Tom Purcell, 10/23/2006 [Archive]

Ban On Halloween

Halloween Ban?

By Tom Purcell

Ban Halloween from public schools?

That's right. No costumes. No parades. No parties. It's happening all over America.

But it's autumn. There's a chill in the air. The leaves are a brilliant orange and gold. Kids are supposed to celebrate Halloween at school.

Supposed to?

Look, Americans embraced the Halloween tradition long ago. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says Celtic pagans believed that at the end of the harvest season, Oct. 31, ghosts and evil spirits returned to the Earth. The Celts wore masks to hide themselves from the spirits.


Then in the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV established All Saints' Day, which eventually fell on Nov. 1. The evening before All Saints' Day became a holy, or hallowed, eve and thus Halloween.

Interesting, but what's your point?

Well, as the Irish immigrated to America they brought the Halloween tradition with them. Today it's totally secular and totally harmless.

But some Christians in our schools think it's extremely harmful -- they think it's a celebration of the dark side, and they forbid their children to participate in it.

They do?

Yes, and they're not alone. Deborah Caldwell at says some Muslims consider Halloween forbidden because they believe it celebrates the devil, and also because it's a non-Muslim holiday.


Caldwell says religiously observant Jews also discourage Halloween celebrations as a result of the holiday's Christian and pagan origin.

But it's just a playful holiday when kids dress up in silly costumes!

That makes it even worse. Wiccans -- witches and warlocks -- feel the day marginalizes their religion, a religion that is recognized and protected under our laws, just as any organized religion is.

You've got to be kidding.

I'm not kidding. A few years ago a Seattle school banned Halloween in part because it was offensive to Wiccans. How'd you like it if public schools had events that mocked Christian saints?

Look, I understand your point. One of the great things about our country is that we go to incredible lengths to protect anybody who is part of any minority -- we go out of our way not to offend.

As we should.

But don't we sometimes go too far? Most kids and most families love Halloween. Heck, many adults love to dress up every year. I argue that it's a positive and uplifting holiday that public schools should continue to embrace.

For what reason?

Well, it's the one day people can escape themselves -- pretend to be someone or something else. They can let their creativity go wild to come up with clever costumes. Surely you're not against creativity.

No, but some children cannot afford to create costumes. We must watch out for them, too.

Then require everyone to make their costumes from scratch. That's what we did as kids. One year I was a mummy -- a roll of toilet paper did the job. One year I was a ghost -- an old sheet worked perfectly. I knew one girl who went as a marshmallow -- again, an old sheet did the job.

What's your point?

My point is that the day is a great break from the humdrum of schoolwork. It's a respite. It's a day to unleash one's creativity, have a little fun, step outside of yourself for a spell and share in a playful tradition.

No can do. We already have more lawsuits than we can manage.

How about just calling it Harvest Season then?


How about we at least allow kids to trick-or-treat for some candy?

Too many trans fats. And the sugar will rot their teeth.

How about we whitewash every tradition and every holiday and make every school day as hopelessly bland and boring as every other so nobody can be offended?

That's a start.

And it's something to be spooked about.

Tom Purcell's weekly political humor column runs in newspapers and Web sites across America. Contact him at Distributed by Cagle Cartoons syndicate,, call Sales at (805) 969-2829 for reprint info.

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