Sunday, October 19, 2014

No Halloween At School

It's not a new argument; even when I was a kid there were parents who complained about the "pagan" or "satanic" nature of Halloween.  Then, as now, such people need to take a chill pill.  And while I'm at it, those who hyperventilate and convulse at the thought of a Christmas tree or a snowman at school need to do the same thing.

In the former case we have primarily protestant Christians and in the latter case primarily atheists (joined by Jews in some places), but in both cases the casus belli is the same:  I don't believe what you do, so I don't want you to enjoy what you do--and I certainly don't want to see you enjoy it.  Throw in a religious component and every killjoy in the country thinks they can cloak themselves in the mantle of the First Amendment.

This is why they're wrong:  while Christmas, and Easter, and Halloween, and Thanksgiving, all have a religious component, they also have a secular component.  Secular society has co-opted those holidays and created new components of them completely divorced from the religious side.  There's nothing at all religious about a fat man living at the North Pole or snowflakes or bunnies' delivering chocolate eggs or wearing costumes whilst begging for candy or watching football after eating Turkey.  There just isn't, and to complain about these things year after year is a silly waste of time that shows just how soft--and how soft-headed--our society has become.  There's no legitimate argument against having a Christmas tree in a classroom, or for that matter any other decoration that excludes overtly religious symbolism.

What started me down this particular road on this beautiful Sunday morning?  This post about Halloween from Joanne's site.  I like her conclusion, though:
Parents who think Halloween is the work of the devil must be frustrated by how much fun the holiday is for its celebrants. It’s tough to compete.


maxutils said...

None of this gives any pressing reason for ANY holiday to be brought in to the classroom. How about canceling school lunches during Ramadhan and Passover? Muslims and Jews, respectiviely would be fasting ... so why not spread that to the rest of the campus?

Darren said...

Ramadan and Passover are religious holidays, each observed by about 1.5% of the US population. They are not secular holidays celebrated by a large swath of the population.

Even St. Patrick's Day has a religious foundation, but I don't hear anyone complaining about that today....because no one's celebrating a Catholic saint, they're celebrating beer (which was popularized in the west by German monks...).

Bradley said...

I agree with most of your analysis, but disagree with certain parts. As someone who spent considerable time in Judaism, and is now majoring in Religious Studies in the hope of becomes a Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod Pastor, I might have a little insight on this. As a Jew, I never had any problem with manger scenes or other real Christian expressions of Christmas. To me, as a nonbeliever, crèches were simply statues of people in a barn. Christ was something I simply didn't believe in. So, on one hand, I don't think that a lot of Jews really care about Christian influences at school. On the other hand, I think you might have more of a problem with "liberal" Jews (as the orthodox send their kids to private yeshivas). Christmas, to a non-Christian, is simply the time of the year were people start to practice fraternal, "Christian" love, and bring about "tidings of comfort and joy" (to quote my favorite carol). However, as a Christian, I think that there is a surprising lack of awareness, especially among youth and young adults in the world today, on the true religious meaning of Christmas. In my time at Rio, I met quite a few students who had no idea of the connection between the birth of Christ and Christmas (hard to believe, but it's true), and the social and theological implications that that brought. Civilly, I see no problem with the celebration of Christmas in schools (to counter the previous comment, according to the most recent U.S. Census data, 76% of Americans self identify as Christians), and think if anything, these holidays should be spoken of and taught in schools in both their full secular and religious aspects (radical, I know), simply because they are so deeply engrained in American culture. I have a ton of friends who profess no religion or faith in a deity, and they freely celebrate Christmas. I for one am happy to attend a private Catholic university if only for the fact that the school puts up statuary during Christmas and Easter, and we as students can freely and vocally voice our Christian religious beliefs. It's so different from public school in California, and in my opinion, so much better.

As to the main point I disagree with, I feel that Halloween is not super religious (though it does have some theological and historical ramifications), and rather enjoy celebrating Reformation Day instead.

Also, Santa is extremely religious (but not in the way you think), as this link shows:

Ellen K said...

My grandson goes to a very nice and affordable church based preschool. Normally I don't mind the random reference or omission, such as not allowing discussions of dinosaurs in class. But it's Halloween and even the most churched kid in the world knows it's about make believe and candy-two things both ends of the political spectrum seem to detest. So instead of a Halloween party, his school is having a dress up day where they can dress as a Biblical hero. I don't really have a problem with this, I just don't know how to explain to him that Batman isn't in the Bible.

Darren said...

At West Point we'd cry out to Odin before a parade, hoping he'd accept our homage and cast down enough water to get the parade canceled.

Santa doesn't make it rain.

"Proof" destroyed!

Jarett said...

Santa is a Finn!