Why bother to save Halloween?

by Richard Seltzer, seltzer@samizdat.com, www.samizdat.com

Followed by numerous responses from readers.


Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim electronic copies of this article for non-commercial purposes provided this permission notice is preserved on all copies. All other rights reserved. This article was written in 1984. Contact the author at seltzer@samizdat.com


Halloween is in trouble. Each year editorials in magazines and newspapers and on television warn of dangers to children. And each year more communities "ban" Halloween.

So what? Who needs it? What is Halloween anyway? It's just an excuse for big kids to make trouble, little kids to eat too much candy, and candy companies to peddle their wares. Bah, goblin-bug!

Or so I thought until, despite all the warnings, I took my three children out last Halloween. Nine-year-old Bobby was the boldest. Seven-year-old Heather held back and was reluctant to approach houses of near neighbors she didn't know well; but curiosity and pride in showing off her home-made witch's costume won out in the end, and she'd go racing after Bobby up the walk, and be just as delighted as he was at the smiles and words of praise and handfuls of candy that greeted them. Three-year-old Mikey held me tight and wouldn't let me put him down, but he wouldn't let me take him home either, watching all the doings intently.

The same as previous years, many of the people we visited were folks we only see at Halloween even though they live just a few doors away. Most of them, the elderly especially, had bought supplies of candy and were waiting. Most gave out two or three times as much per kid as they had originally intended, because there were so few kids out. And they were as delighted to see the kids as the kids were to see them.

When I got home, I couldn't help but wonder what had gone wrong with Halloween. And it occurred to me that it wasn't just a handful of crazy people who were endangering this tradition and the joy it can bring to little children and adults as well. It's apathy on the part of everyone else, the failure to recognize that Halloween plays an important function in our society, the unwillingness to speak out in defense of Halloween when the media were so unanimously against it.

So what's so important about Halloween?

Maybe at one time Halloween helped exorcise fears of death and ghosts and goblins by making fun of them. Maybe, too, in a time of rigidly prescribed social behavior, Halloween was the occasion for socially condoned mischief -- a time for misrule and letting loose. Although such elements still remain, the emphasis has shifted and the importance of the day and its rituals has actually grown.

Nowadays people often don't know their near neighbors, much less the neighbors a few blocks away. For little chidren these strange houses and strange people are a source of fear and anxiety. Children have been taught not to trust or talk to strangers, to beware of them. But on Halloween that prohibition is lifted; and, with fear, but impelled by curiosity and greed for candy and other loot, little ones ring doorbells at houses of strangers to find time and again that these strangers are really friendly people like the people they know well. In the course of the evening they gain confidence in themselves and in their neighborhood and come away not only with bags full of candy to be enjoyed for weeks after, but also a warm feeling about their neighborhood and people in general.

As for adults, especially the elderly and those who never had chidren or who haven't had young children at home for some time, children in the neighborhood are normally a source of anxiety and distrust. What mischief and vandalism might this strange new generation growing up with television violence be capable of? On Halloween night their fears too are exorcised, as wildly and imaginatively costumed kids parade to the door, a reminder of what they themselves did as children -- a common link of experience.

Looked at another way, Halloween is a time that reconfirms the social bond of a neighborhood (particularly the bond between strangers of different generations) by a ritual act of trade. Children go to lengths to dress up and overcome their fear of strangers in exchange for candy. And adults buy the candy and overcome their distrust of strange children in exchange for the pleasure of seeing their wild outfits and vicariously reliving their own adventures as children.

In other words, the true value and importance of Halloween comes not from parading in costumes in front of close friends and family, but from this interchange with strangers, exorcising our fears of strangers, reaffirming our social bond with the people of the neighborhood who we rarely, if ever, see the rest of the year.

So when you hear all those warnings about pins and poison, use caution and common sense. But don't just abandon a tradition that you yourself loved as a child, that your own children look forward to months in advance, and that helps preserve our sense of fellowship and community with our neighbors in the midst of all this madness.




This witch riding a broomstick picture is from my fantasy The Lizard of Oz, illustrated by Christin Couture.


Response from Maria Bennett

From: "Bennett, Maria" <Maria.Bennett@cdev.com> Date: 01 Mar 1996 16:38:18 -0600

I read your article on Halloween and I couldn't agree more. I enjoy the time of year. I live in the northeastern seaboard where we get a good dramatic change of seasons and I revel in the sights, sounds, and smells of Autum. All of this is climaxed by Halloween. I say that I am a pretty good Catholic and I find no "evils" in Halloween. This past year we had 29 working Jack-o-lanterns in our front yard (10 on electric and the rest were candle and even oil lamp lit!) and people stopped on the road just to see our display. I invited the neighbors over for spiced cider and cookies. Unfortunately, one of the neighbors was appalled at me and told me it was against his religion. Too bad for him, he missed some awesome chocolate chip cookies and my best cider yet. People are too anal retentive for their own good. When folks get too religiously fanatic acting I tend to ask them..."Is your own faith in God so weak that this simple thing intimidates you and causes you to stray from God?? I'll pray for you!!" I usually stops them in their tracks.

Good luck and if your are ever in Airville PA in late October, Come Trick-or-Treating at my house. All are welcome.

