Attention about the date of Halloween was recently raised again by the website change.org, a for-profit member-based activism website where individuals can start petitions and collect online signatures to try to influence decision-makers or raise public awareness about an issue. Change.org’s mission states that they want to “empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see.”
The petition was started by the Halloween & Costume Association (HCA), an industry-based group “to promote and grow the safe celebration of Halloween and year-round costumed events throughout North America.” It typically raises industry issues such as concerns about the US Trade War with China.
In a statement about tariffs, for example, the HCA writes “We’re committed to bringing quality products to market that meet strict federal standards and allow U.S. consumers to have safe, fun celebrations at Halloween and throughout the year. We’ll continue to fight the trade war so we can do this work, and so small businesses across America will once again be able to prosper.”
This is the petition’s second go around. It first appeared in 2018.
The petition recommends that the Halloween become “stress-free” by moving it to the last Saturday in October. The petition raises a series of safety concerns such as “3,800 Halloween-related injuries each year,” “65% of parents don’t discuss Halloween safety with their children,” and “51% Of Millennials say Halloween is their favorite holiday, why cram it into 2 rushed evening weekday hours when it deserves a full day!?!”
The petition organizers hope to present the signatures to the President of the United States.
Though fully revived in the 20th century, in one way or another, many people have been celebrating Halloween with trick-or-treating for centuries on the last day of October. It is trick-or-treating safety that is supposedly at the heart of the petition drive and seems to be the motivation of many petition signers.
One supporter wrote on the petition site, “Halloween Trick or Treating for children would be much safer if celebrated during daylight hours, which can only happen on non school days like Saturday.” Many petitioners commented not only that safety made sense but also that Halloween was their favorite holiday.
It is not clear how any of safety concerns would be remedied by a Halloween date change. The proposed petition does not link the concerns and solutions, beyond the date change for celebrating the holiday.
Another responder to the petition did not sign but wrote “I’m not signing. But do you think that there will be no accidents if it’s on a Saturday? That parents will put reflective material on their costumes because it’s on a Saturday that children will carry a flashlight because it’s on a Saturday and parents will discuss safety because it’s on a Saturday…. I’m old I love Halloween and it stays on the 31st”.
Indeed, many organizations like the International Association of Firefighters offer obvious and reasonable safety tips that a Halloween date change does not address. They note that trick-or-treating children and parents should have flashlights, wear reflective costumes, follow local regulations and be alert and cautious, especially when crossing streets.
Despite that, the petition has currently gained almost 124,000 signatures with a current goal of 150,000. The goal target has increased recently because of the growing popularity of the petition, promoted by large news and media providers like CNN.
On the surface the petition seems innocuous. Holli Emore, Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary said, “While I am all for ways to make children and communities safer, this suggestion appears completely commercial in origin and intent. All Hallow’s Eve is hardly the same if it is moved away from All Hallow’s Day. Already American culture has associated nearly every holiday with binge shopping. But I expect the Samhain sabbat to remain forever steadfast in our Pagan hearts, regardless of when children in the U.S. go trick-or-treating.”
The need for the petition is also not clear. Many communities already set their trick-or-treat dates. For example, in Central Pennsylvania, parents are advised through local newspapers and community resources about when trick-or-treating will happen in their locality.
Other Pagan leaders underscored that the petition presented an opportunity to highlight the difference between the religious celebration of Samhain sabbat and Halloween. While Halloween has become secular and celebratory, Samhain remains a serious religious holiday focused on revering ancestors, celebrating a final harvest and preparing for the coming winter.
Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary who has speaking out publicly for many years about Halloween as well as working to prevent it from being banned in various places, echoed those points, “I love Halloween! I have been celebrating Halloween as a fun, magickal occasion throughout all seven decades of this lifetime.” But she added “I oppose attempts, such as the Halloween & Costume Association (HCA) petition, to control, change, and politicize Halloween.”
Lady Belladonna LaVeau, Archpriestess of the The Aquarian Tabernacle Church said, they are “not impacted by the moving of Halloween to Saturday, instead of October 31st. Wicca, as celebrated within the ATC, recognizes Samhain as our holy day, which occurs at 15° Scorpio, an astrological date in early November. It is the day of honoring our ancestors.” She added “Halloween is a public observance that has evolved through christianization, and capitalism until it no longer resembles our actual rites.”
Indeed, the Halloween date change petition has also caught the attention of others in the Halloween industry. Mars, Incorporated- a major confectionery manufacturer- has reportedly pledged to give away one million Snickers bars should the Halloween date be changed. The announcement highlights the financial attention, even potential windfall, the petition raises, which presents offers not only for stress-free celebration but expanded opportunities for consumers to spend during their longer celebrations.
Halloween retail spending in the USA is about $9 billion with spending at about $86.79 per person who celebrates the holiday according to the National Retail Federation.
UPDATE (7/31/2019): A counter petition has now emerged on change.org. The petition states “Keep the original date for Halloween! October 31st! This is tradition. There are plenty of other events held before Halloween for parents to safely take their children.”