Afternoon Inquisition 10.28

With Halloween just three days away, I’m sure many Skepchick readers, and indeed some Skepchicks themselves are planning and plotting for the Perfect Halloween Costume.   (Although I applaud your willingness to play along, I am not among you.  Mostly because I am lazy.) (Also, for some inexplicable reason, the costume contest at my office is on Thursday, which is 10/30,  this year.) (What kind of sense does that make?  Really?)

Considering this holiday, along with many others, has roots in magical thinking,… I’m wondering if anyone abstains from Halloween.   (I know several prominent skeptics don’t celebrate the Christmas season due to the non-rational relationship, but it Halloween also a line in the sand?)

Do you get your Halloween on?  If so, what are you doing this year to celebrate?  If not, why not?  Also, for our non-North American based readership,  is Halloween even a big deal?


A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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  1. Oh, yes. Yes, we do celebrate Halloween! It helps that I have a 6 1/2 year old who adores dressing up and sweeties. Even if she didn’t, though, I’d still celebrate. We put together soundtracks for outside, whoever’s handing out the sweeties dresses up – oh, how we love Halloween.

    It also helps that I’m an old-school Goth, even though I don’t put the same effort into my dress and makeup than I used to do. But I’ve never thought that you had to believe in all the other things that go with it to have a good time on Halloween – much like Christmas, Easter, and any other appropriated holiday.

  2. Yes, although I consider myself to be both a Skeptic and an Atheist, I can’t help but dressing up as a demon, ghost, or whatever I decide (demon this year). As a Drama class drop out (decided to take a chem class instead), I like being able to dress up and slip into a different role. Even though I’m 19 now, it is fun to scare/entertain little kids.
    One year I made a 5 year old “princess” cry and hide behind her mom, I felt bad and gave her some candy. When I did that her eyes lit up and it was quite amusing to me to see the difference a few sweets can make to a 5 year old when confronting something scary.

  3. When I was in the airlines, those assigned to work at the ticket counter and gates were allowed to wear costumes, as long as they were in “good taste” and not too scary. (We had to think of the little kids – nothing was allowed that might be too scary for a toddler or small child. That left a lot of room to be creative, though!) One of my favorite memories was the day we had to cancel a full flight (100 people) and I was dressed as Captain Picard…) :-D

    Now that I work on an Army base, there appears to be no leeway for Halloween costumes in the office. We DO spread the chocolate around, though!

  4. We’ve been doing Halloween stuff all month. Scary movies…well as scary as you can watch with a 5 and 3 yr old. Nightmare Before Christmas is great because you can watch from now until December.

    I use holidays to teach my kids about the pagan origins of the holiday. I think they enjoy that as much as the ghost and goblin stuff. I want them to have fun AND know what the tradition is all about. I still do the Santa thing with them, I just can’t help myself.

  5. I was going to go as an original series Star Trek medical officer. All that would be required would be one of the shirts and for me to make my sideburns look vaguely pointed.

  6. screw where it came from or whatever- i gets my halloween on! full costume, candy, the drunken debauchery, the whole 9. i will be taking my niece trick or treating friday night but saturday i will be the drunkard donnie darko at my friend’s saturday post-halloween costume party. mostly because i bought a skeleton costume a year or two back and am too cheap to lazy to buy a new one every year. i just celebrate with different groups of friends every year. that way- it’s new to them! oh yeah, and because that movie friggin’ rocks

  7. Yes! I love Halloween– my all time favorite holiday. Every year we have an adult Halloween party with festive foods and drinks. This year I am a fortune teller. We had our party last week and I read Tarot cards and everything. Everyone had a blast. My house is totally decked out but I don’t care for gory decorations. I like pumpkins, witches, ghosts, stuff like that.
    Happy Halloween everyone!!

  8. Think what you want (obviously), but traditions are important. Cultural traditions like Halloween have value as shared experiences. If you can extricate the spiritism and “holy” nonsense, then there’s no reason to destroy the fun!

    Costumes + party + drinking + waffles and sausage (family tradition) FTW

  9. Even have Halloween over here in New Zealand, although thanks to “stranger danger” it isn’t what it used to be. Now it’s mainly snot nosed punk kids coming ’round and demanding sweets (and get off my lawn!).

