Sometimes we get asked why we don’t, as a school, celebrate Halloween. The name ‘Halloween’, after all, comes from ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ – the day before All Saints’ (All Hallows’) Day in the church calendar.
1st November was originally a pagan festival, a celebration of Samhain, lord of the dead. Those marking the festival celebrated the barrier between life and death coming down, and evil spirits roaming free. Those celebrating the festival lit bonfires, sang and danced in order to keep those souls away. However, despite the efforts of many Christians over the years to make and keep All Saints’ a Christian festival, the pagan aspects of All Hallows’ Eve haven’t completely gone away.
Today there is a wide diversity of opinion regarding Halloween. Some Christians (and other members of society) would argue that Halloween is dangerous, citing three main reasons: 1. Halloween can breed an unhealthy interest in the occult, leading to fear and distress; 2. ‘Trick or Treating’ can breed vindictive attitudes, and lead beyond harmless pranks to vandalism, violence and anti-social behaviour; 3. Knocking on the doors of strangers is dangerous for children. Other Christians (and many non-Christians too) feel there is something inherently wrong about the celebration, even if they are unsure as to why it is not healthy, wholesome or positive. On the other hand, others see it as just a harmless, commercialised American import, arguing: ‘There’s nothing wrong with kids dressing up and enjoying themselves’ or ‘It’s only a bit of fun and brightens up the autumn’.
In the light of all this, we are faced with three alternatives: 1. Ignore Halloween altogether; 2. Go along with it without making any comment or protest; 3. Reclaim the festival as a Christian celebration.
As a school we generally ignore Halloween – it is not part of our curriculum, we don’t hold any Halloween events, we don’t plan Halloween activities and it isn’t part of structured play. We occasionally refer to the Christian traditions of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days, we reinforce guidance regarding ‘stranger danger’ and we respond to individual children’s questions and concerns. We don’t make it our business to tell parents or their children to avoid Halloween; respecting instead parents’ own decisions as to whether activities their children are engaged in outside of school are wholesome, constructive or safe.