I was recently sent a complaint from a parent who attended a special "chapel" session at a local Christian school this week. Topic? An invited speaker, armed with a PowerPoint slide presentation, discussed why students must not celebrate Halloween and made some "bold" and "inaccurate" assertions (she claimed were fact) to dissuade the teens and terrify the little ones.
Her are some of the reported claims (not verbatim) the speaker used as (what I consider) scare tactics for every child in the school:
- Claim A: "Trick or treating" really means you are giving your soul to the Devil
- Claim B: Halloween is the night that kids are kidnapped and killed in Satanic rituals
- Claim C: Treats are likely to contain razor blades and poison
- Claim D: Dressing up as a princess or fairy, instead of a witch or devil, will not spare you from supporting the occult
- Claim E: Halloween was started specifically to disrupt the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas religious holidays
As a student of psychology, I have no problem telling you "my theory" on what this speaker was up to. Specifically, I believe that her statements are very far from "fact based", although she repeatedly stressed that they were during the speech and follow-up Q&A session. Instead, I believe her message was a carefully crafted attempt at persuasion (i.e. manipulation) of these young minds using scare tactics.
Granted, it's impossible to know her real motivations and goals, so I emphasize that these are my thoughts, not a definitive assertion of the true nature of her motivations. Likewise, there could be another possibility, which would be a just as ill advised and more sad: Maybe she has simply been brainwashed within her own church participation through the same variety of weakly supported claims.
Is she a talking head, repeating the "burned in" philosophies she been injected with by her own pastor?
I had a young one come home the same day, who had decided she was not going to have fun with the family on Halloween after all. This comes after we had already helped her pick out her princess costume she was so excited about wearing while "trick or treating" with us. Apparently, those who lobbied against it were successful in their campaign. So the family decorating for Halloween, choosing costumes, getting ready, and trick or treating in the neighborhood is a Satanic thing to do and we must never take part. Is that the rule?
So allow us to dig a little deeper. Were her claims really facts? It is certainly difficult to argue philosophy without running yourself into a deadlock, especially when it comes to religion. But here are some counter thoughts for each of her claims:
Regarding Claim A: "Trick or treating" is just the phrase to describe going door to door collecting candy, first used in the US sometime in the 1920s. It is an American practice, but has its roots in several different cultures and historical practices such as Beggars Night, Christmas wassailing (caroling), "souling" (poor asking for food in exchange for prayers for the dead). The "trick" part is almost entirely an idol threat, although granted there are certainly some vandals who might categorize their egg throwing, toilet papering, or graffiti as under the banner of "trick". But these are often the same kids that are tagging property with graffiti "art" all through the year, not just waiting for Halloween to unleash their bad behavior.
There was absolutely no reference I was able to find that would suggest that trick or treating has anything to do with ones soul as it relates to selling, giving away, or having it taken by the "Devil". The closest reference is "souling", which is actually a positive act in which people offer food to the poor, and the poor offer their prayers for the deceased.
I would love to find out what her supporting material is for this claim.
Regarding Claim B: I am sure that some kidnappings have occurred on Halloween as on any other night. I do not know the statistics on Satanic ritual killing, and it certainly is not commonly reported in the media. What I do know is that crime statistics are highest in the summer months, not in the Fall, and that people could be kidnapped or harmed any day of the year. Oscar & Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother, and nephew were shot to death this week. Did that have anything to do with Halloween?
I checked the FBI, National Crime Prevention Council, New York Police Department, and Bureau of Justice Statistics and could find nothing other than some common sense tips for a safe Halloween. Nowhere did I find amber alerts reminding families of the increased risk of abduction or being killed in a Satanic ritual.
Regarding Claim C: Treats are NOT likely to contain razors or poison. Incidents have been extremely rare. Common sense tips are to examine your child's candy, removing items not commercially packaged, and eliminating items that are homemade, unsealed, opened, or fruit items, etc. This is more for germ prevention than anything else. Choosing an appropriate neighborhood is also related. I don't know anyone planning on taking their kids into La Perla for Halloween, but I am doubtful the people who live there would spend much time trying to kill kids by poisoning candy, regardless of whatever else we might suggest about the neighborhood.
