Let’s take a detour from politics and war. But this might be the most controversial thing I publish all year. And it’s long, because I could write 10,000 words on why I hate Halloween (don’t worry, it’s not 10,000 words).
Over the past few years, I broke down and participated in Halloween. I dressed up in costume and handed out candy to kids. I went with my kids traipsing around the neighborhood begging for candy. I created a horrible scene of blood and guts involving pumpkins in our driveway. But I never really fully believed it was right to do it.
It’s my least favorite time of year. Every year, I get tired of telling people why I don’t like Halloween. I am then accused of being a grinch, or a humbug, or a kid hater, or some religious nut, or a prude. I am none of the above. I simply see no useful reason why there’s a holiday called Halloween, or why anyone should celebrate it.
Let’s clear up a few things, between you and me, so you don’t have to send me an email or post some comment out of ignorance.
I didn’t grow up in a religious family. When I was growing up, we went out trick-or-treating every year. I have snapshots of memory of me wearing some kind of costume and knocking on doors, asking for candy. It was a somewhat simpler time—I am a child of the (late) 60’s and 70’s. We didn’t worry so much about gang violence or child abductions then. We went out carrying little orange plastic pails decorated like jack-o-lanterns, dressed in store-bought Bugs Bunny or Hong Kong Phooey costumes, or homemade getups as a ghost or vampire. We feasted on Pez, Bubblicious, M&M’s, and the coveted Reese’s Cups until we were sugar-buzzed and sick to our stomachs.
I was never abused as a child, or scared witless by some stranger on Halloween. I don’t have a fear of clowns (it’s more common than you think) or costumes. My biggest fear as a kid was X-rays; I could never keep my eyes open during the title sequence of the Six Million Dollar Man because there was an X-ray of a skull in it. That just freaked me out. I’ve never recovered—to this day I can’t watch House without getting nightmares. You don’t see too many kids walking around on Halloween dressed up as X-rays so I think that’s safe.
I am not a dentist (I’m glad of that, because I know I couldn’t handle being regularly bitten by children). I don’t have some bias against sugary treats. My kids can chow down on candy as much as any privileged American children. I’m also not against dressing up in costumes.
If you’re a fan of Halloween, about now is when you ask me “so why do you hate Halloween if none of those things bother you?”
I don’t observe Halloween because Halloween is a feast of stupid self-indulgence. There’s nothing positive I can say about that day, no matter how much fun it may be to dress up, join a bunch of other people, walk door to door demanding candy, then go home and gorge yourself on it while watching horror movies.
In fact, I will give you seven reasons why Halloween is dumb.
1. Halloween is a religious holiday.
If you didn’t know that, it’s because your only source of information must be ESPN and beer commercials. Most people have some vague idea of where holidays like Christmas and Easter originate; they are religious holidays. But you won’t find Halloween in the Bible. Anywhere. Trust me. Or better yet, go read the Bible yourself and let me know when you find Halloween there.
Isn’t Halloween short for All Hallows Eve? Yes, it is. And isn’t All Hallows Eve the day before All Saints Day (All Hallows Day), which is November 1st? Yes, it is. Isn’t there another day called All Souls Day? Yes, there is, and if you knew that, you’re probably Roman Catholic. Here’s the progression: All Saints Day is a Catholic Feast day commemorating the saints who have entered Heaven. It’s followed by All Souls Day, which commends us to pray for souls who are being purified in purgatory or have entered Heaven to commune with us who are still living on the Earth.
In short, Catholics believe that we can pray for the dead and the dead will pray for us.
Somewhere between the years 609 A.D. and 741 A.D., various Popes ordained a celebration of the Saints who have entered Heaven, and by 846, Pope Gregory IV declared November 1st to be All Saints Day. In this way, Halloween is definitely a religious holiday, celebrating the souls of the dead.
Way back into what historians call “antiquity” (the time before recorded history), the Celtics and druids celebrated a Pagan holiday called Samhain (SOW-in), as the end of summer, halfway between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. They believed that the shortening of the days, and the advent of cold weather (it’s northern Europe after all, nasty climate and all) signified the dying of the world each year, and that evil spirits would walk the earth looking to possess or consume the living. They would dance around bonfires and dress up in various costumes to “entertain the spirits”, to avoid being possessed.
