Halloween, Monotheism, and the Pagan Vacuum

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 21, 2011 — 57 Comments

Amity Shlaes is worried. She’s worried about what the ever-growing popularity of Halloween might mean.

“…as much as we’d like it to be, Halloween isn’t secular. It is pagan. There’s nothing else to call a set of ceremonies in which people utter magical phrases, flirt with the night and evoke the dead. One of my family’s favorite Halloween props was a hand that moved, as though from the netherworld, when you reached to collect a few pieces of candy corn. Necromancy is a regular part of Halloween games. Zombie masks are one of this year’s top- sellers. As grouchy theologians used to point out, the origin of Halloween was most likely Samhain, an ancient Celtic holiday on which the dead, in some accounts, supposedly returned to visit.”

In her mind, this spooky “pagan” boom is caused by the retreat of monotheism.

“There’s a reason for the pull of the pagan. In the U.S., we’ve been vigorously scrubbing our schools and other public spaces of traces of monotheistic religion for many decades now. Such scrubbing leaves a vacuum. The great self-deception of modern life is that nothing will be pulled into that vacuum. Half a century ago, the psychologist Carl Jung noted the heightened interest in UFOs, and concluded that the paranormal was “modern myth,” a replacement for religion.

Children or adults who today relish every detail of zombie culture or know every bit of wizarding minutiae are seeking something to believe in. That church, mosque and synagogue are so controversial that everyone prefers the paranormal as neutral ground is disconcerting. There’s something unsettling about the education of a child who comfortably enumerates the rules for surviving zombie apocalypse but finds it uncomfortable to enumerate the rules of his grandparents’ faith, if he knows them.”

This exercise in pearls-clutching isn’t anything new to Shlaes, who seems to have a somewhat rosy view of Christianity’s cultural dominance, and a dismal one of its grudging retreat in the face of religious minorities, atheists, and the religiously unaffiliated daring to demand that our secular nation live up to its promise. As noted in my interview with historian Kevin M. Schultz, American pluralism has been a long, hard, struggle, and the largely nativist, protestant majority didn’t change quickly or without struggle. The rhetoric that pluralism and embracing a secular public square will do irreparable harm to our culture, and to Christian values, has been around since at least the early 20th century, perhaps earlier.

What I think it striking is that this isn’t even a “war on Christmas” piece, or a “the reason we celebrate Easter” editorial, avenues where a Christian might have some rhetorically firm ground to stand on. Instead, Shlaes attacks Halloween simply because it’s a symptom in her mind for the bigger problem of rampant secularism. It’s a piece of “bah humbug” that insults pre-Christian religion in a sideways fashion.

Here’s the thing, I do think Halloween is a secular holiday. I also think it happens to coincide with several religious holidays and festivals that have to do with death, ancestors, sacrifice, and confronting our mortality (along with a big party). Fete Gede for Vodou practitioners, Día de los Muertos for followers of Santeria and several indigenous religions in Mexico and Latin America, Samhain for many modern Pagans and Celtic Reconstructionists, and Velu Laiks (“the time of spirits”) for Baltic Pagans, among many, many others. In Catholicism, this time is celebrated with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, keeping with many of the same themes as the “Pagan” holidays (though some may say “appropriating”). In short the preoccupation on Halloween to “flirt with the night and evoke the dead” isn’t so much as “pagan” thing as a “human” thing. There’s a deep cultural default, far deeper than the veneer of Christianity, that draws us towards celebrating Halloween the way we do (no cultural vacuum required).

I don’t think that the current popularity of Halloween makes it more, or less, “pagan”. I think it’s an excuse to participate in a communal festival, to don masks, indulge in sweets, and forget about fiscal troubles for one night. I think its people doing what they’ve always done when the nights got longer and the days got shorter, make merry to help us through the darker days. Yes, I also think we’re heading into a post-Christian society, and that will change the way we look at different holiday observances, but editorials like these do nothing but create controversy where there is little to be found. For all the hand-wringing over Christianity not being drilled into every young head, the faith is still politically, numerically, and yes, culturally, dominates the United States (and much of the West). I find it insulting that because Halloween isn’t overtly Christian that somehow makes it something to worry over.