  10. Yeah I definitely think it’s fun to participate in events like Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc. – even if they have religious roots. I’ve read a lot about the beginnings of religion, and its link to our ancestors about 30,000 to 40,000 years ago who (as the theory goes) started to ingest psychedelic mushrooms and whatnot and began tripping away about demons and half-men, half-beast monstrosities, gods, aliens, and who knows what else. Cave drawings are pretty interesting in that they contain a lot of crazy and interesting stuff that came from the minds of our ancestors, hallucinating or not, and it’s definitely an important part of our past, even if they have absolutely no basis in reality. Why not have fun with that a few times a year, and celebrate the interesting stuff that our minds are capable of conjuring up?

  11. I think Halloween is great. I just installed a new sprinkler system and it’s a shame to have its use restricted to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    I am a Hedge

  12. Oh yes, I look forward to this holiday above all others. I have a minature graveyard in the front yard, a bat flying around on the porch, a witch in the tree and a skeleton on the door. The front room is all decorated and there are pumpkins all over inside and out. I will have a cauldren with dry ice and a tich of water in it for fog on Friday. I will have all the classic horror movies playing until I go to bed. I don’t usually do a costume. When I do I go minamalist. I wear a superman t-shirt under one of my suits with a pair of plain glass glasses. I’ll have hot spiced apple cider made from scratch and spiked with rum in a crock pot and I have about 20lbs of candy ready to give away. I love Halloween it is total fun with no stress. At least no stress most of the time. My ex-wife kidnapped the kids last year and I didn’t get them back until a few days before halloween last year. Still I love this holiday.

  13. We go all out for our three daughters for Halloween. Personally, I do it mostly to spite the home-school, fundamentalist, anti-Halloween, anti-fun jerks in our community.

  14. I love going all out for Halloween but I haven’t had the money yet to really get into it. I just wear a costume and go to a party or something, then buy candy on sale the next day. Maybe it’s because I don’t have Easter, Christmas, etc — well I do as in I get time off work/school, but they don’t really mean anything — that I get something more out of a blatantly made-up holiday that is just supposed to be a fun escape from life for a few hours.

  15. I love Halloween, but I really haven’t had time to do much at all this year. I haven’t had time to carve a pumpkin (which up until now had been a yearly tradition) much less get a costume together!

    Last year I wore one of my bellydancing costumes out and about… I wasn’t showing off much skin at all but people really reacted well to it! I won’t be doing the same this year because in the meantime I’ve learned that it’s a faux pas to parade around in costume if you’re not actually performing.

    Honestly, I don’t really think about the pagan origins of Halloween. Much like Christmas I celebrate it because I enjoy it and damn it, we need fall/winter festivals! Otherwise I’m not sure how I’d get through another Canadian winter!

  16. Halloween was barely on the radar when I was a kid but it’s been growing (although I’v yet to see any Halloween stuff in the shops so far) over the last 25 years. Typically we get 1 or 2 trick or treaters every year.

    When I was a kid if Halloween was mooted, grown ups would say: “It’s american you know” which was grown-up code for crass and unsophisticated. So we never did it.

    Besides we’ve got “Mischief Night” on the 30th which is much better. No dressing up, sweets or corparate BS. Just plain old fashioned vandalism and petty crime: putting sugar into petrol tanks, slashing tyres of every car on a street, setting fire to cow sheds, smearing lard on people’s front room windows. Kids today wont grow up with the memories we have, it’s sad really.

    We also have Bonfire Night on the 5th November which is pretty big (see V for Vendetta). Where I grew up the estate would start collecting wood (known as Chump’in) in september to build a massive bonfire and local children would (and still do) collect the stuff to make a “guy”, a life sized human doll, to be burned “at the stake” on the bonfire.

    It’s supposed to be Guy Fawkes (see V for Vendetta) but usually it’ll have the face mask of the villan de jour, Saddam, Bin Ladin, this year most probably GW Bush. There’s toffee apples, Parkin, Pie & Pees, somebody always gets hold of those ilegal chinese fireworks. Frankly it’s second only the Xmas in amazingness

  17. How am I celebrating? I’m performing in this!

    And also parties. Too many parties, as in I had to cancel some to go to others, which not only sucks but usually never happens to me ever.

    And, yeah, I’m totally doing a costume. A friend of mine is actually doing the hard work and sewing me a swanky coat, but I’m buying and making a few random bits, too.

