The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois on October 29, 1992 · Page 25
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The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois · Page 25

Bloomington, Illinois
Issue Date:
Thursday, October 29, 1992
Page 25
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iwfi iir f hi in ) ' i'f if n i Thursday, Oct. 29, 1992 The Pantagraph Eiloween, reMous beliefs sometimes clash By ELAINE GRAYBILL and DREW WILLIAMS Pantagraph staff H alloween is getting its act cleaned up in some corners of Bloomington- Normal Halloween's dark images disturb a few Twin-City ministers and parents because they conflict with their religious beliefs. Those who feel strongly plan alternative "fall festival" celebrations, and, if they're parents, put limits on their children's Halloween activities. Other people, without basing their objections on religion, simply don't like what they see as increasing goriness in Halloween costumes. Because of that, students at at least one elementary school have been limited in what types of disguises they can wear to the school Halloween parade. Edward Sallows, overseer of the central congregation of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Bloomington, said members of his church simply do not observe Halloween, nor do they attempt to replace it with another event "It is another man-made tradition that we do not celebrate," he said. "Children from the church are asked to decline from Halloween activities in school" Sallows contends that, because the holiday dates back to druidic cerimonies before the birth of Christ, Halloween is anathema to the Christian faith. "We don't agree with the idea of children going out dressed as souls that are not really dead." Connie Beard, Joyce Johnson and Cindy Lovell are three parents who don't care for Halloween. All three have explained their beliefs to their children and restrict the holiday in their families in different ways. Mrs. Beard and her husband, David, 2903 South Fork Road, Bloomington, made the decision early that Halloween would not be celebrated in their family because the tradition is "not very appealing to a Christian," she said. She picks up her 9- and 10-year-old children at Northpolnt Elementary School before the Halloween party, "and we go do family things." Halloween night, "we go to a movie or some other family activity." Halloween today is not the "innocent dress-up game" it used to be, Mrs. Beard said, but rather a day of ugliness and "making light of the occult" She acknowledged "it's not something that's a clear issue to all Christians." She has worried about her children's feelings. "I'm not naive enough to believe that it's a piece of cake for them," she said. "I've really talked to them about, 'Can you go along with this?' " Her children have begun embracing the idea more than they used to, she said. Also, she said, "I have found there are other parents that are talking more about it" Mrs. Beard attends Vale Baptist Church in Bloomington with Joyce Johnson, who also dislikes Halloween. "I just believe that it's a holiday for the occult and it's definitely not a Christian holiday; in fact it's just the opposite," said Mrs. Johnson, of 5 Yew Court, Bloomington. Mrs. Johnson's husband, Gary, is pastor of the church. "I would love to see it removed from the schools I really would," she said. Yet they let their 8- and 10-year-old children participate in Halloween parties and parades at Oakdale School, because "there are so many things today we don't agree with," that they can't protect their children from all of them, she said. The Johnsons also let their children go trick-or-treating, but "we've explained to them what it (Halloween) is, and that we really don't care to celebrate it" They tell the children their costumes cannot represent murderers, monsters or other dark or scary figures. Cindy Lovell's three children go to Bloomington's Oakland School, where the Halloween celebration will be scaled down this year and Principal Glen Newton has notified parents "gory and inappropriate costumes will not be ac- V i ( s 1 :. The PantagraphLORI ANN COOK The children of Tom and Karen Chiodo, 1110 N. Main St., Normal, illustrated opposition to nightmarish costumes by dressing in "normal" outfits, such as baseball (Jacob), football (Nick), a ballerina (Nina), and no costume at all (Anna). ceptable." At the discretion of school staff, children dressed that way can be removed from the parade. Newton was convinced to suggest changes by the inordinate amount of time the celebration was taking from the classroom, and by a trend toward goriness that was exemplified by a boy dressed as a rape victim at last year's parade. Mrs. Lovell, of 1810 E. Lafayette St, Bloomington, objects to Halloween for religious reasons, but lets her children participate in the Oakland parade, as long as their costumes are "anything but yucky stuff." Halloween night she and her husband, Jeff, who attend Grace United Methodist Church in Bloomington, have a "family night" at home with their children handing out treats at the door. They have discussed their beliefs with their children, who "really don't have a big problem with it" The position of Eastview Christian Church is to not support the Halloween celebration in any way, but their concern is specifically over the evil images associated with the holiday, rather than the holiday itself. "We object to the goblins and ghouls the more evil characters," said Mark Savage, Children's Pastor at the church. "What I suggest is 'If you do dress up, dress up as something good.' " Eastview has no alternate celebration at the moment but plans in the future to have a "harvest day or a pumpkin patch party." Pastor Everett Hart of Bloomington's Apostolic Christian Church thinks Halloween has "no positive spiritual