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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1