    Halloween is totally my most favouritest holiday of the year. For serious. It’s just wicked fun to dress up and go out and party.

  18. As for Christmas. Christmas as we know was basically invented by Charles Dickens and has about as much to do with Jesus as it does to Scooby-do.

    Those joyless miserable atheists who refuse to “do xmas” give the rest of us a bad name. Besides it’s a good excuse to have a celebration, it’s too frecking cold to do anything else. Two things I would get rid of though are 1) Xmas starting around mid October. It shouldn’t be mentioned until after 25th November and 2) The Xmas Arms Race bewteen my elderly grandpa and his elderly neighbours to see who can have the best xmas trimings. 90 year olds should not be climbing ladders.

  19. Hi there!

    The only BELIEF that I have carried over from my days as a non-atheist is my belief in the sanctity of Halloween.

    What’s this? Am I confessing to being a Fundamentalist Pagan bound by an irrational credulity that the spirits of the deceased return to Earth on the one day that the veil between worlds is thinnest??

    Gah! No! I just enjoy Halloween to the extent that it holds a special place in my heart. Ever since I was young, I’ve always had a love for the supernatural, the spooky, the creeptacular. Oh sure, Christmas was greaat, what with the presents, and the Peace on Earth and all that. But MY holiday has always been Halloween.

    If you’ll allow me to wax poetically, it’s always been about fear. The reason that Halloween is so popular (along with similar autumnal feasts in other religions) is that this is the time of year when we admit that Death is upon us. The leaves die, the weather turns cold, all of our precious flowers close their petals for the last time. We start to see the world around us dying as winter approaches, and we realize that someday Death is coming for us too. Halloween, Samhain, Dia de Los Muertas, they all acknowledge the swift approach of the Reaper.

    That’s why I’ve always held the firm belief that Halloween should be SCARY. Please spare me your Fairy Princesses, your Homer Simpson costumes, your clever little high-concept political statement attire, and your superhero capes. I mean, whatever floats your boat, who am I to judge, right? But if your costume doesn’t make the average 8th-grader wet himself and go screaming back home in a chaotic trail of 3 Musketeers minis and Blow Pops, it just doesn’t impress me.

    Halloween is about Witches, Ghouls, Ghosts, Vampires, and Werewolves. It’s not about Spongebob Squarepants and Buzz Lightyear. It’s about SCARY, pure and simple. It’s about terrifying little children and making them scream. It’s about showing them it’s OKAY to be scared, as long as you don’t let your fear control you. It’s about letting those little brats turn around to FACE the Oogy Boogie staring at them through hollow eye sockets, and say: “You don’t scare me!”. It’s about understanding that nothing can scare you without your permission.

    So yes, in that sense, Halloween is absolutely sacred to me. :)

  20. I’ve never had anyone come trick or treating, or been invited to a costume party on or around Halloween, so I’ve never gotten to do any of the discouraging I want to do. I see no reason we should import Halloween. :)

  21. @russellsugden: I do the whole family dinner thing, but I don’t think I get as much out of xmas as some religious people do. There’s fewer expectations on Halloween. I guess I just find it a more inclusive holiday and it’s more centered around fun (as opposed to the stress of the social convention of buying presents for people at a certain time of year regardless of whether they need/want something or you can afford it — as opposed to just buying them something when you see something they might like at any time of the year).

  22. Hurrah for non-North American skepticism! :D
    I think although Halloween gets it’s fair share of our hard earned (well..earned at least) cash here in the UK.
    Guy Fawkes night on November 5th kinda steals Halloween’s thunder for me at least, what it lacks in near-lethal doses of sugar it makes up for by the sheer mass of fireworks that are let off… oh and we get to wear V for Vendetta masks! Woop! :)

  23. I send a couple of costumes for my nephews.
    Last year, I send the older one the collest dinosaur’s costume (mostly because they did not produce it for anybody older than and I could not keep it for myself…).
    This year, he wants to disguise as Spider-Man, so I contributed a web-shooter and a Superman’s costume for his younger brother.

    Myself… I will try to set up a D&D game with a Lovercraftian flavour (sub-terranean temple envaded by moss and sea-weed; cyclopean architecture and the rest).
    The last revelation, of course, will be that the ‘elder god’ the cultist adore is in fact… A pink rabbit. Holding a machine gun (made of magical wands…).