Also, and this is a personal opinion, but I think people who don’t love Halloween might have something wrong with them.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Anonymous

    This whole piece was very well done. But this right here was the money statement:

    [[ In short the preoccupation on Halloween to “flirt with the night and evoke the dead” isn’t so much as “pagan” thing as a “human” thing. There’s a deep cultural default, far deeper than the veneer of Christianity, that draws us towards celebrating Halloween the way we do (no cultural vacuum required). ]]

    • Jack Heron

      I totally agree. I’m a Christian and you know what? I think we (that’s a Christian ‘we’) need to be more pagan, because the things described as ‘pagan’ these days are so often those human things that should be common to us all – celebrating the seasons, reflecting on the dead and so on. One of the reasons I like neopaganism more than my coreligionists think I should (the other is my over-the-top fondness for trees).

      • Lonespark

        I’m very glad to hear that said. I know many Christians feel that way. My mother certainly does.

  • Obsidia


  • Minx

    I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. I love the fall season and all that it entails–fall leaves, pumpkin pie, caramel apples, pomegranate seeds, scary movies, cooler weather–but hate the commercialism of Halloween and the strangers, who I never see any other time of year, coming to my door to “trick or treat” us, when I’d rather be doing a ceremony in the privacy of my home. Most trick-or-treaters don’t even live in my neighborhood. So it’s not like I can “get to know my neighbors.” (Did I mention they never come around any other time of year?)

    I don’t mind the very young children; they’re often quite cute and shy in their costumes. (They seem to instinctively realize that it’s a weird custom to go to a stranger’s house and demand obligatory candy. Any other day, their parents would be telling them not to talk to strangers much less take candy from them.) But the older kids are often quite greedy and ill-mannered.

    I’m reminded of this quote by Samantha from “Bewitched”: “Mother flies to the south of France every year this time, ’til it all blows over.’ ” Wish that I could.

    • Jason Mankey

      I look at Halloween and Samhain as two different holidays. Halloween is a secular celebration of fall, full of kids (and high schoolers) asking for candy, and adults going to parties and probably drinking too much. It’s a time of year for dress up and to enjoy “being scared” if that’s your thing. I think it’s a healthy outlet for sexual repression too, that’s why you see so many “Sexy Witch” costumes out there.

      Samhain is a completely different holiday. It’s an actual religious observance dedicated to honoring the gods, the change of the seasons, and for acknowledging the thinness of the veil between the worlds. For me (like many of you I’m sure) it’s a time to honor those that have passed before me and to be near them once more. I tend to celebrate Samhain before Halloween, this year I’ll be celebrating and ritualizing on the weekend before the 31st.

      If a ritual on the 31st is necessary, I wait until the trick or treating stops. It’s not like it lasts until midnight.

      • Minx

        I understand and agree. Unfortunately, in our household, “Halloween” doesn’t stop till midnight or later, cause that’s when the kids want to visit with their uncles. 🙁 By then, we’re exhausted.

  • You don’t like Halloween, don’t want your kids dressed up like zombies? Fine, don’t participate in this holiday, don’t let them participate. Or tone it down to a level with which your family is comfortable. If there is, truly, a “vacuum” because public schools aren’t indoctrinating children in religion any longer, might I suggest devoting more time to religion instruction at home? And perhaps allow schools to teach outrageous crazy like art, music, reading and mathematics.

    • Great point. It struck me after reading all these “fear of Halloween” articles by Christians… and there are quite a few more out there in Media Land… that they perceive that people are leaving the Christian religion in droves. How is that OUR fault? Isn’t it up to Christians, themselves, to make their religion more interesting and relevant to their followers?