Maria Bennett


Response from Norman Kirkland

From Norman Kirkland wb5mjm@sisna.com Date: Oct 18, 1996

This is a response to your article on saving Halloween. It is interesting and has a balanced view. However, I want you to be aware of another perspective. Please reference the following website: http://www.cbn.org/cbn/teach/hal2.html

Response to that Response

Thank you for pointing me to your interesting article.

My piece does not deal at all with questions of religion or history. Rather it focuses on children and community in the present-day world -- the experience as it feels to a four-year-old dressed up in a "scary" costume knocking on the door of a little-known neighbor, and to an elderly person living alone who very rarely has contact with neighorhood children.

Best wishes.

Richard Seltzer seltzer@samizdat.com


Response from Robert Huber

From: Robert Huber <Rhuber@niu.edu> Date: Thu, 24 Oct 1996 14:42:15 -0700

This article was a great piece. I am 19 years old and I am one of the biggest fans of the holiday the world has ever known. I can remember back to those mid-80s days when it seemed everyone was fearful of poison candy. My mother even got scared one year and took all my candy away.

I'm glad that this trend has died down somewhat and talk of banning Halloween is all but a memory around where I live. Even at my advanced age I still go door to door on Halloween night. I have never been able to give it up. So, a week from today as I put my costume on and collect my loot like I have been for over a decade and a half now, I'll be thinking about this article.


Response from Docion Alucarda

From: Ken <daemon1@freemark.com> Date: Thu, 24 Oct 1996 11:02:59 -0400

If there is anything out there that can generate positive compulsive behavior, I believe it surely must be Halloween.

I greatly appreciate your article, and your positive stance on the subject of this most often religiously ridiculed holiday. One must realise however, that as you have said, it brings together a strong social bond between peoples of different generations. Additionally, the artistry of the make believe does inspire many other forms of pleasure, such as music, literature and the cinema. I have many friends, ranging up into their eighties, who are lifelong "Children of Halloween".

Among these are Forrest J. Ackerman, creator of the great magazine "Famous monsters of Filmland." Mr. Ackerman has been quoted as saying that through the years, many young men and women have approached him and stated that his publication gave them an outlet. A way to express their creativity. The support and understanding of their parents with regard to their interest in sci-fi, the macabre and supernatural, gave them a means to fulfill their curiosities, and kept them off the streets. The magazine provided a way in which they could share their interests with others, by trading and passing it around. Many of these people are screenwriters, make-up FX artists, sculpters, award winning authors...

There is a sense of fun in the escapism that all of these creations of the fantastic provide. Halloween gives these flights of fancy one night to spring alive, and bring each man, woman and child's creativity to the front. It releases us to act, to change our face and environment in any way we choose as a means of expression. And best of all, it's the one night in which we won't be chastised by society for doing what we should each day of the year. Living our dreams. Halloween is not just for the monster in us, but for the cowboy, the nurse, the clown, the maiden, and the prince.

Docion Alucarda, Graveside Entertainment


Response from K&L Sutton

From: K & L SUTTON <chrish@wac.com> Date: Thu, 24 Oct 1996 14:35:54 -0700

I found your article touching and well thought out. I remember as a child the elderly neighbors were always thrilled to see us. It made me feel great to give them something back on halloween. I think more than anything, halloween is a day to help teach our children to be brave and face the world, even though there may be some "spooks and goblins" waiting around the corners for them. They now have the power to send those fiends away.


Response from Fernando Bartolozzi

From: Fernando Bartolozzi <Fernando_Bartolozzi@harvard.edu> Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1996 11:19:03 -0400

I sit here at my desk on Halloween morning after having just read your article.

All I have to say is Bravo!

I have felt for a long time that Halloween was getting lost. It was very nice to read not only your article but the responses of your other readers. I'm afraid that I have not had the time to fully read Mr. Kirkland's recommended article but it does look fascinating.

It seems to me that every year there are less and less children coming to the door. I can remember, not too long ago (I'm only 29) when you couldn't get a minutes rest form the doorbell. Now they seem to be few and far between. I share Maria Bennett's feelings about the holiday. I live in a small suburb of Massachusetts and there is nothing like Halloween on a crisp fall evening around here. I always feel like a little kid as I sit with my friends and watch scary films or talk about strange things, the kind that the imagination conjures up on Halloween.

And in response to Docion Alucarda, I too do work in the fields of makeup and design as well as writing and Halloween has always been a great source for me for ideas.

I concur wholeheartedly that Halloween in perhaps some small way, does bring people closer together. In much the same way (if I may use something from my Catholic upbringing) that during mass you are asked to "offer a sign of peace" by shaking the hands of the people nearest you, quite often, total strangers. Again, as you stated, a simple exchange.

In closing I'd just like to say that Halloween for me is on the upswing. I had thought it lost for some time until I had the chance to see it through the eyes of my four year old niece. When you get a fresh perspective like that you can't help but think that Halloween's alive and well (or is that undead and well?).

Happy Halloween all!!!!


Response from Frank Strassler

From: "Frank P. Strassler" <fstrassl@vt.edu> Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 11:18:52 -0700

You are right on target concerning your little essay on neighborhoods and Halloween. Neighborhoods are in great danger of becoming not neighborhoods but strangerhoods. As a preservationist I believe this strangerhood attitude is ruining older neighborhoods, what were functioning, communicating groups are becoming isolated, non trusting islands.

