Ghouls and Goblins and Sundays


That's my precious little cheeseburger pictured here. I also have the cutest little baby bat you've ever seen. We are enjoying Halloween and have been practicing our "Trick or Treat//Does that have nuts in it?//Thank you!" lines for weeks. But I have been having some scheduling issues with another holiday that falls on Oct. 31: Reformation Day. I'm Lutheran, so this is a big day for us. We like to throw parties to celebrate and sing songs about salvation by God's grace. It's what we do. Reformation Day parties and Halloween parties are a hard combination for parents of little children, though, and we've had to do some fancy work with the scheduling. I figured it was just a Lutheran problem until I saw a few stories that indicated the scheduling conflict was more widespread.

Bruce Nolan at the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports on a parish that's moving Halloween from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1. Livingston Parish says that people who trick-or-treat outside of the hours 6-8 on that day will be fined. The story explains that the parish has dealt with the issuer repeatedly over the years and that this was the law that developed, but not without dissent:

All this has attracted the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, which Friday dispatched a letter to parish officials telling them they were violating neighbors' constitutional rights to walk their streets and ask for candy any day they pleased, as well as the religious freedom of anyone wanting to celebrate Halloween as a religious feast -- although trick-or-treating is not part of Wiccans' observance of the day.

Mark Oppenheimer and Kim Severson at The New York Times expanded the theme by looking at other scheduling issues. Some areas might have moved trick-or-treating to Saturday night except that folks didn't want to mess with college football watching plans. Other areas simply have a desire to avoid trick-or-treating on nights before school is in session. Here is my favorite chunk of the story, which deals with a county in Georgia's decision to move the festivities to Saturday:

The Savannah mayor, Otis S. Johnson, who was at a Monday news conference where officials suggested the switch, said that as a lifelong resident of the city, he could not remember another time anybody complained about Halloween on a Sunday. But he said he supported the decision.

"Sunday is the Christian Sabbath," Mr. Johnson said. "But also since celebrating Halloween normally takes place at night, and the Jewish Sabbath ends at sundown, we would not be disrespecting their Sabbath either. And Muslims celebrate their prayer on Friday. So if there were religious concerns, we have covered all of them!"

Mr. Johnson's reasoning was not good enough for a Savannah Morning News columnist, Tom Barton, who wrote on Wednesday that Mr. Johnson had violated the Linus Rule, after the Peanuts character who once said, "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin."

"The county's top elected officials ignored this sage advice Monday," Mr. Barton wrote. He added: "Saturday night is the absolute worst night for extracurricular candy-bar grubbing. As everyone who has gone beyond Sesame Street knows, Saturday is reserved as the night when Savannah's adults go out and do stupid things (think partying, clubbing, driving drunk and fighting over girlfriends and baby daddies at 24-hour IHOPs)."

There's much more meaty discussion of religion, too, such as how seventh-day Christians (who observe a Saturday sabbath) are affected by changing to Saturdays and how Roman Catholics are affected by a move forward into All Saints Eve.

There was one Halloween story that was a bit confusing to me. From the Associated Press, It's about how a small Native American community called Jemez Pueblo has banned trick-or-treating due mostly to safety concerns but also because it's "a holiday that's not part of pueblo culture." I was hoping to find out more about exactly how this holiday conflicts with the tribe's culture. We're told that they "deeply embrace" their traditions, including their unique language and adobe beehive-shaped outdoor ovens. Trick-or-treating only came to the group a few decades ago:

[Jemez Pueblo Gov. Joshua] Madalena said the ban is supported by the Tribal Council and pueblo religious leaders.

"Their words of wisdom is what we need to continue to promote our traditional ways and values to our children, to educate them on our ways and customs, our dances and our songs," Madalena said. ...

The leaders instead want to stress All Souls Day Nov. 2, which pays respect to loved ones who have died.

"We pay tribute to our ancestors, we pay tribute to our family members that have passed on to the other world, and we ask blessings from them," Madalena said.

So the traditional culture includes a celebration of All Souls Day? What exactly is this traditional culture that rejects Halloween but embraces All Souls Day? The actual religious views of the tribe aren't mentioned. The reader who submitted this story thought it would be an excellent hook for discussing syncretism. He also said, "it seems some aspects of Christian culture have been traditionalized while others have been rejected. To me, at least, that's a fascinating starting point for a piece on how religions are constantly reshaped by outside forces." Halloween is pretty foreign to my religious culture, although the less demon-crazed it's become, the more acceptable. But still, this does call out for a bit more information and more substantive treatment.

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