      • Exactly. Didn’t their God give them free will, after all? Seems they might be exercising it. 😉

        • Bittysnitty

          they only exercise free will when the church tells them to. Otherwise, they want to exorcise the free will out of the rest of us.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I can take Schlaes’s rap at face value, convert her emotive statement into factual tones — withdrawing Christian symbolism whence it arguably doesn’t belong, leads to emergence of non-Christian symbolism already present in the culture — and accept it as a description of a dominant paradigm losing a bit of its grip to the advantage of the cultural competition. Of couse, her version is galvanized by the angst of the side that is diminished, and that’s her problem. She loses sight of the continuing majority of Christianity in persons, place names and public things in this country, in her agony over any significant diminution.

  • V Weatherwax

    “pearls-clutching”–love it!!

    • It’d endlessly amusing how these types get all bent out of shape about the supposed exclusion of Christmas from the public sphere and people calling it by other names (like ‘Happy Holidays’), while they’re doing the exact same thing with Halloween.

      • Thelettuceman

        The difference is that to them they are right, and you are wrong.

      • …about the supposed exclusion of Christmas from the public sphere and people calling it by other names (like ‘Happy Holidays’)…

        Er… “Happy Holidays” isn’t a re-naming of Christmas. It’s a generic greeting dating (as observed on antique hand-made greeting cards) as early as the Victorian, and in commercial music since WWII. It was basically popularised to initially be inclusive of Jewish holidays (the 1942 song, “Happy Holiday (White Christmas)”, was penned by Jewish-Amerikan songwriter Irving Berlin, and is a translation of the Hebrew greeting “Hag Sameach”), and a side-effect of that inclusiveness is that it can be applied to any winter celebrants: One can wish “Happy Holidays” to those who observe Islam winter Eids, Channukah, Christmas, the Solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, Dionysia, Sol Invictus, Festivus, the (Gregorian calendar) New Year, Epiphany, the Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving (in the U$ and canada), Boxing/St Stephen’s Day, Zappadan, or whatever else, and both a) not have to memorise several greetings, and b) not risk potentially excluding one who does not celebrate the holiday(s) that the greeter celebrates. A Muslim grocery store clerk might (correctly, mind) assume that I don’t celebrate the Eids she does, but also might a) be uncomfortable with presuming it’s correct for her to wish me a “Merry Christmas” and b) might believe it’s presumptuous of her to assume I’m Christian, or even non-Muslim, so “Happy Holidays” is a great way to extend a greeting without wasting the time needed to ask me what I observe and what an appropriate greeting would be — especially cos “grocery store clerk” is one of those jobs where time is money and per-hour quotas are often enforced (I used to work that job at a few different stores). Furthermore, one who has many friends and family members of different religions can buy a box of cards wishing “Happy Holidays”, or non-Christian members of a predominantly Christian family could, and still show that the good will is extended.

        The real push in commercial greeting cards and retail workers to wish recipients and customers “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” wasn’t really noticed until the 1970s, but if you look at 1970s television, it’s easy to assume that nobody in the U$ really noticed Black people until then, either, so it’s easy to infer that the 1970s was a time when the Amerikan social middle class (as opposed to fiscal middle class — which is another story for another time) started to take note of what complete douches they’d been in previous decades, and now it was time to try and make up for it. Those now decrying the assumed “war on Christmas” are usually Upper Middle Class whites, and those in the lower classes easily manipulated by said UMC whites, who long for a fabled “golden age” when they weren’t held accountable for their actions, no matter how small.

        I don’t know if you just misspoke and knew this already —if so, please acknowledge that I had no way of knowing this, based on your response, and I only say this because it is GROSSLY inaccurate to represent “Happy Holidays” as a “politically correct re-marketing” of Christmas. Maybe it’s “politically correct” in the sense that it doesn’t make any assumptions of the person the greeting is being extended to, but in a country founded on secular principles, and largely by Deists, that lack of assumption should be embraced, not feared.

