Is Halloween Constitutional?

Halloween is a holiday filled with traditions, a historical background, and usually a night of scare and fun. However, Halloween hasn’t always been what  it is today. It is a holiday that has a heavy religious background. Our first amendment implies that there should be a separation of Church and State. Could celebrating Halloween in schools be in violation of this amendment?

The first amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This clause guarantees that the government will not promote any specific religion or any religious events. Public schools are funded by the government, making the Establishment clause binding in regards to what activities schools can support.

It evolved from a Pagan festival Samhain.  This harvest festival starts at sundown on October first to sundown on November 1. Catholics later adopted the holiday, making it All Hallows Day,  which celebrates Catholic saints, and is celebrated as a collective. This is done to recognize all of the saints that are no longer celebrated or who aren’t celebrated individually. The Roman Catholic Church has more than 10,000 saints, there are so many saints because anyone who has led a holy life and been approved by the tribunal is officially recognized as a Catholic saint

The day before All Hallows Day, October 31, is All Hallows Eve, which over time became known as Halloween. People believed that souls would wander the world until All Hallows Day, when they were finally able to move on. All Hallows Eve was the spirits’ last day on the earth, and therefore the last day they could cause mischief. Many traditions of Halloween, such as dressing in costumes and carving jack-o-lanterns, were created as an attempt to ward off the mischievous spirits. The costumes hid a person’s identity from any spirit who wished them harm, and jack-o-lanterns frightened away wandering spirits.

If schools are not allowed to support specific religions, and Halloween is based in religion, how could schools not be in violation of the first amendment? The answer is fairly simple: Halloween has been extremely secularized and separated from its religious roots. In fact, Halloween is being recognized around the world due to its influence on western pop culture. The traditions of costumes and candy are spreading without the purpose of warding off spirits.

Those who religiously celebrate this holiday don’t even refer to it as Halloween. It is All Hallows Eve, and is celebrated in a vastly different way than the typical Halloween party. Although the modern celebration of Halloween has been influenced by religion, the impact of Christianity on Halloween died hundreds of years ago and the current holiday has little connection to what it used to be.

It could be considered unconstitutional for schools to celebrate Halloween because of its religious background, however, the argument stands that modern Halloween is completely non religious, and the first amendment can’t fight its harmless celebration in schools. It’s a question that relies heavily on interpretation, but with the background information, it becomes possible to form an opinion on whether the constitution is truly being violated.