In just a few days, October 31 this year will fall on a Tuesday. We all know what that means for Wednesday at school – plenty of people missing, mentally if not physically. This is a nightmare for teachers and parents, and for those students who wish to get some work done. From a business standpoint, Halloween is second only to Christmas in the commercial potential of the holiday – yet it has no day off to call its own, while Christmas varies from a day all the way to two weeks of vacation, depending on your job.
Some quick history – Halloween originated in ancient Ireland, where the Celtic people would have the festival of Samhain on October 31 as a day when prophecies would be much more accurate than usual – oftentimes these prophecies were their only comfort during the long winters. When the Roman Empire expanded north in 43 AD and conquered the Celtic lands, they merged Samhain with one of their holidays, Feralia, which was a day to pay respects to the year’s dead. They also moved the date to November 1. By the ninth century, Christianity had spread north, and the Pope at the time didn’t want an unsanctioned celebration going on outside of his control. He rebranded the fall festival as “All Souls’ Day” and moved the date to November 2 – the northerners translated it as “All-Hallowmas.” All three versions of the holiday were celebrated the same way – neighbourhood bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes of saints, angels, devils, and the reaper.
Centuries later in the 1800’s, during the Irish potato famine, millions of Irish moved to both the USA and Canada. There they popularized Halloween in North America, but in a different form. This new version of Halloween was less focused on respecting the dead and more about community bonding – telling ghost stories, singing and dancing, and mischief making became the primary activities of the night. The date was also moved yet again to October 31. As children became increasingly involved in the festivities, there was a movement to take out anything frightening about the holiday; as a result, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious themes by the dawn of the twentieth century. In the mid-1900’s, Halloween shifted away from a community event to a night of amusement for children – celebrations moved out of city hall and into schools, and the feast changed into the handing out of candy.
Throughout its history, the day of Halloween was changed three times – why don’t we change it once more? Its purpose and theme has also shifted far from where it started 2,000 years ago. Have Halloween sit on the last Friday of October each year. There’s no real significance to the date of Halloween, other than the fact that start of winter provides a scary dark night for the ambiance. In addition, school is much more important for kids nowadays. If you’re still resistant to the idea of changing the date of your favourite holiday, why not proclaim the day after Halloween night as a day off school and work instead? That’s right, an extra day off – if that doesn’t convince you to fix this out-of-date holiday, I don’t know what will!