        • I wasn’t defending the notion that saying ‘Happy Holidays’ is renaming Christmas or overly PC, I meant that in the minds of the people I was talking about it is those things. I, obviously, have no problem with people saying Happy Holidays, but the ‘War on Christmas’ crowd thinks that saying anything but Merry Christmas is a sign of the apocalypse.

          • I hoped so. 🙂

            Truthfully, about half the time I comment in blogs lately, it’s just to point out something that nobody else has said in an effort to dispel as much misinformation as I can before other people who might not be in on the joke come and read it. Yeah, Wild Hunt is pretty low on Christian ass-hattery trolling, but I figure most of the time it’s better to say something than hope than it can remain unsaid.

  • Anonymous

    I agree w Jason and I’ve blogged on this topic before. We have several secular holidays that overlap various religious holidays. I do deep magic w/ women in my Circle for Samhein. And I also, as a member of my neighborhood, hand out candy to costumed children, provide adult beverages for their parents, and decorate my yard for the secular holiday of Halloween. As an adult, I’m able to understand the difference.

    If I were a batshit crazy Dominionist, I’d get all worked up over how “JesusWeen” was part of a “war” on my High Holy Day. Instead, I enjoy both the religious holiday and the secular one. Can’t wait to see G/Son dressed up as Harry Potter and to hand out candy to dozens of kids in costume, enjoying being outside after dark.

  • Michael Dolan

    I love Halloween.

    I believe it was right around the time I realized that I could enjoy Christmas (the American holiday of Santa Claus, trees, and turkey dinners) without actually having anything to do with Christmas (the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of their central figure) when I realized I could go ahead and enjoy Halloween without it affecting my Samhain observances.

  • PJ

    Sing it, Brother Jason! LOL

    Like some have already stated, I enjoy the season of Halloween but I also consider it slightly separate from my Samhain observations.

    Halloween: Horror movies, spook houses, costumes, caramel apples, and handing out candy

    Samhain: Building my altar to the dead, making Remembrance Cookies, and ritual with my circle. And like Hecate’s, our Samhain ritual is usually our most powerful and meaningful of the year.

  • Kilmrnock

    Minx , chill out a bit , my freind , as jason said this a fall festival that people and kids have a deep seated reason to participate in . We know and fully understand what Samhain/Halloween is all .They just remember how much fun it is .Don’t you remember how much fun trick or treating was as a child ? or the occasional Halloween Party. tis a wonderful time of year , the veil is thin , enjoy yourself ,along w/ the more solemn , reverent things we pagans do. Kilm

    • Minx

      I appreciate your response; however, no, I had horrible childhood experiences of Halloween. I grew up in a small, rural town in the Midwest, in a part of the Bible Belt, and every year on Halloween some folks in town (kids? drunkards? who knows …) would set fire to a number of huge barrels and roll them out into the streets so you couldn’t drive through town. You could see the fires from our house outside the town. They would also burn down a little shelter that dad built every year at the end of our driveway to protect the kids from the winter wind and cold while we waited for the school bus. He had to rebuild it after every Halloween. For a couple years, a sheriff from a neighboring city was called in and told everyone to stay inside and not to let kids go trick-or-tricking. (This was also at the same time when the news reported that people were poisoning candy, so that fear was also more pronounced back then.) So all in all, my memories of Halloween are pretty nightmarish.

      • Completely aside, but related to one of the things you mention, there is actually no documented case of a genuine “Hallowe’en candy poisoning” and the first and (so far) only case of “pins and needles” inserted into Hallwe’en candy comes from the year 2000, over thirty years after the story started to take hold as an urban legend.

        I’m sorry that your childhood Hallowe’ens were so awful, but there was absolutely no reason for the candy to be of any alarm.