  24. Strictly low key this year. It’s been a busy year, so some recharge time will be the best gift ever. I can’t summon the enthusiasm for costumes or parties this year.

    My sister is currently living in my house as a transition after moving to a new city, so we will hand out candy to the trickle of kids that comes to the door and hang out with friends after that is over. I think even carving a pumpkin is just too much effort this year.

  25. Yeah Divs; I played it a while. It’s a bit serious for my taste.

    This game will mostly be a parody of Lovecraft and of the Call of Cthulhu games…

  26. How am I celebrating Halloween??? Probably cloistered in a library writing a lab report and solving partial differential equations…. GOD I love school!

  27. @JRice: The Ravenholm chapter of Half-Life 2 usually satisfies my craving for Halloween styled gaming!

    Another UK twist on Halloween I’ve just thought about would be the fact that it’s a lot easier to get away with NOT giving out sweets to trick or treaters :) …what?? I’m saving all of my generosity for Christmas! Promise!

  28. @Gabrielbrawley: Parkin is like nothing else on earth! Now, shops and supermarkets will try to sell you a sort of sponge-cake with a bit of oats added that they call Parkin, but don’t be fooled. True Parkin is made from Oats, Mollassess, eggs and ground Ginger, (exactly how its made I don’t know) and is dense, really dense. So dense you couldn’t eat a piece bigger than 2 by 3 by 1 inch deep and if you threw it at someone it would hurt.

    Pie & Peas is mushy peas, that is a special type of high carbohydrate pea that has been boilded in a small amount of salt water until the carbs have leached out and you have essentially a porridge consistancy of peas. The Pie is small pork pie made from special lardy pasty and heated in an oven. You eat them together with vinager, mint sauce and raw onions.

    @Kimbo Jones: Everyone’s different but in my family we stopped giving presents years ago between the adults and now the adults by stuff for the few children (as there about 30 adults and 2 children they get spoiled rotten). We generally go to church Xmas morning for the carol service, go home and have lunch which usually takes from noon until 2.30, play a few board games, have tea about 5pm, wash up, tidy up and play parlour games til the small hours (with Stollen, Mince Pies, Cakes and drinks throughout). Most years we have house guests of one kind or another. We’ve had a TV embargo for years because my grandad said it spoiled xmas 1968, and we’ve just stuck to it. Of course Boxing Day is a different matter as we all just sit and watch sport on TV all day.

    In the UK “religious” and “traditional” pretty much mean the same thing to 90% of self-described Christians. I remember reading a few years ago the majority of christians think the Xmas tree is a christian symbol (“No, Mr Solomon can’t be Jewish, he sent me a christmas card last year and he always has a christmas tree, you see? He’s a christian”). So for a “religous” christian in the UK, their religious duty is to sing carols, eat mince pies and send christmas cards.

    I can’t really explain how different it is, having spent christmas with my cousins in san diago a few years ago, in the UK to the USA. If anything its “tradition/history” worship rather than “god” worship.

    @JamesBall: I’ve alreay got my V for Vendetta, V costume and spray can sorted for Bonfire Night

  29. @russellsugden: Likewise! :D
    I thought I might watch the film on the 5th, brilliant film…plus Natalie Portman’s “British” accent never fails makes me giggle!

    You’re right on the tradition/religion thing over here, I’ve always wondered why we in England experience far less extreme Christianity than the US does, despite us living in a “Christian” country and the US being a secular one (…in theory anyways).

  30. @Detroitus: British accents automatically make people more intelligent? Well, suits me! :D

    I think what we lack in Southern US style creationism, we make up for in homeopathy. There are an NHS funded homeopathic hospitals over here… the government spends £160,000 a year at least on them! Eek! So much for British intelligence!

  31. @TheSkepticalMale: Now I’m clever AND sexy just by speaking normally? SCORE!

    Oh and a quick BBC search reveals that the NHS are considering stopping homeopathic spending… British intelligence restored :) I hope any Americans here will good care of Hugh Laurie for us while he’s House-ing over there! :)

  32. @TheSkepticalMale: You bring back painful memories of my GCSE economics class… my teacher was called Miss Butt…poor woman…

    Not having to buy endless Halloween costumes/decorations/sweets (Translation: Candy) is one plus I suppose, damn currency!

  33. @JamesBall: You know, just last night, I beat “We Don’t Go to Ravenholm” on hard-difficulty for the first time.

