Editorial: Should schools recognize Halloween?

Lyle Griggs

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When my brother attended Hillcrest Elementary School, administrators decided to stop celebrating Halloween. Several parents opposed the school’s traditional Halloween festivities, and the school acceded to their demands. Opposition likely stemmed from the day’s supposed pagan origins, satanic connotations and history of culturally insensitive costumes. Instead of the typical festivities, the school celebrated “religious unity day,” which was fairly contrite.

My family, viewing this as hyper-politically-correct appeasement, was furious and resolved to fight the decision. Our Lawrence-based members gathered over dinner to devise a protest plan. It was quite the scene, complete with fiery speeches, a near-continuous chorus of hurrahs and boos, sporadic table-banging and vicious attacks on the school principal.

In the end, my family failed to convince the school. But, determined to protest the decision, we pulled my brother and cousin from school and held our own celebration, to which all Hillcrest families were invited. 

But this was not an isolated incident–many argue for a Halloween ban and many schools have taken similar actions due to religious concerns and cultural sensitivity. But banning Halloween may be more problematic than keeping it around.

Firstly, banning Halloween is an ignorant, pointless action because it relies on the fiction that Halloween, being a religious festival, harms religious equality. But that is plainly wrong; anyone who has trick-or-treated, carved pumpkins or dressed up in costume knows that the occasion is now entirely secular. Are Halloween’s origins religious? Of course they are! Most internationally-celebrated holidays have religious origins. But the holiday is not religious anymore, so eliminating it cannot advance religious equality.

Secondly, when schools ban Halloween, they deprive kids of a fun tradition and a crucial part of the American experience. I recall my school’s festivities fondly, and it saddens me to think that kids might be deprived of that experience.

Furthermore, school festivities are often the only way for kids from other countries to experience an American Halloween. For that reason, a number of immigrant families pulled their kids from school and joined my family’s impromptu Halloween party. 

To conclude, schools should continue to celebrate Halloween. The payoff for kids is significant, and religious concerns are greatly exaggerated. Some may personally object to Halloween, but that minority should not dictate whether or not kids can have fun.