        • Minx

          No, the real cause of alarm (as Calico mentions below) were the fires and violence. You literally could not drive a car through town (it was a small town and had only one main road) because the main road was blocked by big burning barrels. That’s the real reason why the sheriff told families not to let kids go out trick-or-treating back then in my home town. This directly impacted our family, as I mentioned, because the perpetrators would also burn down the shelter dad built for us at the end of our driveway where we got on the school bus.

          • Yes, I realise that the candy hoax was only an afterthought to your previous comment; mine was only an aside mention. 🙂

      • Calico Blum

        I understand where you’re coming from. Halloween meant fires, smashed windows, roving gangs and other sundry violence where I was from too. And the last time I went out trick-or-treating, my friend and I were mugged and assaulted. (And not for our candy…) Since then, even almost twenty years later now, it’s been a hard day for me. Definitely become a day about facing fears. But the area I live in now is so different, and I can see how it can be a good day for other reasons too. I’m always glad to see the kids out, and I just send whatever prayers I can that they all stay safe.

  • kenneth

    We are seeing more rants like Shlaes’, and an increasing tone of desperation, precisely because they are people who realize they’re losing an impossible battle to squash a truth far bigger than themselves. They’ve tried to crush and contain the deepest aspirations of the human spirit in much the same way as communism did, only Christianity tried a lot harder. They’ve spent 2,000 years working VERY hard to erase the hard drive of the human spirit and reprogram it. If paganism didn’t have a real and organic connection to humanity, they should have succeeded. They had every conceivable advantage: the power and means to torture and murder en masse, total control of publishing and education for centuries. Control of governments and cultures which persists in large measure even to this day.

    Even at the height of their power, they suspected they were failing. Now they know they are. They are like the old Soviet officials watching the wall come down. They have nothing left to respond with except bitter rants.

    Halloween IS pagan. Those who celebrate it aren’t overtly pagan in self-identity or in devotional practice, but they are tapping into the same source as those of us who hold the most somber Samhain. They are pagan in the sense that paganism is ritual celebration of life and death and everything in between. People celebrate it because the human spirit is called to do so. They don’t need missionaries or indoctrination or cajoling to do so. They don’t need some church with total hegemonic iron-fisted control of a culture to force them to celebrate. It’s real and organic and unstoppable, and that fact chaps the ass of Shlaes and every other fundamentalist to no end.

    • Obsidia

      Well-said, kenneth!

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Of the views expressed thus far, this strikes the deepest cord for me. Halloween isn’t kept alive by commerce alone (though Goddess knows the commerce is overwhelming). There’s got to be something deeper to which people respond, or it wouldn’t still be a holiday in the near absence of overt spiritual content, at least in mainstream culture. And since it’s not Christian, that deep source has got to be subversive in a Christianity-soaked culture like ours.

      So the ranters are partly right on the facts. It is a Pagan day, and it is — worse than actively hostile — sublimely unconcerned with Christianity. Ouch!!

    • Jack Heron

      You’re correct, I believe. The impulse to consider the dead while the year dies is probably as old and fundamental as the impulse to celebrate birth in the spring or the impulse to turn a new page in the depths of winter. I suspect the difficulty for some Christians is not so much an incompatibility with the religion (after all, Christianity co-opted pagan festivals so cheerfully and readily) as an incompatibility with a particular approach which cannot abide subtlety or anything that doesn’t explicitly back it up.

    • Hear, hear – and so mote it be!

    • Lily

      But we also have to remember that though “People celebrate it because the human spirit is called to do so”, not all people’s celebrate festivals of the dead in fall. Some cultures celebrate in summer, such as the Oban festival in Japan. I’m also pretty sure the Christian All Saint’s Day was once celebrated in May. Though remembrance/celebration of the dead is universally human, a fall festival for such is not

  • Another perspective: Halloween is an American holiday, which has become popular in other countries fairly recently. I am European – grew up in French-speaking Switzerland, child of a Swiss father and British mother, neither of whom had heard of Halloween. There was no Halloween in my country, or in the UK, when I was growing up. I lived in a Catholic village, so there was ‘Toussaint’ (All Saints’ Day), when Catholics went to put flowers on their deceased family tombs. I wasn’t a Catholic, so it didn’t involve me. Then one day, when I was about 8, an expatriate American family moved next door. And they celebrated Halloween! And it was fun! Jack o’lanterns and pumpkin pies, and decorating the house and witch disguises – my sisters and I loved joining in with the American children. That family was Lutheran, btw, but religion didn’t really feature in the friendship between our two families.