I love Halloween and believe it is a wonderful holiday bringing people together and enabling people of all ages to release inhabitions. The kids who always wonder about the little old lady, find out she is kind and loves to talk. In my younger years she was the one who gave the great popcarn balls and loved your costume.

The mystery and intrigue of the evening filled us as children. My father still dresses up and recites MacBeth, scaring the hell out of kids, but leaving them with the puzzle of what was that cool stuff he was saying?

Well enough - good article!!!


Response from Jrector

From: Jrector@nocaxp.north-ok.edu Date: Thu, 24 Oct 1996 13:07:08 -0500

I just glanced at your article on the net. My only question to you is since it is important to you to visit the elderly on Halloween just for their enjoyment and the entertainment of your children, why not go see these elderly more often and buy candy yourself for your children. Playing dress up is indeed a joy for kids but, I am more concerned with the spiritual aspect of my children as well as the elderly. So why not make it a point to visit these older people more often instead of the token visit they recieve the night you go beg for candy on their doorstep.

Response to Response

We aren't talking about theory, but rather the psychology of young kids, for whom the whole Halloween experience is second only to Christmas in excitement and anticipation.

Best wishes. Richard Seltzer seltzer@samizdat.com


Response from Carl Barnes

From: Carl Broadus Barnes <cbbarne3@eos.ncsu.edu> Date: Thu, 07 Nov 1996 16:10:29 -0500

I am a student at N.C. State doing a research paper refuting policy to ban such events as Halloween from schools and communities. I would greatly appreciate any and all information both fact and opinion you may have concerning this matter. Also any references to other sources would also be welcomed.


Response from Mary

From: TAKEuToHvn@aol.com Date: Mon, 15 Sep 1997 14:13:40 -0400 (EDT)

In response to your Halloween article , I'm glad someone FINALLY said it !!!! You could not be more correct about how people over react ! I live in the Bible Belt of America and as you can imagine , many people here are against Halloween . I consider myself to be a fairly active Christian and I do not teach my kids to hunt for black cats to hang in the trees !! I do not teach them to hide razorblades in apples nor to throw eggs at cars ! I DO teach them to dress up in costumes (what child doesn't like to play dress up?) , to help me decorate our rather small " Haunted House " , and to have a great time !! I am a mother of three , lover of Autumn and I adore this season and this holiday and as long as I see the American flag flying above the White House that means that I can CHOOSE to celebrate any holiday I choose !! WE CHOOSE HALLOWEEN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

thanks for the chance to voice our opinion

Mary 


Response from Peter Vertes

From: peter vertes <Vertes@webtv.net> Date: Mon, 15 Sep 1997 23:24:35 -0400

I'm at my parents' house and don't have access to my own books, but I bought a book of (scholarly) essays on Halloween last year. I believe it's called H. and other Festivals of Death, published by some university press.

In one essay, an author points out that since the '50s, there have only been 3 documentated cases of poisoned candy or razor blades in apples. One of those cases was in fact perpetrated by a parent seeking some kind of cover-up, insurance money, or scam.

What becomes significant is the willingness-to-believe and the media's own perpetuation of these myths of menace. They serve some kind of psychic purpose, offer an opportunity for parents to bond over all parents' greatest fear--death of or harm to a child.

Enjoyed your article. Was written in '84, no? A bit out=of-date, I'd say. Today, with the commercialization of H. and its enthusastic ADULT participants, I'd dare say it's here to stay. If anything, it's TRICK-OR-TREATING that is at risk.

Best regards,

Peter Vertes


Halloween in Canada

From: "Snake (mrfrosst)" <deadline@colba.net> Date: Tue, 28 Jul 1998 15:44:43 +0000

I read your article... I agree with everything you said in it... So much so that I'll be sending you some information about something similar in my neck of the woods... There was talk about "canning" halloween...But a turn around occurred 4 years ago... As a result, towns and now this year some cities (in Quebec) are fighting to grab the title of : HALLOWEEN CAPITAL... Can you believe this crap !?

In any case, the festival is one of great importance especially to the town of Sainte-Anne-Des-Plaines in the province of Quebec (Canada) who has less then 13 000 people living in it but attract more then 250 000 at the end of October each year...Guess what ? It's all thanks to ...HALLOWEEN !

The economical impact is significant and you can only imagine just HOW significant it is when you way the people living there and the people comin' for the visit !!!

Like I said..I'll be contacting you soon with some important info and HARD FACTS that change the whole idea of Halloween being the troublemaker...Regards.

Snake, Deadline Productions, Special FX consultant & Master pyrotechnician


Another vote for Halloween

From: Mike Alvarez <malvarez@amphi.com> Date: Tue, 06 Oct 1998 10:15:44 -0700

I enjoyed reading your article about Halloween. I had wonderful Halloweens while growing up and still recall them fondly every year. I have two daughters and I made sure that they experienced the wondrous joy of dressing up and the exhilarating fun of trick or treating.

Although there may be some sick individuals who use the holiday as an excuse to perform anti-social and perverse so-called religious activities, I believe those of us who truly enjoyed Halloween should strive even harder to ensure that future generations understand that there is nothing intrinsically evil about Halloween itself. They should only be aware of the evil that does exist in the human condition, which does not need a holiday to exhibit itself. Happy Halloween to you and yours.

