Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween: Politicizing Treats

I read on FOXNews.com today that Hans Kohlerm, "mayor of Rankweil, a town near the border with Switzerland, has launched a one-man campaign disparaging Halloween as a "bad American habit" and urging families to skip it this year."

"It's an American custom that's got nothing to do with our culture," Kohler wrote in letters sent out to households.

So popular is his campaign that eight other mayors of neighboring villages had joined his cause. Police threw their hats in as well, tired of the all the Holiday inspired vandalism and mischief.

Critics of the holiday see it as an encroachment of "crass, U.S.-style commercialism." This shouldn't be surprising given the overbearing anti-Americanism so in vogue these days in Europe. And it can be seen as a greedy holiday from an adult perspecitive. But when I read that Clerics and conservatives felt the holiday clashed with the observance of All Saints' Day on November 1st I had to laugh.

Halloween "undermines our cultural identity," complained the Rev. Giordano Frosini, a Roman Catholic theologian who serves as vicar-general in the Diocese of Pistoia near Florence, Italy.

Frosini denounced the holiday as a "manifestation of neo-paganism" and an expression of American cultural supremacy. "Pumpkins show their emptiness," he said.
I see a few things wrong with all the belly aching. First of all, this holiday tradition was brought to us here in America by European immigrants. Capitalism being king here, Americans just embraced the observance and made it cute, fun, and profitable. But we can't take credit for inventing the holiday.

Second of all, neo-paganism? All Saints' Day? Isn't Hallowe'en, All Hallow's Eve, the hijacked holiday of Samhain - the day of the dead? Who's kidding who here? These guys don't know their own continent's history. This original pagan holiday predates Catholicism in Europe and was called
Samhain when the spirits of the dead became restless and could be attracted by putting food on one's doorstep and warded off by wearing spooky masks (the assumption being that the mask wearer could trick the dead spirits that they too were dead). Observed by the Celts in Ireland, it was adopted by the Romans and modified with their own traditions of Harvest. Then the Catholic church moved their springtime observance of All Saints Day to November 1st because the influence of the Roman's had made that date a very important and widely observed holiday. (Read more about Hallowe'en and All Saints Day.) The holiday then emmigrated to America and has now spread out to other Western nations in the form we know of today.

What's really going on here?

This is nothing more than politicians and religious leaders taking opportunity to grab some headlines and attention for their own pet needs and causes - a case of neo-knuckheadedness. Why spit into the wind? Why not be sensible and incorporate the holiday for their own purposes as has been the tradition of holidays, especially Hallowe'en, for centuries? They might as well shout "Stop the world's spinning; I want to get off!" for all the good it will do them. If Hallowe'en has nothing to do with their culture, they have the power to change that. Get creative, not cranky.

As a kid I loved Hallowe'en. I got to dress up with fake blood, teeth, and hair and run around crazy for hours getting as much loot as I could hold in a pillowcase. There was no other better holiday besides Christmas. As an adult, I share with my children the history of Hallowe'en so they understand how it came about. We are a Christian family - church going every Sunday, but I personally don't see any harm in the holiday (unlike others in of all places, Massachusetts).

"Pumpkins show their emptiness." Like their comments. What a bunch of blowhards. They have a right to their own opinion, but telling kids they can't dress up for fun and go get free candy is going to be a hard sell. All their posturing is doing is painting themselves as Bergermeisters.

Somebody do me a favor and egg their houses for me.

Originally posted 10/31/05

UPDATE: 11/1/05 12:50:13 PM

Just when I thought Anti-Americanism couldn't fixate any sillier on Halloween I read this morning that President Chavez of Venezuela declared:

"What they have implanted here, which is really a 'gringo' custom, is terrorism," Chavez said, quoted in the local press. "They disguise children as witches and wizards, that is contrary to our culture."

So when my four year old dressed up as a dalmation dog last night somebody should have called Homeland Security! Watch out! The other kid's dressed up as Hermione Granger! The HORROR!

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