    Zoom forward ten years, and Halloween has started to become popular in the UK and in parts of continental Europe, an American import, like Nightmare on Elm Street and Star Wars. And because it’s really a fun time, it takes off and spreads… Samhain? Nobody knows what that is, unless they are Irish or Scottish or neo-pagan. The Catholics still commemorate Toussaint, but the young people dress up and enjoy Halloween as well. And in France, Italy, Spain – it keeps its original name, untranslated: ”Halloween”. Everyone enjoys it, except for the Scrooges who grumble… and their chief whine? ‘It’s not from around here, it’s foreign, it’s American’.

    So the complaint by American protestants that Halloween is somehow ‘Pagan’ (they mean: related to the ancient religions of Europe) sounds absurd from where I stand.

    • Rombald

      I’m surprised your British mother at least had never heard of Halloween. It’s always existed in Britain (the name is actually Lowland Scots -“Hallow E’en” – Holy Evening), but it wasn’t this popular until about 20 years ago.

      Personally, I don’t much like Halloween – I find it too tacky, rather like Christmas. Even here in Japan, the supermarkets are now full of Halloween stuff.

      I also don’t much like the way Halloween is replacing Bonfire Night in England. Bonfire Night is on the actual equinox-solstice midway point, 5 November, and is probably more ilke the ancient Pagan festival than Halloween. As a child, in the village where I lived, Bonfire Night was THE celebration of the year, more important, and much more popular with children, than Christmas – we counted the weeks and days until the big night. When it arrived, there were the fireworks, and the fire, the toffee apples and treacle toffee, and we were allowed to stay up into the small hours, jumping over the dying flames and roasting potatoes and chestnuts in the embers.

      • Anonymous

        I grew up in the North of Scotland during the 1970’s and up there every child went out “guising” on Halloween. You would dress up in costume ( not necessarily scary) and go door to door performing a song or telling a joke in return for sweets or fruit/nuts. We had great fun, and I normally came back with enough peanuts to last until Christmas!
        There was also no problems with the Church. At the time I was a member of the Boys Brigade (think a Presbyterian version of the Scouts) and we always had a huge party where we played traditional games like “dookin’ for apples” (where you had to try and pick up an apple floating in a bowl of water using only your teeth) or one I always remember where there would be a scone covered in treacle hanging from a thread that you also had to eat without using your hands. Good, messy fun.

        • And let’s not forget the Hop-tu-naa of Mann — these are the celtoi who have centuries-old holiday songs for 31 October. (And yes, I know that Mann is technically a crown dependency and not a part of the UK in a parlimentary sense, but close enough, culturally.)

      • I suspect her British mother had heard of Hallowe’en, but Ms Falco here just wants to sound super-special and extra-European, which is clearly superior to anything West of the Atlantic. @_@

    • ..child of a Swiss father and British mother, neither of whom had heard of Halloween. There was no Halloween in my country, or in the UK, when I was growing up.

      I was raised by my English grandparents, and they most certainly had heard of Hallowe’en prior to living in the $tates. The word itself dates back to 16th Century Scotland as a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”, and the English tradition of “souling” (children going door-to-door collecting “soul cakes”) was still practised under that name well into the 1930s, and is the origin of U$ “trick-or-treating”; in Scotland and Ireland, the same tradition is often referred to as “guising”, and that term seems to be adopted in England from about 1920 onward and was practised by both my Cockney grandmother and Cornish grandfather as children. That said, Guy Fawkes Night (5 November) was absolutely more popular in the UK until maybe 15-20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean that Hallowe’en was somehow non-existent in the UK the whole time.

