By Sabrina Almeida
Come Saturday night all the neighbourhood’s little witches, goblins and superheroes will be at play. I miss the excitement of yesteryears–choosing costumes for my boys, decorating our front door, trekking round the block with the neighbourhood kids and their moms (it was never the dads) and counting the loot which was spread all across the kitchen floor. And of course the trading for favourites. Over the next month my sons would take one treat per day in their lunch boxes. It was special and it was fun.
Now that my own kids have passed that stage, they take turns answering the door and handing out the chips and candy (we do our bit to minimize the sugar). Halloween still fascinates us all. I love seeing all the costumes and the thrill in the little ones’ eyes. The smallest are always the cutest. And of course there are the smart ones who try to charm you into giving them a bit more than the rest. They make me smile!
So naturally I’m upset when religion interferes with the spirit and fun of Halloween. There’s nothing religious about it. Yet there are families that will not indulge their kids because of its pagan origins.
What are the origins of Halloween?
Halloween, a derivation of All Hallows Evening, was both a time of celebration and superstition. It is said to have its origins in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. ‘Treats’ were typically left on doorsteps to appease the spirits and ward of ‘ tricks’ or bad things.
As the Irish and English moved to North America their carried the tradition with them. Over time it has evolved has evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating and become one of North America’s favourite festivals.
Where does Halloween intersect with religion?
It is Halloween’s close association with appeasement of spirits and witchcraft that makes some people uncomfortable. The ghoulish costumes and decorations don’t help. While many immigrants who are not familiar with this festival are skeptical about what participation means even some Christians believe it interferes with their religious doctrines.
A few churches even host parallel celebrations with more positive themes in an attempt to steer children away from its darker connotations. Since it comes so close to All Souls Day (Nov. 2) when Catholics remember those that have passed on, some believers insist that it is a parallel system which they cannot support.
Dwindling participation has caused some schools to suspend or change Halloween celebrations. In fact the Milford Public School District (which we were a part of more than 15 years ago) in Connecticut tried to create a fall-themed (instead of Halloween) event so as not exclude children who wouldn’t participate on religious grounds. The reprisal they faced from a large number of parents forced them to reconsider.
Children don’t think of religion or witchcraft
There is little evidence to show that celebrating Halloween causes anyone to forsake their religion or turn to witchcraft. Or we’d have already had mass conversions. It’s our dogmatic ways and refusal to be reasonable that causes people to turn away.
For children Halloween is just an opportunity to dress up, have fun with their friends and indulge in candy. Not allowing them to participate in the festivities on the other hand could actually propel them in the direction you don’t
want them to take.
With Halloween becoming as commercialized as Christmas and Valentine’s Day, it has become more of social event that even companies indulge their employees in. Even India (and Bollywood) has jumped on the bandwagon though in a modest way.
Halloween offers an opportunity to integrate and give back to the community
To prevent your kids from wearing costumes to school or going trick or treating is likely to make them stick out like a sore thumb. Imbibing harmless traditions, like this one, makes children feel a sense of belonging and home. It’s also a way for families to become a part of and get to know the community. Handing out candy to the neighbourhood kids is a small way to give back.
You always have the option of opting for costumes and decorations that are less offensive to your customs and values.
Let’s leave religion out of Halloween and as we indulge in this harmless tradition on Saturday!