Mike Alvarez


Some good points, but...

From: Heidi Bordeleau <heidiszoo@grolen.com> Date: Sat, 17 Oct 1998 14:13:38 -0400

I am a Christian and my children and I do not celebrate Halloween, however I still found much of what you wrote true and I agree with many points.

It is difficult in this day and age to get to know your neighbors and the surrounding area children. However, I believe there are better ways to gain that closeness without participating in something I feel so strongly against.

I offer this alternative for those who feel as I do about Halloween:

At the end of summer organize a block party. Simply notify the police and make sure your town or city doesn't require a permit first. Close off the ends of the block and bring picnic tables, grills, lawn chairs, whatever, out into the street. Set up fun activities for the kids like pumpkin painting or face painting, three legged race, softball, etc. You get the picture. Make it a day of fun and entertainment and get to know your neighbors better. Extend a special invitation to the eldery. The people will come and have fun. You may think it wouldn't work in a city but I live in the largest city in New Hampshire and we do it all the time.

For those of you who do celebrate Halloween, be careful, have fun and God bless.

Heidi Bordeleau - heidiszoo@grolen.com


If you enjoy Halloween, feel free to participate

From: Dawn <marksark@sover.net> Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 14:11:24 -0700

I was glad to see your article on Halloween. My kids and I enjoy it so much every year and my husband is always trying to put a damper on it for us. We just muddle on. My children have said that I have been carving pumpkins for five hundred years, about now with five children one pumpkin each I'm beginning to wonder if they aren't right. I think to many things are to closely scrutinized now and I believe if you enjoy Halloween or any other holiday feel free to participate if you don't like it then simply don't participate.

Happy Halloween.

Dawn Gardner


Happy Halloween Magazine

From: Rochelle Santopoalo <rstpaul@halloweenalliance.com> Date: Mon, 05 Oct 1998 09:47:45 +0000

I really like your article, "Why bother to save Halloween?" Would you be agreeable to me printing it in the upcoming issue of my quarterly publication, Happy Halloween Magazine?? I'd be happy to send you a complimentary issue for you to review the publication before deciding. The focus of my publication is on the positive view of Halloween, a time when festival and fantasy come together to create the greatest play day of the year. Your article fits in perfectly with the magazine.

Rochelle Santopoalo, Publisher/Editor, Happy Halloween Magazine, http://www.HalloweenAlliance.com


Reader/Rural Road Press

From: ruralroad@means.net (Rural Road Press) Date: Thu, 22 Oct 1998 08:15:41 -0500

I contacted Halloween Magazine about reprinting your article Why Save Halloween. Here's a copy of my original message and their reply.

Would you be willing to let us reprint this wonderful article? I will of course send you as many copies as you like!!

I have a small weekly magazine (on newsprint) in NW Minnesota. We are just over a year old. We focus on rural living/rural experiences/life themes/etc. We encourage creative submissions from regular folks--not just prolific writers--and believe that the common person has the best stories of all to tell!

We reach about 600 people per week, mostly in our own home county of Roseau, MN. The name of our publication is the Reader/Rural Road Press.

My best to you. You seem like you are a great storyteller/writer. We encourage this kind of work from regular folks around the country!

Jill Pederson, Reader/Rural Road Press


Putting traditions into perspective

From: Carla Dickey <teamdna@arn.net> Date: Wed, 28 Oct 1998 21:19:19 -0600

Thank you for putting our traditions into perspective. Halloween has always been something taboo in this "Bible Belt" town. Your article was packed with common sense ammo.

Thanks again,

Carla Dickey teamdna@arn.net 


My favorite holiday

From: angel5484@webtv.net Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 22:40:26 -0600 (CST)

THANK YOU RICHARD FOR THAT WONDERFUL PAGE ON MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY. YES, SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE SPOILED IT , CLAIMING IT IS A DAY OF THE DEVIL. DON'T THEY READ, DON'T THEY KNOW THE STORY OF HALLOWEEN OR DO THEY JUST WANT TO MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE FUN. OUR CHILDREN HAVE SO LITTLE TO LOOK FORWARD TO NOW, AND THEN THESE PEOPLE WITH TOO MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS GO AND SPOIL THINGS. THANKS AGAIN, I ENJOYED YOUR PAGE.


Halloween is what we make it

From: J. Massucci Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 10:15:45 -0600

In reference to your Halloween article on the Disney/Family Fun website, I couldn't agree more.

Halloween is what WE make it. It doesn't matter what it used to be 500 years ago. I'm no longer wearing long dresses, with gloves, with my hair in a bonnet. We also have electricity and automobiles that were once, I fear, thought of as evil by some backwards folks.

To me, it's FUN FUN FUN. And, not just for the kids. It's the one night every year, adults can dress up and have fun too!

I don't want to give it up. To those who choose not to participate, that's certainly their right and fine with me, BUT DO NOT TRY TO TAKE MY version of MY Halloween away from me.

I have an 8 year old and a 14 year old. They both had a great time, and though our area was completely saturated with heavy rain and flooding water. There was basically NO trick or treating for our area this year.

Instead, we went to the local high school where my older daughter was required to help out at a carnival. Every teenager there dressed up.

The kids were dressed up. Had our weather been decent, and we'd stayed home for me to give out candy, I would have dressed up-as a witch.

