Does the exact date of Halloween matter? Absolutely, according to many Americans.
Halloween tops the list of favorite holiday for many groups of Americans, including the majority of millenials, generation Xers and women, according to a Harris Poll. (For the total population, Halloween ranks third, behind Christmas and Thanksgiving, respectively.)
In late 2018, the Halloween & Costume Association started a petition to move Halloween from Oct. 31 to the last Saturday in October.
The backlash was fierce. Most of the arguments against moving the holiday relate to tradition.
While I sympathize with both sides, I felt compelled to say, “no way.”
I’m not necessarily a traditionalist; I don’t need to celebrate — or ignore — a particular holiday on a designated date. Instead, I mulled the possible domino effect on religious observances if Halloween were moved.
I immediately dismissed the thought as silly; moving Halloween wouldn’t shift other events around the calendar.
Halloween has a well-known connection to Samhain, a 24-hour Celtic holiday that begins the evening of Oct. 31.
Samhain, Gaelic for “summer’s end,” is a time for mourning and celebrating the dead. According to tradition, the holiday is a time when the lines between the mortal and spiritual realms are removed, according to “The Ancient Celts” by Barry Cunliffe.
Ancient Celts believed dead ancestors returned at Samhain to share wisdom with the living, notes Ashleen O’Gaea in “Celebrating the Seasons of Life.” The event also allows evil spirits to make mischief among the living, so donning costumes is another Samhain feature.
Elements of Samhain can be seen in Christian observances of All Hallows Eve — from which Halloween takes its name — and All Saints Day. The former is a time for feasting and celebration, while the latter is marked by solemn remembrance.
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After reviewing all feedback to the petition, HCA recently made modifications. Halloween will stay put, and “National Trick or Treat Day” will be added as an annual observance.
This new holiday will take place on the last Saturday of October “so families across the country can participate in community parades, throw neighborhood parties and opt for daytime Trick or Treating.”
HCA will launch the #ALLoween campaign to support both annual events.
While the group is a trade organization for U.S. businesses that manufacture, import and distribute costumes, party supplies and all things Halloween, the petition isn’t self-serving.
Instead, HCA appears to have presented the idea in an effort to make Halloween safer and less stressful.
The original petition noted 65% of parents don’t discuss Halloween safety with their kids and 80% don’t outfit children’s costumes with high visibility aids.
While trick or treating at night, 63% of children don’t carry flashlights, the petition notes. Perhaps most alarming of all is that 12% of children aged 5 and younger trick or treat without adult supervision.
The biggest risk is car accidents, according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
FARS shows that the risk of child pedestrian fatalities doubles on Halloween, with more than 60% of accidents between 5 and 9 p.m. More than 70% of these accidents occurred away from intersections and crosswalks.
HCA posits that shifting trick or treating to a Saturday during daylight hours is just one way changes can dramatically reduce injuries.
For more information and to weigh in on this debate, go to Change.org and search the term “Halloween.”