October 28, 2005 -- Halloween has its origins in superstition, and, sadly, it invokes old and new superstitions still. Halloween, from "All Hallows Eve," was the evening before the Catholic All Saints Day and was supposedly haunted by demons jealous of the holy day to follow. It also had roots in prehistoric Celtic mythology.
But in modern times, it has developed into a fun day when children dress in ghoulish or cute costumes and canvass the neighborhood for candy, while adults at masquerade parties imbibe more mature fare. Granted, some juveniles get more into the tricks than the treats. And the occasional morbid-Goth youth can make it into an obsession with darkness and death, though they probably do that on the other 364 days of the year as well. But generally, Halloween's about having fun.
Yet in our politically correct age, this fall tradition is falling on hard times and is under attack from, shall we say, rather diverse sides. Some extreme Christian groups oppose Halloween because the day represents the worship of Satan. Declares one Christian website, "Our forefathers recognized Halloween's association with the occult. The Pilgrims banned celebrating Halloween in America. The ban lasted until 1845." According to that site, it was those damned Irish Catholics who raised that tradition from the dead.
Halloween's about having fun.
On the other side of the—what to call it?—religious/political spectrum, a memo from the Toronto District School Board in Canada cautioned teachers that students from different backgrounds won't understand "the Christian, sexist demonization of pagan religious beliefs as 'fun.'" It went on to state that "Halloween is a religious day of significance for Wiccans and therefore should be treated respectfully." Wiccans are witches—that is, grown-ups who dress funny and make a show of taking primitive superstitions seriously, worshipping the Earth-goddess Gaia, magic spirits, and the like.
And we find Europeans reacting against encroachments of Halloween back in the Old World from whence the tradition came. Some, like Catholic theologian Giordano Frosini, complain that it's a "manifestation of neo-paganism." But most nay-sayers just don't like American-style commercialization of that day—sales of costumes and candy—which, says Frosini, "undermines our cultural identity."
If you like to have fun on this day, fine. If not, if you think it's silly, fine as well. But it's sad that a jumble of competing superstitions and sensitivities are politicizing what was once a lark of a nice autumn night.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.