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Halloween Past and Present

Travis Griffith

Travis Griffith

Travis Griffith reflects on Halloween in his life, in history, and presents the reality of censorship and "protection" in the young lives of Trick-or-Treaters today.

Remember how exciting Halloween was when you were in elementary school? At least for me it was; wearing my costume at school, bobbing for apples, making pumpkin designs on cookies and parading through other classrooms were highlights of my early school years.

Of course that was all just a prelude to the real meaning of Halloween: the candy! A king-sized pillow case overflowing with candy was my prize after visiting everyone in the neighborhood who was just giving it away. Pure heaven for a kid.

Today I have my own kids who are lucky enough to be in a public school district that still celebrates Halloween. But I have nieces and nephews who go to public schools that have decided not to hold any type of Halloween celebration for the kids. The reason? Some parents complained. They didn’t want their kids to take part in a pagan and satanic holiday. Isn’t that sad?

It’s sad for many reasons. First, the kids won’t have those treasured memories of Halloween at school (though thinking back, I could’ve done without sticking my face in a bowl of apples floating in other kids’ spit).

Even sadder though is people getting caught up in their own fear of the origins of Halloween. Yes, the holiday has pagan beginnings, but those are beautiful and inspiring; not hate-filled and satanic.

Books have been filled detailing the full history of pagan festivals, but I want to provide the highlights here. Long before Christ ever lived, the Celts celebrated the seasons. Their new year began at Samhain (pronounced sow-en) and was celebrated on an evening sometime around November 1. They celebrated the coming dark season, the end of the summer harvest and honored the spirits of their ancestors.

The veil between this world and the spirit world is thinnest at this time of year, allowing the spirits of loved ones to easily journey back and forth. Back in the Celts’ day, the presence of spirits was met with feelings of inspiration and guidance… not the fear and dread often associated with ghosts today.

Turnips and gourds we carved, lit and left outside to guide spirits home. Folks asked neighbors for bread and other items for feasting. Samhain was a time of honoring family, playing, enjoying life and sharing it with friends and neighbors.

When Christianity was introduced, the church wasn’t able to get people to stop celebrating this wonderful holiday. Eventually it became All Saints Day, then All Hallow’s Eve, then Halloween.

So yeah, Halloween is a pagan holiday. But if schools are going to start banning all holidays associated with a pagan past, count Valentines Day, Easter and Christmas among the causalities too.

The real importance of Halloween isn’t the costume parade, but the interaction between our neighbors. To get over our fears, go outside and build a social bond with the people we live near but otherwise never see. Halloween is a time to let ourselves have fun, let our children (and our inner child) out to play, reflect on who we want to be and most of all, share the fun with our Christian, pagan, atheist and Muslim neighbors.

Happy Halloween!


Travis Griffith, who recently left behind the corporate marketing world, choosing family and writing in lieu of "a comfortable life" financially, is a former atheist trying to define what leading a spiritual life really means.  His children's book, Your Father Forever, published in 2005 by Illumination Arts Publishing Company, Inc. captures only a fraction of his passion for fatherhood.