significance," A';.;'" but admits he doesn't take "a real strong position" against it His church plans alternative activities to create an "upbeat" atmosphere and to "get kids off the street" An orange card with an upbeat explanation of Halloween and its traditions is First Christian Church's answer to misgivings about the holiday. For example, the card says "that the idea of costumes came from the practice of church members dressing as patron saints." While the card is meant to be handed out with treats, members don't use it that way, but rather use it to explain to their friends why they feel comfortable with the holiday, according to Christian Education Director Nancy Gordon, who wrote the card. "It doesn't have to be looked at as devil worship," she said. The Rev. Ralph Wingate of Calvary Baptist Church, Normal, understands the objections some Christians raise regarding Halloween, but believes its sinister-ness is a matter of individual viewpoint "The average kid doesn't think of it as the devil's holiday," he said. "Anything can be a doorway to that kind of thinking, but that's pretty far-fetched." According to Rev. Wingate, if people object to some of the traditions of the holiday, then they should find different ways to celebrate. "The public has become more aware of cults and cultic practices recently and, in the last eight or nine years, more people have opposed Halloween," he said, adding that inevitably, "the church gets dragged into it" -t .U' : I) ISU professor puts holiday into different perspective By DREW WILLIAMS Pantagraph staff By the flickering light of the jack-o'-lantern, strange creatures will once again prowl the night this Halloween, trampling flower beds and tripping over front stoops in ravenous pursuit of treats. The trees will be filled with toilet paper, invisible men will ring doorbells, eerie giggling will echo between houses for one night rational behavior will be banished. "Halloween provides children a license to misbehave," said Robert Dirks, an anthropology professor at Illinois State University. "The real fun is changing roles with adults." According to studies of the holiday, when children screech "trick or treat" on our doorsteps, they are actually parodying the same coercive tactics that their parents use on them day after day. While the traditions of Halloween provide the perfect opportunity for children to let off some steam, they also provide a perfect target for some groups who believe the holiday fosters pagan, supposedly evil, rituals. Dirks' view is that the religious groups' censure of Halloween "is a way to taboo something to set themselves apart" Halloween's origins are, indeed, pagan, dating back some 2,000 years to the Celtic festival of the new year. At ttie time of the first Catholic missionaries in what is now Scotland, Supernatural background By DREW WILLIAMS Pantagraph staff While customs change, most Halloween traditions, in one way or another, have their roots in the belief of the supernatural: Bonfires, lit as representations of the sun to drive off the powers of darkness during the Celtic festival of Sam-hain, also were strongly symbolic of witch burning (there was a time when they weren't Just symbolic). According to historian F. Marion McNeill, while the adult Scots threw wood onto the fire, children would dance around it in a circle, chanting, "Fire! Fire! Burn the witches!" then run screaming, "The De'll tak the hindmost!" Turnip lanterns, pumpkin jack-o'-lanterns in the United States, have assumed a Christian legend as their origin: a doomed blacksmith named Jack so annoyed the devil that he was locked out of hell and forced to roam the earth until Judgement Day, carrying a hellfire turnip lantern to light his way. The party game "bobbing for apples" has its roots in Celtic mythology, in which apples were alleged to allow people sight into the future and entry into the spirit world. In a Druidic ritual, pulling apples from the water symbolized the passage of ones soul to Avalon. American trick-or-treating is possibly related to the All Souls' Day tradition of "a-souling" in England, where the poor begged for soulcakes in exchange for prayers for the dead. The practice became popular in the U.S. in the 1800s, when large numbers of Irish and Scottish immigrants arrived. The little ghosts and goblins who appear on our sidewalks are carrying on the tradition the Druidic guisers. The guisers wore masks and costumes, at first to represent their ancestors, later to fend of the ghosts of the dead. the Celts celebrated Samhain, "Summer's End," and had already developed a sophisticated series of rituals to commemorate the harvest and what they believed was the mass exodus of spirits to the netherworld. In an effort to use the existing rituals to convert the Celts, Pope Gregory the First ordered missionaries to graft Christian holidays on top of the old pagan ones. Thus, All Hallows' Eve, subsequently renamed Halloween, was born. But the rituals of the Celts remain, in somewhat different form, in the activities of today's children. "There has long been a suspicion among anthropologists that adult aspects of rituals die out but tend to be preserved by children," said Dirks. "Legacies of the adult past become tucked away in children's rhymes and games." Dirks asserts that though the rituals of Halloween come from adult behavior, the holiday is now within the domain of children's culture. "Halloween is really transmitted from child to child," he said. "What little kids see is their immediate seniors engaging in this Halloween thing and then they want to do it too. Parents are a sidelight" So, while the adult world argues over how healthy Halloween is for children, the children will be busy soaping our cars, having a ball while they rub our noses in our own behavior. -

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