Here we have the perfect confluence of beliefs: the Catholic belief in the communion of the saints, and the Pagan belief in warding off evil spirits. It only made sense for the Pope to declare November 1st as All Saints Day, since the church was trying to evangelize the heathens in northern Europe. It was a whole lot easier to turn a pagan holiday into a Christian one than to give those people knowledge of the Bible. Besides, back in those days, Bibles were rare and only possessed by rich clergymen and priests. Ignorance was the norm, and Christianity was too hard to explain to such ignorant savages. Better to just give them another holiday.
Halloween is celebrated by some small groups today as a religious holiday. Modern druids (the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids) celebrate Samhain much as the ancients did. One other group celebrates Halloween: the Church of Satan. They, in particular, love Halloween, because it celebrates dead things, dark things, and scary things.
Satanists embrace what this holiday has become, and do not feel the need to be tied to ancient practices. This night, we smile at the amateur explorers of their own inner darkness, for we know that they enjoy their brief dip into the pool of the “shadow world.” We encourage their tenebrous fantasies, the candied indulgence, and the wide-ranging evocation of our aesthetics (while tolerating some of the chintzy versions), even if it is but once a year. For the rest of the time, when those not of our meta-tribe shake their heads in wonder at us, we can point out that they may find some understanding by examining their own All Hallows Eve doings, but we generally find it simpler to just say: “Think of the Addams Family and you’ll begin to see what we’re about.”
I don’t want to celebrate anything dead, dying, dark or scary. I don’t want my children celebrating those things. I don’t care what you think about God and Jesus Christ, or miracles, angels, or Heaven. We are here on this Earth full of living things, powered by a warm sun which provides 100% of the light on this planet, and we communicate and exist here among LIVING things. We bury dead things, because they rot and deliquesce.
I’d just as soon have my kids line up roadkill on the highway and munch candy while cars flattened the dead animals into skid marks than make Halloween a religious holiday.
Satanists stand in opposition to God and everything God stands for. They hold selfishness as the highest virtue. Anything Satanists celebrate is something I automatically, by definition, stand against. If you are a Christian, there’s only one reason you would celebrate Halloween, and that’s the bliss of ignorance. Gain a little knowledge and stand for light and life, not darkness and death (even if it’s candy coated).
2. Halloween is not a family holiday.
A 1992 study in consumer behavior at Rutgers University noted that:
Halloween in several respects appears to represent oppositional consumption patterns as compared to Christmas (and Thanksgiving as well). For example, there is no communal family meal, rather children independently go from house to house in search of candy. In contrast to the openness and informality of interactions during Christmas and Thanksgiving, Halloween is characterized by secretiveness and the formal “masking” of personal identity.
You don’t see movies made about busy executives struggling to get home for Halloween. You don’t see college students loading their cars to make the drive to grandma’s house for the traditional Halloween feast. They’re more likely buying beerand ordering pizza. Halloween is a day when we seek out the worst influences in our lives and encourage mayhem. When we get older, we stock up on candy, turn on the porch light, and await the parade of children while we hand out treats and pretend to be scared by little ghouls.
Halloween’s traditions involve going to the store and buying decorations, bats, vampires, and costumes. There may be an old-fashioned bobbing for apples or pumpkin-carving. But our memories typically involve some form of mischief, not hugs and grandma’s pumpkin pies. We don’t even watch football on Halloween.
3. Halloween is about greed.
On Christmas, we give our kids gifts, and encourage them to give gifts—or at least Christmas cards. On Easter, we remind our kids of the gifts that God gave, or talk about spring being a time of renewal. Only on Halloween do we encourage kids to take as much as they can, and give nothing back.
Getting, taking, wanting are the three themes of Halloween, and none of these are values I want to teach my children. Kids compare their hauls at the end of the night to see who got the most candy, and then wait until the other kids are distracted to steal their stash (just the Reese’s cups please).
Sure, yeah, they’re kids. They fight over anything and everything. They’re greedy little beings, and if it wasn’t for them being cute, we’d all consider giving them away. I get it, I have two boys. But there’s no value to actively promoting bad habits and behavior. There’s no way to turn “trick or treat!” into a polite request. I wouldn’t have my kids dress up as zombies on July 4th and go door to door saying “may I please have some candy, if you don’t mind, or I’ll toilet-paper your yard.” The implied threat of a “trick” is simply brutish.
