Tuesday, October 23, 2007

the death of Halloween?

I read in the truly wretched local newspaper this morning that the celebration of Halloween in Portage County elementary schools is being phased out. In fact, according to this article, most area schools have already substituted "fall festivals" or "harvest parties" for the traditional Halloween party. Children are no longer allowed to wear their Halloween costumes to school nor are their classrooms decorated with ghosts and witches, but with corn shocks and bales of hay instead. Pardon my French, but what a crock of shit.

Although the reporter dances around the real causes of this phenomenon, for the most part it seems to be parents who are members of the rabid religious right complaining about celebrating the occult and the devil and witches and really bad things like that. It's the same old story of a handful of people ruining things for everyone else. I truly hope this is merely a local ignorant redneck trend, but I fear that it is not. Chalk this up as just one more reason I am glad that I am not trying to raise young children today. What a world.


desideo said...

Absurdly, Halloween is getting more and more popular in Scandinavia, which leads to fervent protests against the horrors of Americanization. Bus eller godis? (= trick or treat?)


anne mancine said...

Anna - I suspect that creeping Americanization is more frightening to the rest of the world than any Halloween ghosts or goblins we can scare up - and I can't say that I blame them.

Everybody, this is my friend, Anna, from LibraryThing.

Julie said...

i don't think it's a local thing, ma--out here they've fazed it out too. andrew's friend chaz's wife tracy (that's a clunky identifier!) is an elementary school teacher, and they've got to do the fall harvest thing if they want to celebrate anything at all.

i do think it's a shame, and i really can't see any proper justification for it. on the other hand, it's the fall harvest stuff that i really like the best anyway--as long as they let the kids get some time outdoors, like when we used to parade around in our costumes with the band! at this point, the fall harvest stuff is just as imaginary for most of those kids as the ghosts and stuff. plus, i won't mind not having to sit through the costume competitions, where people spend ridiculous amounts of money and time making (or properly, buying) fancy outfits for their kids. i suppose it's a slippery slope though--if they take out the goblins and witches, pretty soon they'll take out the fall party altogether...

anne mancine said...

I dunno. Celebrating the harvest seems very pagan to me. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) And, as you say, how many kids today can even identify with the concept of harvesting time?

I never approved of the costume competition - that became the focus instead of the joy of dressing up. But I did love it when the high school marching band would lead your little "parade" around the neighborhood with all the costumed kids following behind them. I loved it when you were in the band, as well. I think I managed to see you every year.

anne mancine said...

Well, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

Bryan said...

Your post reminded me of this letter I wrote to the Chronicle when I was 15 (yes, amazingly I did keep all these old files):

Dear Editor:
I am writing in response to the letter concerning the celebration of Halloween which appeared on, what else, October 31.

Although I do not deny Susan Biddle’s statements about the Druid celebration of Halloween, it only provides one side of the holiday. The name “Halloween” itself comes not from the Druids, but from the Christian observance “All Hallows’ Eve,” which is the night before All Saints’ Day, or “All Hallows’ Day” on November first. It was thought that on this night, witches and warlocks went about causing terror and harm, so people dressed up as scary creatures and built bonfires to ward them off.

In the Druid custom, October 31 was the last day of the Celtic year, and, as Ms. Biddle states, they would sacrifice a child or a virgin and give the house a jack-o-lantern to keep Satan or demons away.

Both of these stories are true, or at least, are assumed to be true by encyclopedias. However, I don’t believe that God hates Halloween nor that the devil is totally behind its festivities. I don’t know of many children that go about sacrificing people on Halloween night. Further, Halloween doesn’t seem to be a festival for the dead nor a festival for the Saints, rather, a fun American custom of going from house to house asking for candy while dressed up in the spirit of the holiday. As a Christian myself, I fail to see how our United States traditions fit the old Druid and Christian ways of celebrating the day of October 31. Like many other religious holidays, it has become engulfed by American consumerism.

I'm not so sure about the sacrifice thing being a "fact," but you can blame Grolier for that one. :)

I'd venture to say it's because of people like the woman whose letter I was responding to that Halloween is still occasionally dressed up (no pun intended) as a "religious" holiday, thus preventing such people as JWs from participating in the festivities.

(Although I'm not clear on the JW holiday restrictions, so perhaps Kristy could clarify -- I know birthday celebrations are a no-no too, so would a "fall festival" be any different?)

desideo said...

If a child is excluded from certain activities because if his or her religion, the exclusion in itself is the problem.

I went to a multi-cultural school. It was a traditional French private school, in Stockholm, where we had teachers and students of every origin and religious affiliation imaginable. We ended up celebrating virtually everything and generally just embraced the opportunity to learn more about each other (and to get some more of that weird, but tasty Egyptian candy). There were the French festivals, and the Swedish traditions, and then the Muslims had Ramadan, and then there was the Chinese New Year, and... seriously, we knew everything we needed to know about world cultures and religions by the time we got to 6th grade.

Toning down traditional celebrations because someone could be offended or could possibly feel excluded hence seems very misdirected indeed. To me the real anomaly lies in the fact that a kid would have to go read in the principal's office instead of participating in the general fun being had by most everyone else.

The only way to avoid conflict and prejudice is to increase understanding - that won't happen until people allow themselves (and their children) to be exposed to other cultures and mindsets.

Also - would religious terrorism and war be an issue if everyone had been brought up in a culturally and religiously mixed environment? Hardly.

That said, I still think it's a shame if local and national traditions and celebrations end up being replaced by increasingly global phenomena, such as Halloween. I sincerely doubt that we can avoid the cultural mainstreaming and standardization that come with globalization, so it's more important than ever to embrace and secure all the little peculiarities that make our cultures unique.

candyschultz said...

As Halloween is my favorite holiday (no visiting of relatives) I would really hate to see it disappear. I would also hate for the world to become completely Americanized.

I am afraid if I say anything about the lunatics who parade themselves as religious you will kick me off. Suffice to say they are not christians.

anne mancine said...

candyschultz - Welcome! I have peeked at your blog through our mutual friend, desideo. Please say whatever you like - I promise not to "kick you off." (We are not really very religious around here, in case you haven't picked up on that.)

As my yesterday's post mentions, I was very happy to see that my hometown is still celebrating Halloween the "old-fashioned" way.

You know, you make a very good point about Halloween, as well. "No visiting of relatives," indeed.

desideo said...

Move to Gothenburg. No one will EVER want to visit you there. *whine*

anne mancine said...

Anna - I would love to come visit you in Gothenburg! Of course, I'm not a relative. ;)