I would have held our black cat as I answered the door. ALL IN FUN.

THANKS for your comments.

J. Massucci


Agree wholeheartedly

From: Becky <lynn@winfinity.com> Date: Tue, 4 Jul 2000 13:03:03 -0700

I just read your Article about the reason's for saving Halloween & I must say " I agree whole heartedly" I work at a senior facility (Care center) & I bring my Daughter there for the Holidays (all of them). Halloween is a favorite, The People there do not always see their families so the children go and show off their wares ? Costumes, sometimes this is the only family these people have and the memories that are brought back are shared for days to folow, I've never heard any complaints from the res. or the children all enjoy and have fun , and a few close relitives wish others would get involved more with our seniors. Maybe one day people will want to know their neighbors again, and Trust Them as well.

Thanks for the great Reading , ENJOYED IT

Becky Silva


Love it too

From: Val <marknval@innernet.net> Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2000 20:51:05 -0400

I have to tell you that that was wonderful what you wrote about saving Halloween. I myself, a 28 year old, loved Halloween as a child and now that I am married I can partake in the "giving" of the candy/loot. I enjoy seeing what the kids come up with when they put on their costumes. Too bad it's only one night a year. I don't see Halloween as evil like the media likes to portray....I see it as pure FUN! There are always going to be those few who will try to spoil a good thing, but if there are people like you and myself out there who know what Halloween is really about, I'm sure that it will continue for years and years.

Thanks.....You've got a Great Web Site!!!!!!!

Val


From an eclectic witch

From: Ian & Mel, Date: Thu, 26 Oct 2000 21:59:50 +0100

 My name is Phoenix, I am an eclectic Witch. I am writing to tell you that I thought your article on Halloween was brilliant. Halloween, you see is also a Pagan holiday known as Samhain or the end of Summer. Although I enjoy the holiday as it is my new year ,(Celtic New Year) my little boy who is only 4 years old, knows it as the holiday you describe in your article. Unfortunately my neighbors ,well a few of them, are really horrible to children because they say that is a devil worshipping holiday, my son doesnt understand and is therefore very hurt by this. He doesnt know that his mommy is pagan and he actually goes to a church of england school , I have alson attended church with him (only for support, not for my lack of belief in a monolithic religion) I guess what im trying to say is that I totally agree with what you say, and although its a pagan holiday , we also see Halloween as a time for fun and enjoyment! I just wish people out there werent so condescending of the holiday, maybe people should just let their hair down (so to speak) and enjoy it for the childrens sake who have no misconceptions of religion.

 thankyou for taking the time to read this.

 blessed be and have a wonderful Halloween!

 brightest blessings (and dont eat too much candy hehehe)

 Phoenix


From Canada

From: Leanne Franson, Date: Wed., 3 Jan 2001

 Hello there Richard Seltzer!

 I just lucked across your "Why bother with Halloween" essay on the net... wandering from link to link. Thank-you for writing it... I am going to send it to several friends.

 I am writing from Montreal, Quebec in Canada. I am nearly 40, unfortunately childless, and I love Halloween... I dress up and go out, but especially love the kids coming around door to door.

 I am very happy to report that Halloween is alive and well here... I had to go back to the store twice on the 31st to restock... over 200 kids from babies accompanying Mom and Dad and the older kids, to teenagers who did or didnt invest in their costuming to get that last bit of free candy before they're too old.

 Here many people decorate their houses quite elaborately, and I have upped my decorations over the years as a result. I do live in an older part of town, the Plateau, with a high artsy/educated population, but there are many older people as well. The woman two doors down does an incredible decoration job and is a representative for some community safety group, giving out flashlights for free with the candy. Many children bring Unicef boxes. I save pennies, nickels and dimes all year in a jar to hand out.

 I so entirely recognized the ritual of neighborhood sharing, the kids approaching neighbors tentatively, and then skipping away with bravado with their success. It is a great night for the kids, the adults and the whole neighborhood.

 I wish you many happy Halloweens, and hope Santa was good to you too! (Another guise I love to assume though my Mother insists she's too old to get such a great stockingfull!)

 Sincerely,

 Leanne Franson


Fellowship is the true meaning of Halloween

From: Kali Pappas, MariaNicolaievna@aol.com, Better Haunts & Graveyards, a home-arts and design perspective of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion at www.betterhaunts.com, Feb. 3, 2002

Hi there!

I have just enjoyed reading your wonderful article, and would like to chime in with the resounding chorus of THANK YOU's!  I completely agree that the community aspect of Hallowe'en is overlooked as a valuable commodity.  In fact, I think it's ironic that the holiday's community-healing attributes are being almost deliberately overlooked by those who hope/claim that ending
Hallowe'en will HELP communities.  So many people are so distrusting of the community at large that I wonder if the real story behind Hallowphobia is a simple fear of the unknown...and NOT religious compunction, disdain for commercialism, desire to stamp out pranks and crimes, or plain old 'what's the point?' cynicism.

It's ironic that while Hallowe'en spirit is at an all-time high these days, Hallowe'en OUTREACH is waning.  It's completely true that Trick-or-Treating isn't nearly what it used to be, yet at the same time, private parties, club haunted houses, Hallowe'en webpages, and general interest are skyrocketing. WHY?

