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No Administrator Likes Being 'The Grinch that Stole Halloween'

The pros and cons of celebrating Halloween at school.

What’s not to like about Halloween? That’s what I was thinking when I was told during my first year of teaching that our school did not celebrate Halloween. No parade, no party, no costumes, no candy, no nothing.

It turns out that Halloween is a pagan holiday and offends certain religious groups and cultures. My principal, in her quest to not offend anyone, made Halloween a half-day with a teacher institute in the afternoon. During that time, the PTO held a Halloween party in the gym that was always lightly attended due to lack of transportation.

As I stood by and witnessed my principal treated as the “Grinch that Stole Halloween” every October, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, celebrating Halloween never felt like a religious holiday. If anything, it is an icon of American culture, and by that I mean another excuse for consumers to purchase all kinds of unnecessary paraphernalia. I guess that makes Halloween good for the economy, which is very patriotic. I still wonder why Valentine’s Day, also a holiday with religious origins, escapes controversy.

When I Googled the pros and cons of celebrating Halloween at school, I got a whole bunch of articles on the separation of church and state. Whoa … isn’t that a bit melodramatic? I mean, what does dressing up like Spiderman have to do with religion in school? I quickly realized this line of thinking makes me a big hypocrite. I was all for banning crafts involving Christmas trees and Santa Claus, which are about as religious as the Easter bunny. Why? Because it fits my personal agenda and banning Halloween doesn’t. Shame on me. 

Personally, I loved going to see my own boys march in the Halloween parade at their elementary school. I get why parents would be against doing away with this tradition. Kids love it and it’s a great photo op. As a teacher, I was rather indifferent about the Halloween thing. It is fun but classroom parties are a lot of work as well. They are very distracting, so forget about getting any work done at all that day, and as a bonus, the end result is always sugared-up banshees bouncing off the ceiling. Also, even if there was no classroom party, kids can still trick or treat and have a great time, just after school hours.

During my last year in the classroom, my principal finally caved and reinstituted Halloween at school. I give her credit for sticking it out that long. I would have had enough of the aggravation and given in years before, which is one of the many reasons I would make a terrible principal. So, I did end up getting one year of Halloween. The kids were thrilled, most of the parents were happy, and a good sugar induced time was had by all.

Sue Schaefer is a student advocate, academic coach, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com.

You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1

Steve Marriott October 22, 2011 at 11:12 AM
Public Education; Taking All the Fun Out of Education Since Horace Mann.
Jim G. October 22, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Halloween = Hallowe'en = Hallows Evening = All Hallow's Eve = the religious holiday the night before All Saint's Day. It's as Christian as Easter... but, of course, the majority of Christian holidays usurped the holidays of older religions. It's not as if it's a holiday celebrating murder by participating in mass cannibalism.
Edie October 22, 2011 at 05:27 PM
Halloween is a fun time for kids people don't really follow the religion anymore so why not have some fun with dressing up and having candy like this one day out of the year? People need to enjoy life and this is or can be a lot of fun especially for children. You need not stick religion into it.
cora October 24, 2011 at 02:21 AM
OK, I will be a Grinch, too. They ARE all "religious" holidays, now celebrated in Pagan ways. (Look up the definition of religious & the origination & deviation of actual holidays). How can one religious celebration be eliminated and another be celebrated? There ARE religious people still, so we need to respect them, even if you do not agree with them. This is what we try to teach our students. It is sad about all this, but our society has taken any "fun" out of schools. I, too, am a teacher and remember being able to decorate according to "holidays," but it is no longer politically correct. What the very same "holiday" means to one means something very different to another. Personally, I never liked Halloween. I do not enjoy anything scary or mean. Not many costumes are cute above 1st grade. I love the Christmas season celebrations where we did songs & acts from many of the different cultural & religious celebrations around the world from that time of year were gone first. All the great memories of songs and fun with friends from performances in my elementary school years will not be enjoyed by this generation unless parents desire to do so at home. Parents, please realize the school system did not do this. As I said above, parents need to celebrate the holidays they wish to at home, now. There is still nothing that stops you, at your home, from inviting students & parents over to enjoy time together that your children are missing with others in school.
Jim G. October 24, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Parents who object to the childish celebration of Halloween because it involves elements contrary to their religion should also skip having a Christmas tree - which comes directly from pagan/old religion ceremonies and has absolutely no "Christian" roots at all... pun intended. I think the faithful of any religion need to understand the difference between genuine threats to their beliefs and the simple fact of other peoples' beliefs.
Mark Kalina October 24, 2011 at 01:32 PM
The establishment clause states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" People should remember that is we have freedom of religion NOT freedom from religion. That said, as mentioned above Halloween is mostly a cultural celebration to begin with and the children have fun. I really see nothing mean about it, and little that is really scary. Allowing folks to celebrate their beliefs is not, in my opinion establishing a state religion, as long as folks of other faiths are allowed to practice theirs and don't interfere with practice of others.
R Eleveld October 24, 2011 at 02:34 PM
The Constitution correctly says the Government, local, state or federal will not establish or in other words, mandate a religion for its citizens. This was strictly to allow religious freedom and not take a page from the European model which resulted in charges of heresy and religious persecution. At the time of the constitution,18th century religion in Europe was synonymous with the respective head of state. England had the Church of England, Italy, France, Spain the Holy Roman Catholic Church and we can go on. The first settlers on our shores fled for religious freedom. All Hallows Eve, is no longer a "religious" holiday in the US, it is however a highly commercialized holiday. It is not the same as the Spanish "Día de los Muertos" which is a holiday with clearly religious overtones. We now suffer a politically correct time that for fear of offending, limits open and honest dialog. This in turn has a slow deleterious affect on mutual understanding and conversation. This will over time will increase distrust and misunderstandings, and in turn have the opposite effect. This is another example of tyranny by the minority. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant” This was a reference to the benefits of openness and transparency, and I interpret it as having open dialog on many issues even if we do not agree.
Mark Kalina October 24, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Well said, Ron.
Jim G. October 24, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Actually, Ron, the Constitution says nothing about what local or state government may or may not do regarding establishment of religion - it says what *Congress* may not do.

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