      In fact, the majority of “Amerikan Hallowe’en” traditions is an import from Scotch and Irish customs, and the time it really started to take off in North Amerika was during the massive famine-era influx of Irish immigrants, so clearly it’s more than just “Irish or Scottish neo-pagans” who are familiar with Samhain (“Summer’s End”) traditions.

      I’m not going to tell you your experience was wrong, but gods below, your claim that “Hallowe’en” and (implicitly claiming) its customs are unheard of in the UK prior to some vague point of “Amerikan import” is dead wrong. I’ve no doubt that it’s an “Amerikan import” in Switzerland, but considering that it came to North Amerika from the British Isles in the first place….

  • I love Hallowe’en!

    I’ve heard some say that it’s not a Heathen holiday, so Heathens shouldn’t celebrate it, and to them I say: “Screw you! I’m going to dress up, eat candy, watch horror movies, and have a Hel of a good time, and if you don’t like it, that’s your problem!”

    • There are some in the Hellenic community who think no Hellenist (or “true Hellenist”) has any place celebrating Hallowe’en, but I’m Gaelic and English, and so I justify it by pointing out that it’s a part of my ancestors’ traditions (my grandparents who grew up in the UK even went “guising” on 31 October) and ancestor veneration is a part of Hellenic tradition. Granted, not every pagan who both practises a religion without a similar holiday at a similar time to tack on, and yet practises Hallowe’en in some form anyway has that rationale, but it’s mine and I use it. 🙂

      • Arynne

        Au contraire. Years ago, I came across a translation of an ancient Greek song from Rhodes, “Swallow Has Come”, where the singers demanded bread and porridge and threatened retaliation if it was withheld: “…we’ll take your doorposts or your door/Or your wife, who sits by the fire/She’s small, we’ll carry her easily” and added, none too reassuringly, “We are not old men, we are little children”. The translator explicitly compared it to both the “nicka-nicka-nan” song of Cornwall and the American children’s cry of “Trick-or-treat!” Evidently this sort of thing goes all the way back. 🙂

  • Lori F – MN

    The “Ban Halloween” people are almost {ALMOST} more annoying than the “You didn’t say Merry Christmas” people. That’s another rant. Not for here and now.
    I say they are missing a grand opportunity. They Say Halloween is about celebrating Satan. So why don’t they take the opportunity to Mock Satan? Dress as Satan as a dorky clown or geek with a pocket protector. This is their chance to Take Back The Night! For them to show Evil they aren’t afraid of the dark or of evil.
    If parents are worried about their kids being scared, they should scope out the houses before the kids go.
    I feel sorry for those kids who aren’t allowed to celebrate their childhood with their classmates. Sorry for those kids who aren’t able to collect enough candy to hopefully hold them over until Christmas. Who watch enviously at their classmates at lunch who pull candy out from their lunch all the way through to Winter break. [sigh]
    I don’t particularly like handing out candy at the door (I’d rather keep it for myself!) but the TV programing is always the best in October! I’ve even gone to Halloween parties. As a witch, a vampire [no, i didn’t glow] and a gypsy [pulled entirely from my wardrobe!] It was a party in the dark with food and drinks and a bonfire. It was about gathering for one last hurrah before it got to cold at night.
    So if someone complains about Halloween, Tell them to have a party, take back the night and show the Devil they don’t fear him.

    • Pagan Puff Pieces

      He’s the angriest deceiver you’ve ever heard

      He’s the angry satanic nerd!

      I think you’re onto the world’s most awesome costume ever!

      And now I’ll leave before I start singing Pinkie Pie’s No Fear song, and outing myself as too much as an enormous nerd for a Pagan site.