Neighborhoods aren't what they used to be.  We've reached an age in which increased mobility and advanced communications technologies should make it easier to get to know our fellow citizens better, yet few seem to use these wonders to help forge quality bonds with other community members.  Instead, we use these advantages to commute farther and accomplish more work in a set amount of time than we ever could before.  We live in sanitized bedroom communities on the fringes of urbanity - building decentralized clusters of single-family dormitories far from the traditional institutions which older neighborhoods were never without.  We have, in effect, used greater mobility and wondrous technological advances to help us GET AWAY from the older neighborhoods.  Why?  I don't know.  The excuses given usually seem pretty flimsy, based on fantastical, fanatical reasonings.  Maniacs?  Please.  Satanists?  Give me a break.  Money-grubbing capitalists?  Good grief!  If i hear one more absentee parent-businessperson spout that hypocritical rubbish, I'll scream!

I suspect it might be racism.  Or perhaps socioeconomic segregationism - The farther away we get from the city center (or other people in general), the safer we'll be...and the better our lifestyles will become.  Neighborhoods just aren't real communities anymore - they're bedroom communities for strangers communiting to jobs miles away.  Adults and kids don't spend a lot of time at home anymore, so they don't really know their neighbors, and don't care to find out more about them.  Better to avoid opening the door on Hallowe'en, then, right?  You never know who'll be out there...so why complicate matters?

In decaying city centers and ghettoes, helplessness and resignation seems to take over.   Why bother?

I've noticed these phenomena in the classic decentralized metropolis of them all - Los Angeles.   Kids from poor, crime-ridden areas bypass their own neighborhoods to Trick-or-Treat in safer, more affluent communities nearby. Residents of these more affluent communities are in turn frightened by the influx, and considering the possible ramifications, discontinue participation
in Trick-or-Treat traditions.  At one time, you find one population giving up on its own neighborhoods, while another attempts to jealously guard *its* own communities.  While i don't think Hallowe'en generosity is a means to end the ills of society in general, I do think that if people would stop to think about the real reasons  behind their fears, they might be able to rationally
consider constructive ways to bypass any real dangers while maximizing the VALUE of community activities.  Certainly, it might not be a great idea for five year olds to hit the streets of Compton after dark...but there are other, community building alternatives that would PRESERVE the wonderful aspects of Hallowe'en without forcing you into other people's territories.
And in Lakewood, the aging, moneyed worrywarts might begin to understand the value of preserving traditions for the sake of their grandchildren as future leaders of the community.

The plethora of anti-hallowe'en excuses out there amaze me.  Growing up in the seventies and eighties in central California, you NEVER heard anything about the holiday that would make you feel at all self-conscious about having a great time on October 31.  We had Hallowe'en parades and carnivals at school.  We went out trick-or-treating to dozens of houses - in fact, there
were a number of neighbors with whom we forged cordial bonds SOLELY based on our Hallowe'en contact!  In addition, we would even have Hallowe'en PARTIES at church!  As a Greek Orthodox Christian, I come from THE quintessential conservative religious background (The first Christian church!)...and yet, we STILL managed to keep sight of the true meaning of Hallowe'en.  FELLOWSHIP.

LOL...I'm afraid I've rambled enough for one morning!  Thanks again!

~ Kali Pappas
Better Haunts & Graveyards ~ a home-arts and design perspective of
Disneyland's Haunted Mansion at www.betterhaunts.com


View from an American in Japan

From: Angela Ethridge, dracowzrd@yahoo.com, May 22, 2002

You don't know who I am, but I am a military spouse in Japan. I have decided that I'm going to have a Halloween party this year and was looking online for some ideas. We don't really have most of the common Halloween items available to us so I was hoping that I could find something online. Anyway, to make a really long search short I came upon the website
http://www.night.net/halloween/ that's titled "Not Just for Kids: Halloween Tricks and Treats". While looking through the recipes I saw the link to "Why Bother to Save Halloween?". I was intrigued and decided to read it. I just wanted to inform you that YOU ARE CORRECT!!! The media has given Halloween such a bad wrap that no one wants to do anything anymore. I
thought it was bad while I was in the states, but now that I am overseas I see it so much worse. Last year my friends took their almost 2 year old daughter out to trick-or-treat and they walked around for 2 hours and got 6 pieces of candy. They only stopped at 2 houses because everyone else wasn't giving out candy. Now, in the states that may be a not so odd occurence,
but over here we're the only ones. Anyway, my point is that your assumptions and feelings are right on the money. As I read the article I thought of how true it is. Then I noticed that you wrote it in 1984!!! I was 2 then. It hasn't gotten any better in 18 years. I, like you, fear for Halloween's existance. It is becoming a "give me candy" holiday. Sorry, I keep 0getting off track. I just wanted to tell you that you are a truthful author and that story should've been printed a long time ago. On the bottom of the website it says that your article has not yet appeared in print, but in our technology age the internet is better than print. Because at least now people, like myself, can stumble upon your great work and it will always be there.

Thank you,
Angela Ethridge
Air Force wife
"supporting the man that protects you"


Wonderful surprise

From: Janet Rojas, janrojas@optonline.net, August 27, 2002

I was surfing the net for interesting Halloween sites and came upon your essay.  I almost didn't "click" on your site as reading the title "Why Bother to Save Halloween" I feared it was yet another negative pontification on the evils of the holiday.