You want to know the 3 biggest risks of candy/treats collected:
- Poisoned candy is typically found to have been poisoned by the "parents" of the kids (i.e. their own kids)!
- Children have been found to have doctored their own candy to get attention
- Many seem to forget that all of that "sugar" is poison itself, including these same Christian schools who dish it out or sell it to students on a regular basis. As parents we do not stop the fun of collecting, but we do confiscate and throw away most of the candy collected.
Regarding Claim D: Dressing up as princess might be a little less spooky for some of the smaller kids. But even dressing up as a Devil or Witch, is no real harm. In fact, if you follow the origins, these were designed to scare evil away, not to promote or endorse it. Let's get real: They are just costumes. But trying to discourage a little girl from dressing up as a princess, or a little boy as pirate Jack Sparrow is total killjoy behavior. So you don't like spooky costumes? That is fine. Choose something fun instead. There are lots of cute costumes for kids.
Regarding Claim E: There is no evidence I could find indicating that Halloween's date was selected to disrupt Christmas or Thanksgiving. That seems like another absurd claim. In fact, the reality is that Halloween's origins are closely related to All Saint's Day which was original May 13th until moved to November 1st by Popes Gregory III and IV. The term derives from "Hallow" and "Eve", meaning "Saint" and "Evening". Since historically new days were considered to begin at sundown, the evening of October 31st could have effectively been considered the start of All Saint's Day. So it is certainly related to the Fall Harvest, but there is no evidence that the date was chosen to disrupt Thanksgiving or Christmas, which are (for the most part) unrelated events.
Note: I invite all of my readers, many of whom have children in Christian schools with a similar policy, and many of which are members of Christian churches that share these beliefs. Please send your feedback. If this is something you feel strongly about, tell us why.
From the research I have done, the lack of evidence for what I consider profoundly exaggerated claims of fact, are just good old scare tactics intended to brainwash the students, or perhaps to "put the fear of God into them".
Is the real issue here the association with "All Saint's Day"? Remember, only Catholics celebrate the saints. Other Christian sects typically do not approve. I am not going to start that debate, but I am raising it as a possibility for the objections against Halloween by some of these schools.
Listen. Instead of scaring the "hell out of these kids", why not advocate some new rules for a safe and fun Halloween? Why not promote a costume party and permit only non-scary costumes? The kids would love it, and you would successfully keep the fun, and subtract the "devilish" associations. I think that would be a reasonable compromise and would not require manipulation/brain washing to do.
For those parents of kids who are taking their kids trick or treating tomorrow, regardless of what the schools are trying to mandate, keep in mind that "falling" is the biggest risk to your child! Here are some safety tips:
- Go with your kids. Teenagers will be content to walk 50 feet ahead of you, without feeling "uncool". If they don't agree, keep them home. Little ones should never be unattended in public, any night of the year.
- Trick or treat during the early evening, between 5-8pm in a safe neighborhood. Avoid the roads later as there is a real danger of a higher incidence of impaired drivers. Consider hosting a Halloween costume party instead, or attending one with friends and family.
- Take away any treat items that are not commercially packaged and sealed. Even better, confiscate most of the candy for the benefit of the health of your children (i.e. think diabetes/obesity).
- Choose the costume wisely. Shoot for lighter and/or reflective colors. Choose makeup over masks for better visibility. Bring some flashlights. You need to make sure drivers can see you.
And for you anti-Halloween, killjoy churches and schools: Stop trying to scare kids with your PowerPoint presentations and manipulation of fact. God can be in their lives without sucking all of the fun out of it. You do not need to make them feel like they are committing a sin, subject to damnation, or defying their God just because they go trick or treating, dressed up as Spongebob or Dora the Explorer. It could be argued that the costume that would be the most scary would be that of a "priest". There are some among them who have certainly done some real unGodly/unspeakable harm to children in this world. Witches, devils, zombies and ghouls are all just make believe. Keep that in mind.