Getting without earning, and taking without giving are values more in line with Satanists than Christians. I’d rather have my kids do without the candy than get it trick or treating. If they want to go, I, being a dad, am going to let them, but not enjoy it.
Retailers love Halloween. It’s the run-up to Christmas shopping these days. Used to be, you wouldn’t see any Christmas decorations until Thanksgiving. Those days are long gone: now Halloween is the starting line for the big Christmas shopping rush. Retailers would start at Labor Day if they could get away with it but back-to-school interferes in the northern states.
Stores love it when you wait till the last minute to get your small fries their costumes.
Back when I was in the business, I believe we brought in 16% of our annual sales in the three week run-up to Halloween. And as the holiday got closer, rather than feeling a need to drop prices, you’d start to get the sense that you could raise the prices on costumes rather than lower them (we didn’t). In fact, you’ve never quite seen desperation like that of the thirty year old on a Saturday, who has a costume party to go to that very night. It seemed like they’d pay anything for a reasonably acceptable costume. And so we’d cheer for procrastination.
It’s bad enough that Christmas, Easter, and every other holiday on the calendar has become a reason for a sale or commercialization, TV specials, gift-giving, and spending money. Halloween has little other purpose than retailers to find ways for you to hand over your cash to buy a new costume every year. God forbid that little Johnny wears the same thing twice, or you make your own homemade costume.
Even taken with a grain of salt and a healthy dose of charm, Halloween has become too commercialized. When a holiday has no other reason than to take my money, and encourage my kids to take without giving anything back, I must abstain. If you simply must participate in this greed-fest, a little knowledge will help you step away.
4. Halloween is about displaying children as objects.
The word “objectifying” is popular these days. It means anything from gender stereotyping to sexual exploitation. If holidays are a lens magnifying our society, then Halloween’s microscope reveals a pretty filthy concoction. Kids are influenced by television, movies, and their parents. Wardrobe malfunctions are common today, and former child stars like Miley Cyrus sell sex like candy. I know of a few parents who, years ago, actually decided to bring their young children to a Miley Cyrus concert, somehow believing it would be appropriate. The show was more like a stripper performance in a seedy red-light district: X-rated. And they didn’t give refunds.
Especially with young girls, Halloween costumes have become little X-rated versions of their older strippers-masquerading-as-singers. You don’t have a be a Christian or have Christian values to hate this trend. Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker blogged
These girls are taking cues from our pornified culture that tells them that to present themselves as sexual objects gives them power. They dress, move, and act like women they’ve seen in sexy movies.
But these are real life girls who will be sitting next to these boys in the classroom tomorrow. These are girls who will be taking tests, writing papers, answering academic questions tomorrow. These are girls who know these boys, it’s not a fantasy or a daydream.
These are girls who have bought into the belief that their social power comes from their sex appeal. They have bought into the belief that to make themselves into the object of male desire is a fun and exciting thing. But what they, and many women and girls, don’t know is that when this idea becomes a reality, it is far from empowering.
Letting kids wear whatever they want is a really, really bad idea. Dressing up as a little puppy or a cowboy is cute, but dressing up as a stripper is not. Some parents go too far the other way: they dress up their kids like some kind of decoration. These parents dressed their daughter as a selfie (warning: language NSFW). What kind of awful experience and lifelong complexes will that give the poor child?
If my kids want to dress up, they can do it anytime they want, but I hate celebrating one night of forced costumery. If your kids don’t want to dress up on Halloween, rent a good family movie, microwave some popcorn, and curl up on the couch with them. Better yet, turn out the porch lights so you don’t have strangers coming to your door asking why your kids aren’t out there displaying themselves like trophies.
5. Halloween is about secrecy and fear.
Masks obscure. Costumes disguise. It’s okay for kids to pretend they are someone else, when they play. It’s even fun to dress up. But take a night when everyone is in disguise, and it’s all about secrecy. And fear.
Trick-or-treat is traditionally at night. Lately, for safety’s sake, it’s during daylight hours. That’s a good thing, since it gives cars better visibility when kids are walking the streets in dark outfits. The reason it’s at night is because the dark is scary (I mean, it’s not because we shoot fireworks, right?). Scary animals like bats and spiders are symbols of Halloween. Scary music, images, movies, all tied in to Halloween. The purpose of Halloween is to scare people; for kids to scare adults, for adults to scare kids.
