Halloween – Is it a bit of harmless fun?

Halloween has become one of the biggest events in the British calendar.

Historically traditions associated with October 31st exist way back but ‘trick-or-treating’, is a relatively recent addition.

Consumer reports say that spending on Halloween in the UK 10 years ago was only £12m; now it is £300m. For retailers, after Christmas and Easter, it is their third highest income.

Unfortunately many see it as a time to have fun without considering the background to Halloween and its implications. Some even defend it saying that it is ‘harmless nonsense’.

But is it indeed harmless? Is it merely nonsense? It’s time to do some hard thinking.

Let me give you several reasons why Halloween is not harmless:

1. HALLOWEEN CELEBRATES EVIL

Although people celebrate Halloween in different ways it remains, at its core, an event that glorifies the dark, creepy and scary side of life. Just thinking about the costumes alone makes us realise it focusses on violence and fear. Whatever view we have about life, we all take it for granted that our society should spend time and energy encouraging children to care for others and to know the difference between right and wrong.

Yet on this one day, we throw all those values away and glorify everything that is evil and unpleasant. Talk about sending out mixed messages!

2. HALLOWEEN IS UNHELPFUL

We live in a world where every parent and teacher takes care to warn children that strangers may pose a threat and that they need to take precautions. Yet at Halloween, we discard that rule and encourage children to go and knock on doors and accept sweets from strangers. 

3. HALLOWEEN TRIVIALISES BAD THINGS

No one is in doubt that evil is serious and that muggings, stabbings and serious accidents are horrendous. Yet, again, Halloween breaks the rules. On this day we pretend that death, deformity and injury are no more than kids’ play!

4. HALLOWEEN IS OFFENSIVE

You could simply say that scaring kids is unhelpful, but there is a more subtle and troubling issue. There are a number of websites that tell you how to create an effective disfigurement; for example, how to create realistic-looking burns and how to make yourself hideously ugly.

Now consider how you would feel about that if you yourself were a burns victim, were severely disabled or had suffered horrendous scarring. Do we really want to spread the message that ugliness equates to evil?

5. HALLOWEEN IS GETTING WORSE

Concerns about Halloween do not simply come from those of us with a ‘religious agenda’.

Increasingly, other people are expressing concern, particularly about the way that Halloween seems to be getting darker and nastier every year.

6. HALLOWEEN ALLOWS EVIL A VICTORY

In some older Halloween traditions, people dressed up in clothes that made them look evil and then, at the end of the evening, the outfits were burnt.

The message was clear if naive: in the end, good triumphs over evil. Yet there is no hint of that in the modern Halloween. Now, evil is unchallenged and just slips away into the darkness, to return at some other time. That’s not the message our world needs today.

7. HALLOWEEN ENCOURAGES BULLYING AND ACTS OF ANTI SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

At no other time of year would parents or any responsible citizen condone bullying. Yet is that not what we are doing when we encourage people to hand over goodies for fear of getting a “trick”?

(I am grateful to the Reverend Canon J. John for some of the thoughts in this blog)

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