Friday, October 11, 2013

Saving Halloween and Religious Tolerance

A letter to the school board superintendent on the issue of Halloween:

Last year X Public School decided that the students would not celebrate Halloween. No longer would October 31st consist of costumes and parties, instead children would be invited to wear orange and black. The same thing is occurring this year, and again I am deeply unhappy and disappointed. Last year I took my concerns directly to the board but as they clearly have not been considered seriously I am writing directly to you.

I am displeased about this for several reasons and I would like to share those with you, because I think they are valid concerns, and I believe they need consideration.

While there were many whispers and much tittering about why X did away with a traditional Halloween, the ultimate reason this holiday is not being recognized at the school is for the benefit of those students who do not observe the celebration. While I appreciate the sensitivity of this issue, I would like to point out that to most people, Halloween is completely secular. Thanksgiving is secular, and yet there has been no interruption to the traditional Thanksgiving meal provided for all of the students. Vegetarians, celiac, the allergic, and omnivores all join for a traditional turkey feast inside a neighbouring church. Birthdays are announced over the schools PA system. ‘God’ is mentioned in the national anthem. Valentine’s Day hearts and Easter eggs are not ignored.  All with no harm done.

So why is Halloween being treated differently?

Is it out of respect for those few families do not observe Halloween based upon their religious beliefs? If so, I should like to point out that in being mindful of the feelings of these few, my own religious convictions have been offended. You see, I happen to be pagan. Halloween is one of (if not THE) most important observations of the wheel of the year. As a pagan, I find it distressing that the school has stripped Halloween of every bit of meaning and pared it down to the mere recognition of two colours. This is the equivalent of taking every Christmas or winter holiday image and symbol and paring it down to nothing but a square of red and white. If X Public School is striving to please every religious fragment in their community, then I must insist that they consider my objections to the bastardization of this holiday on religious grounds as well.

It is getting silly now, isn’t it?

In an attempt to spare the feelings of a few, every single one of the children at that school is losing out. For over 300 years, Halloween has been celebrated in North American as a secular holiday. Nevertheless, they have discarded the value of tradition and become censorious to the point of absurdity. The school has picked at the bones of tradition until there is no meat left, and only when bare considered them acceptable.

While I may hope the costumes and parties will be reinstated at X Public School, I certainly will not hold my breath. As children we proudly showed off our homemade costumes, giggled, carved pumpkins and told spooky stories and silly jokes. Our children are offered scraps of what should be. They are given the next best thing to nothing. Even an offer from the local arts council to work with the children, creating costumes and engaging them in other activities was met with the response ‘Waste an entire day on art?’ Yes, Halloween and art will surely be the demise of us all.

Truthfully, what bothers me above all else on this issue is the way in which this has been handled. The complete lack of transparency has been abhorrent. I do not lie to my child and do not appreciate being put into a position where I have to explain to my son that the administration of his school has lied to him. He is supposed to trust and respect the people in his school community. Now, not only have they whittled down Halloween into a watery nothing, but they have lied as to why it has been done. If this issue is so important to the school that they are holding fast, despite complaints about the same being done last year, they should have the fortitude to be plain and honest as to why they are standing their ground.

Einstein once said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters” Applied to the current situation, this is far more frightening than any ghoul or goblin.