Elaborate haunted houses have become a $6 billion industry. No longer a small, neighborhood affair, attractions rivaling theme-park production values are all over the country. Scaring is big business. You can’t be scared if you know what’s about to happen. You make something really scary is not telling people what’s behind that dark door. You put them in the dark, disorient them, send hot moist air down their necks, pop a few pyrotechnics and flash-bangs, and jump out of the dark in a really creepy costume. It’s adrenaline city after that.
There’s something sinister about being scared. It’s a rush for sure, but there’s other ways to get a rush. Roller coasters, water slides, skydiving, and zip lining all come to mind. But standing in the dark waiting to be scared into heart failure (and spending $40 to do it) is a thrill I can do without. If you’re a Christian, remember that fear is the opposite of faith. I can be scared and do something that builds my faith, or I can be scared for the sake of being scared.
There’s no value to experiencing fear for fear’s sake. It doesn’t overcome the fear by doing it (nobody goes through the same haunted house 20 times in a row, but they do ride Space Mountain 20 times in a row—I’ve done it). If you’re too ignorant to get your thrill some other way than a dark room with creepy people in costumes holding bloody knives, keep on celebrating Halloween.
6. Halloween rewards bad behavior.
Do you know how trick-or-treat started? It was self defense. Back at the turn of the 20th century, Halloween was celebrated by Irish immigrants (remember, Roman Catholics), who went around in drunken mobs committing acts of vandalism and general mayhem. To combat this, merchants got together and started having festivals around the holiday. They targeted children, encouraging them toward less destructive behavior by handing out candy.
Halloween is a dumbed-down version of beast-night. Drunk teenagers and college students do plenty of damage. The insurance industry labels Halloween as the worst night of the year for vandalism. From simple pranks like toilet-papering your house, to serious crime like spray painting your car, Halloween is a time when crime is tolerated, and bad behavior is encouraged. Trick-or-treat is the training ground for more serious mischief as kids get older.
7. For Christians: Halloween is incompatible with the Bible.
Only the Biblically illiterate would celebrate Halloween as a religious holiday. If you don’t believe in God or the Bible, I have no beef with you. Now you know you’re celebrating a religious festival based on a mixture of pagan, Catholic, and Satanist beliefs, dedicated to communing with the dead, focused on greed, self-gratification, objectifying children, secrecy, fear, and mayhem. If you’re okay with that, then keep on rockin’ Halloween—it’s your nickel.
If you call yourself a Christian, then I’ll safely assume you’re not interested in following pagan or Satanist beliefs. You are, in fact, following a Catholic feast day. I’ll quote from Catholic Online:
Catholics celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual communion between those in the state of grace who have died and are either being purified in purgatory or are in heaven (the ‘church penitent’ and the ‘church triumphant’, respectively), and the ‘church militant’ who are the living.
Purgatory is malarchy. There’s no such place. You can’t pray the dead into Heaven any more than you can pray the dead sinner out of Hell. There are only two destinations for the departed soul in the Bible: Heaven and Hell. The idea of being forgiven through Christ in this life yet not being pure enough to enter Heaven in death is ridiculously flawed; for this to be true either Christ’s forgiveness is incomplete (it’s not, see John 3:16), or our living bodies carry our mortal sins beyond the grave for the elect in Christ (they don’t).
When you die, your eternal fate is cast. This is the whole reason Christians preach repentance in Christ. If you can put off your repentance until after you die and then “do time” in Purgatory until you’ve “repented enough” then nobody would enter Hell—they’d all be in Purgatory waiting for us to pray them out. The Bible doesn’t support this, and the Bible doesn’t support Halloween. There’s no “pray for the dead and the dead will pray for you.” Pray instead for the living and leave the dead to God.
1 John 4:18 reads “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:8 says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” If you celebrate Halloween, you celebrate fear. If you have fear, you don’t fully have love. And to the degree you are not full of love, you don’t know God.
If you celebrate Halloween, you are distancing yourself from God and everything God is, desires, and loves. In fact, Halloween is the opposite of God and His plan. The quickest way to ignorance is separation from God.
Halloween is the only day on the calendar dedicated to the ignorant. Embracing Halloween, you are embracing ignorance of God, ignorance of everything good, everything bright, warm, illuminated, and glad in your life. You are embracing fear, darkness, death and mayhem.
I cannot, and never will, enjoy or love Halloween. Better for me to skip it. Now you know why.
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.
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