What a wonderful surprise and I was so thrilled at how you put Halloween into perspective and the positive aspects of it, without all the religious argument.  I LOVE the holiday for the simple joy it brings children.  I average 100+ trick or treaters, and while exhausting, I feel I'm giving back a little of what I enjoyed as a child.

Thank you so much.  Your essay was so uplifting.  A real pleasure to read.

Janet Rojas


Halloween Rules

from: Tony Traverso, August 29, 2002

Judging from your article in 1984 your children are now very young adults in their mid 20's who still probably love Halloween just like my girlfriend and I. We find it sad that so few kids observe this night of fun anymore we always buy a lot of candy and decorate our house to the max and we only get a few kids mostly from people who know us. I truely dont know what is going on but I think it started in the 1970's when mean people started putting bad stuff in kids candy and little kids got hurt. I recall when I was a small boy in the mid 1980's going to the local hospital with my sister and mom to have our candy xrayed for sharp things. I asked my mom why do we have to do this and she said because mean people want to hurt little kids, how very very sad! I became so scared of eating candy from trick or treating that most of it went in the trash. We agree something must be done to save Halloween over the past 25 years or so my mom said she has noticed a huge decline in kids trick or treating even though I do remember a lot of kids going trick or treating in the 80's in which it  was a much better time than now. I personaly know of a lot of young people in their 20's and 30's who dress  up and go trick or treating every year and have a blast us included it is a chance to have a ton of fun and run through the streets just like a kid again. Thank you for your article I knew we were not the only ones that noticed something was wrong. I truely think people of all ages should become involved in Halloween so as  to make sure the night of fun never goes away.
                                    Halloween Rules Thank you Tony


Aloha!

from Emma Keel, hulamae@hawaii.rr.com, August 31, 2002

I just read your wonderful article about Halloween.  Thank you for writing about all the feelings that I have had.  I am 47 years old and STILL celebrate Halloween and have the greatest memories.  It is a big day at my house with my husband (an ER physician) scheduling the day off work so we can all go trick or treating.  We have 3 boys (16, 6 and 7) who enjoy the day immensely.  I had a Halloween themed birthday party a few years ago for my 7 year old and this still talked about.  Every year, I buy or make new decorations and have 5 big boxes of all kinds of great stuff.  I collect magazines; Martha Stewarts Halloween mags have been pretty terrific.

I came from a family of 6 kids in Ohio and trick or treating was absolutely fab where we grew up.  I can remember getting great apples, powered donuts, money and loads of other goodies and being thrilled with seeing how other folks decorated and celebrated in their homes.  There were some terrific "haunted houses", pumpkins galore and lots of fun to be had.

A few years back I picked up a book at a second hand shop called "Halloween, What's a Christian to do?".  I read as much of it as I could and still don't understand.  I do believe that evil does walk the earth.  I believe that everyone is endowed with free will to do good things or bad.  But I don't believe in superstition, supposition and innuendo.  These folks seem like they see devils lurking around every corner.  I do not believe that the portal of Hell opens just on October 31st.  I think it swings open every day for anyone to pass through.

I met a woman a while back who belonged to a very charismatic religion that did not celebrate Halloween.  I remember when she told me, very seriously, that she saw satanic messages in Pokemon cartoons.  I was absolutely floored!  I did manage to tell her that I thought people like her were surely at the Salem witch trials.  I take no issue with anyone who doesn' t celebrate Halloween.  However, sometimes these folks really go out of their way to make others feel like they are doing something wrong.  I am always amazed by some very aggressive religious types who are very hypocritical.

I have lived in Hawaii for many years.  As each year goes by I see the islands celebrating more every year.  I still see a lot of fun and generosity from people.  So far, we've never had any tainted candy.  I will continue to celebrate Halloween till my last breath.  I feel it is a time to reconnect with being a kid again.  Holidays to me are what keeps families, people connected and the spirit young and alive.

I will always carve a pumpkin and it will glow in the darkness of night to guide kindred spirtis to my door for fun and good cheer.

Bring on the apple cider!

Emma Keel
The Wicked Witch of the South Pacific


Preserving traditions

from Nicki Johnson, X2NJohns@southernco.com, September 17, 2002

I just read your article "Why bother to save Halloween?"  HATS OFF TO YOU!!
I agree fully. Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of the
year, second only to Christmas. It's a real shame the way it has gone down
hill in the past several years. It saddens me that my children cannot fully
enjoy Halloween as I did when I was a child.

Thank you for showing that there are people concerned with preserving
traditions.

Nicki Johnson
Alabama


Save Halloween!

from Betsy Stephens, Oct. 29, 2002

Thank you for this article.
I work at as a director at a church-run daycare. I have been told by superiors that the traditional Halloween decorations have been banned. So no spiders, witches, skeletons. Even Jack-o-lanterns are frowned upon. The church is also hosting a Halleluiah Night as a "safe alternative". In protest, we will be decorating my house, my husband will be out scaring the neighborhood kids (what few do show up), we will be trick-or-treating, and I am teaching my toddler to say boo.
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of Halloween. I refuse to deprive my own children of these happy memories because of a few uptight, overreacting do-gooders.

And to put things into perspective: when was the last time someone actually got a razor blade in their candy?

