Enjoy Halloween while you can

By Sophia Al Rasheed / Columnist

We’re two days from Halloween, which means we’re only two days from me ceasing to be excited about the holiday. In actuality, I spend more time talking up Halloween and trying to get everyone on board with an all-out costume showcase — involving listening to “Monster Mash” at least once — than I do actually participating in Halloween. But that seems to follow the trend of most holidays in American culture.

Most of my excitement stems from the fact that I genuinely enjoy seeing everyone be someone completely different for a night — why doesn’t everyone see the fun in this? But another main reason that I try to make the most of the experience is because — cue the world’s smallest violin — my Catholic elementary school decided that it would no longer allow costumes (starting when I was in third grade) on this beloved day of the year. Costumes and celebrations, they argued, interfered with what was important to the institution’s values.

My mentality as a third grader told me that the “important” component of my school’s argument meant more learning and less fun. I probably didn’t attribute the school’s concerns to the religious conflict between the afterlife implications of Halloween and Catholic beliefs. The reason for this, as you can probably imagine, is that I was in third grade, and I was in it for the candy and costumes, not the religion, as is typically the case for children.

The arguments over the appropriateness of ghosts and witches in schools, both public and private, have been ongoing because of parental concerns about connections to Paganism. Yet parents are simply missing the point about what a harmless holiday Halloween really is, and they are setting a dangerous precedent for educational institutions to give the recognition of other holidays a closer look.

In the recent, appropriately titled Time article “From the Department of Petty Controversies: Schools Cancel Halloween,” stories of schools in the Northeast area — including two in Pennsylvania — are highlighted for their success in banning Halloween celebrations. Columnist Nick Gillespie points out that the concerns range from safety to fearing a lack of separation between church and state.

Whatever the reason, an increasing amount of parents from various religious and secular backgrounds have agreed that Halloween causes more harm than good, and they are moving to ban any celebration of it in schools.

I don’t know what has happened in the decades since parents attended elementary school, but when I attended school, there was no portion during our Halloween celebration that included a disclosure about the myths of the undead or about any religious factors whatsoever. As I mentioned before, the only thing on the agenda was to dress up in costume, receive candy without even saying please and associate a month with orange and black.

Before more schools move to ban such activity, I challenge parents to prove that their children have been significantly impacted by Halloween in any other way besides calorie intake and enjoying one of the most fun days of the year.

In this case, it seems that parents are more concerned with ruining fun than promoting safety or actually advocating an agenda, whether secular or religious, in their hopes of canceling Halloween altogether. Perhaps their reasoning would be more believable if Halloween was the most significant holiday standing in the way of a completely church-and-state-separated school system, but this is hardly the case. If parents are willing to argue for a more secular agenda, are we willing to ignore the fact that winter break is conveniently centered around the Christmas season? Or perhaps more realistically, are they willing to refrain from displaying any sort of red and green to commemorate that time of year?

Of course not, because we should understand that sometimes there is some good that comes from refraining from a completely secular school system. In this case, that good is the genuine joy that teachers and parents gain from the “holiday” season. There are many students who are subject to talk of Christmas and Easter and Lent and choose not to express concern over whether it conflicts with their religious beliefs because it seems so unnecessary to speak badly of something that causes everyone so much joy and is already so ingrained in the system. It’s just not realistic to believe that a culture that hopes to keep church and state separate will do so in light of a majority Christian nation.

Speaking as someone of the non-Christian minority, who has had no issue with the way that schools cater to a Christian belief system (I don’t think enjoying cookies and Christmas lighting around December harms anyone), I think it’s possible for parents to be a little more flexible in what they allow in schools. 

If the Christmas holiday season — which embodies much deeper implications and a more intense form of celebration — remains unscathed, despite the fact that many who subject to the display of celebration may not partake in the beliefs, the least we can allow is that the less harmful and way more fun celebrations, such as Halloween, remain, as well.

Write to Sophia at [email protected].