by Elizabeth Mosolovich
Halloween is a time for tricks and treats, when children--and some adults--run about in costume going door to door and asking for candy. Stories of monsters, ghosts, and witches become easier to believe as people decorate their houses with jack-o-lanterns, cobwebs, and gravestones. There are plenty of ways to get into the spirit of this holiday, including watching movies like Friday the 13th, or the more kid-friendly It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, as well as reading books like the old classic such as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving or a new favorite like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz.
But Halloween is not for everybody. Though the holiday has become rather secularized, its origins are a mixture of pagan harvest festivals and the Roman Catholic feast days All Saints’ and Souls’ Days; therefore some Orthodox Jews and Muslims do not celebrate the holiday. Other Christian groups also refrain from partaking in Halloween festivities, as they dismiss the day because of its partially pagan beginnings and fear that celebrating Halloween equals celebrating witchcraft or Satanism.
And those attitudes are fine--everyone is entitled to their opinion and to practice their religious beliefs freely. However, when these religious beliefs, especially fears about the occult and witchcraft, involve suppressing people’s access to literature, it becomes a problem.