Betsy Stephens
Proud to be Pro-Halloween


Saving Halloween!!!

from Kathy Bridges, kathy.bridges@leggett.com, Oct. 31, 2002

I absolutely loved your article!  I am really surprised that it's several years old, because the subject is so fresh in my mind.  I found out the other day that several of the elementary schools in our area do not let the children dress up anymore.  A friend of mine whose daughter attends one of the schools, said that her daughter was so disappointed that she didn't even want to bother dressing up to go trick or treating.  I was so saddened to hear that!  I have always loved this holiday, and I too have wonderful memories of Halloween's past.  Picking out a costume, school parties, trick or treating, and helping my Grandmother make goodie bags (sandwich bags with peanut butter kisses, bubble gum and dum dums!) in anticipation for the night.

I'm married now with a child, and we live in an old house that is about 100 years old with a wrap around porch.  We decorate our house every year for Halloween with a scarecrow, a hay bale, lots of pumpkins and ghosts.  It is also a priority to buy a ton of fun size chocolate candy bars for the trick-or-treaters.  They were always my favorite as a child when I would sit on the floor and sort my loot, so it's worth every penny of the extra expense to see the excited and appreciative looks from the kids.  I love hearing their little feet crunching the fallen leaves as they approach the house, seeing their hesitant faces as they knock, and then their glowing faces full of joy as they receive the candy along with the ooh's and ah's over their costumes.

I'm sitting here dressed up as a nurse (charity fund raiser for work) as I write this, and it's ironic that I was trying to locate the words to an old Halloween song that we sang in elementary school when I came upon your article.  I consider myself to be a strong a Christian and I do not believe that Halloween is a satanic holiday.  Everyone should just lighten up, be secure in their own faith and let kid's have a childhood worth remembering!  If I see one more sign advertising a "Harvest Festival" I think I'll scream!  Of course then I would probably be deemed possessed, and I can't take the chance.  I have to be home tonight to greet the trick or treaters because I have a huge plastic black cauldron full of candy bars! ;)


Right on

Steve Seale, sseale@netls.org, Oct. 31, 2002

Thanks.  This is exactly what I've been telling others for decades.  Legal or not, I work a neighborhood trick or treating question into the mix each time I interview a person for job.


Irish and Community Connections

Elizabeth Cox, author; Southern California Miscellany; columnist for the Old California Gazette.

In doing cursory research on Halloween trivia, I came across your article. Bully for you, dear sir for standing up for the meaning of Halloween.

I'm an author and columnist. I used to be a school librarian, which is where I encountered negative reaction to Halloween materials. Regardless of how often I justified the materials as important documentation regarding American culture, parents would object. Luckily for me the American Library Association was a backbone of support.

I am also Irish, and am very much aware of the community connection Halloween provides. And, although I do not always agree with modern interpretations of All Hallows, I respect them and hope people will see the positive. The connection you demonstrated between neighbors, young and old, is at the heart of the celebration. Thank you.


Save Halloween

Red Ferrington, Humboldt County California, Sept. 22, 2006

Hello! Great piece! Not that I'm into high-fives, but you deserve one for this article! Though I agree with the examples you use, I feel many people overlook another very important reason to keep Halloween alive: the opportunity to take a vacation from yourself. I mean, what other day could you get up in the morning, don some ridiculous costume, take on an entirely new persona, and not get hauled away to the looney bin? I am a self-described "Halloweenist." It has always been my favorite holiday. Birthdays? Big whoop. Christmas? You can keep it. Thanksgiving? Please, Americans have TOO MUCH to eat, must we set aside a day to flaunt it? Halloween rules. Leaves change color. Shadows grow longer. A crispness lingers in the air. It saddens me that we don't prolong the celebration the same way we do Christmas. When I was a kid, my friends and I wouldn't dream of not going out and banging on doors all fake blood, tattered sheets, and grease-paint. These days it's been so sterilized. Kids trick-or-treat in the afternoon! In the sunlight! With generic costumes they bought at Wal-Mart! Guess I should be thankful that I grew up in the seventies, before the media had us all brainwashed and the religious right was in bed with our politicians. I went to a Catholic grammar school for 8 years, ('73 - '81) and back then, even the NUNS participated in an annual Halloween carnival and parade. Furthermore, each year one or two of the classrooms was transformed into a haunted house. Sadly, I seriously doubt the same thing happens today.. These days everyone's too scared.

We've all heard the stories about kids poisoned on Halloween, or biting into the razor-blade laden caramel apple. Well, get this: the only child ever poisoned on Halloween was done so by a family member (see: Penn & Teller's "Bullshit!"). So this year, carve a pumpkin! Tell ghost stories in a cemetery! Go trick-or-treating! Just do something to keep Halloween alive! I'll be decking out my front yard in grand Halloween festoonery, handing out the best candy on the block, all while blasting eerie sound effects from my stereo. Young and old are invited, nay, ENCOURAGED to come by . . .

Like many who have responded, I too was online looking for festive sundries when I happened upon your article. I was drawn by the title, "Why Save Halloween?" I thought it was very timely, since just last month I made a dozen or so T-shirts that say "SAVE HALLOWEEN" on them. I would really like to send you one. Please see attachment and respond with your mailing address and size.

Thanks for caring about such a grand tradition!



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