With so few days until my beloved holiday, I thought I'd muse for a bit on the subject.
I am a Halloween addict. A shameless one at that. Even though I don't really have the money to do what I'd like to do, a yard haunt, I still do what I can to show the Halloween spirit every year. That's getting harder and harder where I live.
Now, most people in my state would probably argue with me when I say there's a war on Halloween. But, where I live, there is most definitely that.
The kids here haven't been able to dress up at school for Halloween since 2004. The shift away from this fun, children's holiday activity was without warning. The excuse was that the administration claimed that Halloween was a distraction to learning. This is actually hypocritical, ironic, and stupid because you should see these schools at Christmas time. I'm actually surprised they don't plant a nativity on the front lawn, a north star suspended in the air above it, and a Christmas tree in every classroom. But, you can bet your butts that there is a tree in the entrance ways of every school in this town. As reported by my kids, there are no Halloween decorations anywhere to be seen in those schools.
Each year, there seems to be more and more successful campaigns by the churches in my town to divert attention away from Halloween traditions, and place it in the churches instead. While we do have a Fall Fest every year, here, it's run by the local Christian School. As you can imagine, there's very little there that even resembles a Fall Festival of any kind. The city used to run Fall Fest until the Christian School took over some 12 years ago. Fall Fest is pretty damned boring.
We don't have any professional haunted houses running in this city. We have a couple of local people that run very benign haunts in their own homes, but nothing that I could call a "haunted house". Other cities in this state have serious haunts, some very well known. But, our city is a no go in that area. It's not that we don't have the desire. Upon talking to locals that I know, some wish that we "could" have one. The problem, it seems, it the backlash from the local churches and the complaints from religious people, here. The complaints about Halloween have been on the rise, and the war on Halloween from the pulpits has been very successful.
Trick or treating tradition is all but dead in this city. In 2004, Halloween was rained out. And postponed. I must live in the only city in the world that postpones Halloween.....successfully. Kids didn't get to go out until the first week in November. We got a lot of trick or treaters and my kids got a lot of candy. The next year was a bit lower key. They got a decent amount of candy, and we got a decent amount of kids coming by. It was the years after that, where we really started to notice the toll that the churches were taking on the holiday.
They had already started their preaching against the practice. In 2007, we noticed a shift in the amounts of people giving candy and those coming around. We bought a bunch of candy based on years previous, we ended up having about half of it leftover after the holiday was over. 2008, and 2009 showed a noticeable decline in people participating as well.
By 2009, our churches had started "Halloween on the Square". That's a Halloween event that happens in our town square every year where local businesses come out and give candy to the kids. It was organized by the largest local Baptist church organization. They used "safe candy" as an excuse for this. It was BS, the candy in this area isn't even at risk of being tampered with. Small towns, everyone knows everyone. We started to see more and more people show up at the square, some dressed in costumes and some not even bothering, collecting their "safe candy" and then hanging out for the other things it provides. Local Christian band playing, BBQ, etc.
2010 and 2011 were the eye openers for us. We lived in a central, high traffic area of town. Both years, we got maybe 5 trick or treaters. I only had one trick or treater left in my house and we both noticed that a great many of the homes we used to visit on this night had gone dark for the holiday. He came home with a pretty paltry haul in 2010. He didn't even bother in 2011.
Last year, we had moved to another location. Same city, different part. We're right across the street from the elementary school, so you would think this would be a high traffic area for Halloween. On Halloween night, I went to Walmart just to make sure I had enough on hand.....you know.....just in case. What I saw that night was very disturbing.
Our square has 4 streets along it's sides with businesses on two sides, and churches on the other two. The two churches on one side had totally blocked off the streets around their buildings and had signs inviting people in for Halloween church functions (I'm sure those were a riot and a half) or directing people to the square for the "safe candy". The only way by the churches was to pass the Square itself. The entire town had to be crammed into these two locations. There were people milling around in the streets at the churches and milling around in the square. I had never seen that many people at these functions previously.
When I got home, I told everyone what I'd seen. My youngest took it the hardest, I think. Even harder than I did, which is a pretty big feat. My middle son left the house with his friends and we just decided to turn the lights off, eat our own candy, and watch horror movies. When the middle came home, he reported that no one he knew even went trick or treating at all. No one went. They all just hung around the square and the churches. Eating food, listening to Christian country music (dear gawds, the pain must have been INTENSE), and eating safe candy. They said no one really had any decorations up in the houses that used to have them. He said hardly anyone even had costumes on, unless they were a tiny kid.
I was depressed. The next couple days after Halloween were grueling here for me. Halloween is big, it's THE holiday. It's like Christmas for all the Christmas freaks. It's dead, here. The next few weeks I talked to some of my local contacts (I don't get out much, "friends" would be a stretch.), the same ones that had wanted haunts years back. They all said that the pressure from the pulpits is why people are not participating, now. Sermons about demonic connections and the like are standard, but they are nothing compared to the psy-war that went on in the last 8 years against Halloween traditions.
In this town, if you're not religious, you're friends with people who are. Or your families are. If you are doing something that the churches are preaching against, you are going to hear about it from those religious people. That's just how it is, here. People were getting pamphlets on their doors, I guess, in the days after Halloween. From people who were telling them how wrong they are for participating in Halloween. Now, these people both people who were visiting houses and people who were giving out candy! Both! From what I heard, some people were even answering their doors on Halloween and handing out pamphlets similar to the ones handed out in Ohio in 2011. I have no idea if that's actually true, that's second hand information. My son never got one of those, so I can't attest to the validity of that claim.
I can attest to the peer pressure that went on here in the years after 2005, though. It was not a secret that the churches do not want Halloween to be a thing in this city. The same as they don't want our county to have alcohol in it. I live in one of the only dry counties left the U.S.! If they can't get ya by law, they'll find ways to get ya. It looks like they've succeeded in driving Halloween out of this city, almost entirely. It will be interesting to see whether they finally axe the Halloween part out of the square event altogether. My bet is on, yes. It's already been successful enough to become just a regular event, just held on Halloween.
Whatever the case may be, this city isn't one I like being in. Being a small town is great, when you aren't a Southern one. I am a bit melancholy about Halloween this year. On one hand, it's a fresh start for me in several areas. It's the time of year when a lot of my personal work is done. It's the time of year when I can set new goals for the next year. The time of the year I most look forward to. But, part of it is missing, now.
It's 51 days until All Hallow's Eve. But, is it really??