Halloween: a favorite holiday for families and communities

Oct. 31, 2003, midnight | By Caitlin Garlow | 17 years, 2 months ago

The weeks before October 31 are a whirl of confusion as children nationwide take part in the biggest scavenger hunt of the year- the search for a perfect costume. The final discovery of a costume brings excitement and apprehension similar to the day-before-school jitters, as children count the hours until they can call out "Trick or Treat!" Halloween is a children's holiday that has been celebrated in the United States since the 1950s, full of fun and games, and for many, remembrance.

Contrary to some beliefs, the notion that Halloween is comprised of devil worship and child sacrifice is a false idea that originated through propaganda by the Catholic Church in an attempt to convert all pagans to Catholicism. The word pagan, originating from the Latin paganus, meaning country dweller, has come to be associated with devil worship, although the term pagan originally referred to rural villagers who chose to hold onto their traditions of nature worship. As for the idea of sacrificing children, historians are divided as to whether this is fact or myth.

Halloween originated from two ancient traditions, All Hallow's Eve, and Samhain, a Celtic harvest festival. All Hallow's Eve, or All Saints Day, is a Catholic holiday set on November 1 each year in commemoration of the saints. October 31 marked the end of the summer harvest period during the 5th century in Ireland. All Saints Day was purposely set near the Samhain by Catholic missionaries in an attempt to dissuade the Celts from their "evil" practices. Many Catholics choose to attend church on November 1 to pray for the saints. Costumes, treats, and jack-o-lanterns became symbols of Halloween and the fall season from specific traditions derived from both holidays.

However, just because there is religious and historical meaning in the origins of Halloween does not mean that everyone who celebrates should be forced to observe these practices or beliefs. Today, Halloween is the second most commercialized holiday in the United States due to money spent on candy and costuming. The traditions of Halloween, though they no longer hold much religious meaning, are still significant in fostering a positive environment for communities. Many neighbors hold parties for friends, encouraging the mingling of groups and development of new friendships.

Safety on Halloween night is only an issue for children if they are unsupervised and uninformed of possible dangers. Parents are encouraged to go with their children while they trick-or-treat. If they let their kids go alone, they should suggest that their children only go to houses that they know, or to houses with lights and decorations.

While Halloween may have been associated with Satanic worship at one time in European history, the relation has long since disappeared. Halloween is a holiday that deserves to be enjoyed by children, adults, and communities for many years to come.

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Caitlin Garlow. Caitlin is a second-semester senior at last. Her favorite things include making fun of her homeless sister and hunting down her clothes in other people's closets. More »

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