Joel Stein: Stop the War on Halloween

Why protecting our pagan holidays is at least as important as free lollipops

By Joel Stein Monday, Nov. 04, 2013

There’s a war on Halloween, which I can prove by exaggerating a few isolated, inconsequential examples. This year, as Nick Gillespie wrote on the principal of Inglewood Elementary, near Philadelphia, cited separation of church and state in canceling school celebrations, though he later reversed his decision. Gloucester County, New Jersey, passed a resolution to cancel Halloween, though it turned out the county was just issuing safety tips. Still, there are a few schools in Portland, Ore., and others in Skokie, Ill.; San Jose, Calif.; Mechanicsburg, Pa.; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Port Colborne, Ontario, that have definitely canceled Halloween. And we Americans who care about tradition, family and Canada have to fight back.
We cannot let them steal a hallowed tradition that, admittedly, combines three things that should never be mixed together: cute kids, horror and women dressed provocatively. So just like Sarah Palin, whose new book is called Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, I will–if the markets dictate–write Boo! How Liberals Scared Us Into Abandoning Halloween as well as a similar book called Boo! How Conservatives Scared Us Into Abandoning Halloween. The right is attacking Halloween because it thinks paganism is anti-Christian. The left hates it because it forces poor kids to buy costumes; or a lot of candy has peanuts, which some kids are allergic to; or it takes time away from education; or it scares some children. Figuring out why liberals do things is really hard.

To get my war on, I got advice from John Gibson, the Fox News Radio host and author of the 2005 book The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. Gibson knew so little about the war on Halloween that he thought it was being waged by dentists worried about tooth decay. So he officially handed me the “war on” baton. “I went out of the ‘war on’ business a few years ago,” he said. “I moved on to other idiocies.” He suggested that I appeal to the very young, who are not yet war weary. “You have to go to the Twitter feeds of 8- and 10-year-olds.”
I figured if 8 was good, 4 was twice as good. So I asked my 4-year-old son Laszlo what kids whose principals aren’t letting them dress up for Halloween should do. “They should just get out of that school,” he said. “Then they’ll just close that school, and everybody will go to a different school.” I have never heard a better argument for school choice. Laszlo even wanted to send those unfortunate kids some of his candy. “I’m going to keep all the chocolate, but maybe people will give me lollipops, and I’m going to send those to them.” I’ve never heard a better argument against giving lollipops as Halloween candy.

To help defend Halloween, I enlisted Cerridwen Fallingstar, a priestess and shamanic witch who lives in Marin County, California, and has founded three different covens. Taking away Halloween is like denying her entire life. Luckily, she has a lot of past lives that she writes books about, but still, it’s not nice.

Fallingstar said the objections to Halloween are another absurd example of our growing lack of tolerance. “I didn’t mind when they had Christmas celebrations at my son’s school. We celebrated both. Winter solstice was the spiritual holiday, and Christmas was the cultural holiday,” she said. “It’s the same people who want to ban Harry Potter. I don’t think reading Harry Potter will turn kids into witches. Though it would be great if it did.” Though then those kids would spend Halloween on a trance journey to the Isle of Apples to speak to the deceased as Fallingstar does. Those kids would be thrilled with lollipops.
The pagan bedrock of our society will not be corrupted by fearful bureaucrats. We will celebrate Halloween just as our forefathers did, except for bobbing for apples because that’s really disgusting and makes me wonder if our parents even cared at all. But other than that, we’ll fight to prevent change. So I’m asking you to boycott any store that tries to lure you in with a milquetoast “Happy autumn” and protest any town square that attempts to water down traditional witch decorations by adding ghosts and vampires, which I’m pretty sure come from different traditions. I have already heard jack-o’-lanterns referred to as merely “pumpkins with a face on them,” though, admittedly, that was by Laszlo.

Will we be forced to celebrate our pagan rituals on darkened streets, with children reduced to hiding behind masks and uttering secret messages to get adults to quickly open their door and drop candy into their bags? Because that’s what happens when we let the liberals and/or conservatives control our society. Freedom isn’t free without free candy. And I’m willing to fight for that freedom. Or at least sell a book about it.


Illustration by Tomasz Walenta for TIME; Getty Images (2)