  • Thorn

    Jason, I have to disagree with you here. People *must* remember The Reason for the Season!!!! This newscast tells us why: http://youtu.be/0McggLIYmnE

    • Thorn

      This site stripped my fake html that read “irony off” at the end of my previous comment.

    • That’s amazing!

    • 1) The Onion has, once again, failed to disappoint. ☺

      2) I’ve been writing my latest novel in a series, and one of the characters is from a family that is Manx and pagan, so the inclusion of that song made me feel cooler for realising it’s a real thing.

  • Caliban

    Waitaminute… Wasn’t Jesus that guy who raised Lazarus from the grave – woooo! spooooky! – before dying in torment and rising from the grave himself, and whose followers participate in a symbolic feast of his flesh and blood? And what about all those deceased saints who are supposed to have leverage with the Big Guy if you can get in good with them? Who is dabbling in necromancy, here?

    • Lily

      Teehee. If you’re Catholic then you’re all about hangin’ with dead people 😀 That’s why we celebrate Halloween, All Saint’s Day, and then All Soul’s day. A 3 day celebration of those who have lived and died before us 🙂 And we don’t even see celebrating the Eucharist as symbolic, we believe we ARE eating Jesus’ body and blood. We freely admit it.

      I’d be willing to bet that most anti-Halloween people are either from very puritan-y sects of Christianity, or else are poorly catechized, since traditionally, Christianity has no problem with blood and death and whatnot. Bad Catholic has an excellent post on this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2011/09/death-metal-aint-got-nothing-on-us.html

  • Taking monotheism out of schools does not create a “vacuum”. It is and always has been up to the parents to teach their children about religion and take them to religious services. Children go to school to learn about things they need to survive in the work place and to have an understanding of how the world around them works. Indoctrinating them in religion that may not agree with exactly how the parents believe would only cause discord at home.

    It sounds like Shlaes’ family enjoyed Halloween in all its spooktackular glory while she was growing up. I wonder why she is abandoning her childhood memories and asking for others to not allow their children to experience the excitement of playing dress up and getting free candy.

    I honestly have never understood why so many have to take issue with Halloween and “Trick-or-Treating”. I live in the heart of “Amish Country” and every year we have a big Halloween festival complete with tours of real haunted houses. The Amish, who refuse many modern conveniences such as electricity and cars, still buy loads of Halloween candy each year. Granted, they don’t do the costume thing.

    • The Amish, who refuse many modern conveniences such as electricity and cars…

      In my experiences, the Amish actually make selective use of electricity and cars. Most Amish families don’t have cars, true, but some New Order families do (typically with the chrome painted over with matte black paint, to discourage vanity) and many will employ drivers of both private local transportation and commercial long-distance transportation; I’ve not yet taken a trip on train or Greyhound bus that didn’t have an Amish family or two at least making a connection at one station or another.

  • Daniel Kestral

    Samhain isn’t just a pagan holiday, it is an indigenous Gaelic holy day, with much cultural richness and history underlying cultural praxis for thousands of years. It is funny how, in some contexts, calling La Fheille Samhuinne pagan is derogatory not only from a Christian standpoint, but from a Greco-Romancentric one as well.

  • Nick Ritter

    ‘In short the preoccupation on Halloween to “flirt with the night and evoke the dead” isn’t so much as “pagan” thing as a “human” thing.’

    I would tend to think that “pagan things” and “human things” are the same, insofar as paganism seems to be what people naturally tend towards when not propaganidized otherwise.

  • even some protestants, especially in high church traditions of Anglicanism and Lutheranism, celebrate All Saints and All Souls; for evangelical conspiracy theory wingnuts like Shlaes definitely another proof of the evil conspiracy against her peace of mind … it is also the day when the Pantheon in Rome became converted [sic!] into a church in 610 CE and this year, it will be the 170th birthday of the German feminist and peace activist Minna Cauer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minna_Cauer