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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Monday, May 20, 2024
The Echo

Our View: A case for Halloween

Halloween offers empathy, independence and community

It is not uncommon to find a family that chooses not to partake in the costumes, candy or the caramel apples that characterize Halloween. 

According to a study done by the National Retail Federation, in 2017 nearly 48% of Americans wear costumes on Halloween night –– less than half. 

The BBC found that most often, people cite religious affiliation as their reason behind not celebrating the holiday. The top six religions cited include Jehovah’s Witness, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism and Christianity. 

“I don’t want anyone in my family to observe a holiday that celebrates death, witchcraft and the occult,” Michael Snyder of Good News Today, a Christian news organization said. “This year, millions of Americans will participate in activities that could potentially open up a door for demonic activity.”

This disposition around the holiday affects Taylor students too. 

“We wouldn’t leave the house after 4 p.m. on Halloween because it was the ‘devil’s day,’” junior Mary Sargent said.

With this in mind, it is important to take a look at the origins of the holiday. 

Halloween can be traced back to the Celtic festival of Samhain, a pagan festival that marks the transition between the lighter and darker halves of the year. Samhain means ‘the summer’s end’ and marked the start of the Celtic New Year. 

In the 9th century, the Christian Church worked to preserve the Samhain tradition in the West. 

“Very little is known of the rituals of ancient Samhain because the church Christianized it — as with many pagan festivals,” World History said. 

As the church worked to transition ancient Samhain festivals toward Halloween, Oct. 31 became a time of gathering communities and feasting, as well as celebrating those that had passed on. 

If the Christian church played a pivotal role in maintaining the practice of Halloween, why do some people view Halloween so differently today? 

While it’s clear that some activities that take place on Halloween can be problematic, as with the celebration of any holiday, people should be mindful of the important and healthy ways to observe. 

We, as The Echo Editorial Board, believe there should be better context around the celebration of Halloween and that there are three main reasons to observe the holiday.. 

The first reason involves childhood development in empathy and creativity.

Halloween offers a rare chance to step outside of oneself and explore empathizing with another being. Offering a space to create a new persona and enter into a differing experience is key to building the lifelong skill of empathy. 

In generating this persona, a child must be creative in piecing together a costume that suits their vision. By curating their piece, they hone important creativity skills, leading to the necessary life skill of self-expression. 

“What's important in any creative act is the process of self-expression,” a PBS article said. “Creative experiences can help children express and cope with their feelings. Creativity also fosters mental growth in children by providing opportunities for trying out new ideas, and new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Creative activities help acknowledge and celebrate children's uniqueness and diversity.”

The next reason to celebrate Halloween is that it teaches children how to be independent. 

For kids to become independent adults, they must gradually experience small affirming moments of independence. 

On Halloween night, kids have the opportunity to walk around their neighborhood with new friends, interact with new people and feel a sense of independence doing this on their own. 

The final reason makes a case for community. 

Halloween offers a chance to knock on a neighbor’s door and just say “Hi!” Trick-or-treating allows neighbors to break the ice and have short conversations with those they live near. 

“You’re connecting with people, having conversations,” a study at the University of New Hampshire said. “You can’t really feel part of a community until you’ve built relationships with others. Events like trick-or-treating provide opportunities to start building those relationships.”

As a Christian, it is important to remember the potential that celebrating Halloween has for the development of empathy, independence and community in children. 

“If you’re just celebrating the fun and imagination of it, why not?” Sargent said. “Either way, obsessing over evil to the point of closing the curtains and hiding inside or glorifying it seems to be the problem, not the holiday itself!”