Days of the Dead) at: http://latino.sscnet.ucla.edu/research/
  4. "Muslim condemns burning of Papal effigy," at: http://www.ewtn.com/
  5. "Halloween Safety Tips for Kids" is at: http://www.harvard.edu/
  6. "Halloween Tips" is at: http://www.babybag.com/cpsc/tip96194.htm (Offline)
  7. The American Animal Hospital Association's essay "Halloween & Dangers it Presents to Pets" is at: http://www.cyberpet.com/

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Latest update and review: 2016-SEP-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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