    Those damn fast zombies are tough.

    And, in my own defense, I’m playing on a PS3, so the controls are a bit wonky.

  34. @JRice: Kudos! :)
    Just hold onto those gravity-gunable saw thingies for as long as possible!

    (eugh I kinda feel the need to apologize to the resident Skepchicks for hijacking their epic site to discuss Half-Life 2!)

  35. @JRice: As Scottish ladies go I think Ashley Jensen’s lovely :) (Scottish one off of Ugly Betty?)

    @Detroitus: “Butter’s my bread”? Hmm perhaps not comment of the week but I’d definitely back you in “Weirdest sexual metaphor to do with food” of the week.

  36. Last year, my brother went as an IRS agent. I had broken my ankle by playing tennis, so I didn’t dress up.
    This year I’m going as a gothic devil.

  37. @Mousez: One year I was not allowed to dress up so I went as a Tourette’s(sp??) patient. It’s an incredibly easy costume, and I got to offend so many people in the name of holiday festivities!

  38. @detroitus: That’s an idea! However, I usually feel bad about offending some people, so I couldn’t do that. :( I want to wear the shirt from party city that says, “I don’t do costumes.” (Give me some candy!)

  39. Time for a dissenting opinion from Australia. Halloween has never been huge here the way it is in the US, but thanks to the saturation of American TV shows on our channels, the little kids of this country are starting to think of halloween as a normal thing. On the other hand, there is a sizable minority here who are quite vocal about opposing the influence of American culture which is slowly oozing into our own.

    Now noramally I’d grab at any excuse for a debaucherous party, but I dislike the effort needed to make a decent costume (and there’s no way I’m going to do anything in a crap costume). In the past I’ve had no more than one visit from trick or treaters per year, and they got told to piss off, we got nothing for ya. (although slightly more politely when their parents were in earshot). I suspect that trick or treating will remain a very small part of halloween in Australia, but that drunken halloween parties may increase. Not everyone here is as lazy as I am with the costume making.

  40. View from Adelaide, Australia.

    Nope, not big at all. Unlike the English we also don’t have Guy Fawkes anymore because of the injuries with fireworks.

    If we are lucky we’ll have one set of kids from up the street.
    IMHO I wish it was bigger in Oz. The concept of a horror theme, drinking, parties and sweets has serious merit. Oh, and not to forget terrorising small children with spooky stuff, that always has merit. There’s no nicer words than “Your not a , you’re just wearing a costume! ” to come from skeptical little mouths as they run off screaming.

  41. @JamesBall:
    I think there are several reasons why we are less religious than our Colonial Cousins:

    1. The state provides care for the poor, the homeless, the elderly and the sick. Working class families don’t need the church as a last resort social welfare scheme.

    2. Social Darwinism was never linked with Evolution in the UK. So unlike the US, Evolution has never been linked to the lasie-farre (sic) capitalism of the elite. Our elite got rich by accident of birth, not through struggle or hard work, so it’s never been in their interest to push “survival of the fittest” as an ideology. Unlike America where the idea of working hard can get you anywhere is pretty well ingrained, most europeans are aware that no amount of hard work is ever going to change your social status. John Prescott may have been Deputy PM (equivalent to VP) for 10 years, but he never got invited to the Palace because of his class.

    3. The Civil War. Religious Wars ravaged the country from pretty much constantly from 1450 to 1745 in one form or another and HALF the adult male population were killed in the Civil War (1640’s). Anyone who gave a damn about God either left the country, died fighting or realised that maybe ignoring religion was a safest course of action. Interestingly, the Empire only really got going from the 1750’s onwards, when we realised it was much more profitable to fight other countries than each other.

    4. The Establishment of the Church. This has two effects, firstly from the 1520’s onwards the clergy has known that their plates are going to be filled no matter what, unlike american churches they’ve never needed to compete for business, so to speak, so they’ve never actively gone out looking for converts. In fact the CofE has always assumed that the whole population of the country in “in the fold” and so never actively push christianity at all. Have you ever seen a C of E bishop asking people to “come to Jesus”? (Have you ever seen a C of E Bishop mention Jesus? They prefer not to as all the god-talk is bound to stir things up and they dont want people to be too keen, see above) If you do see a C of E Bishop of TV he’s almost always there talking about the importance of contraception, Stem Cell research, feeding the poor, being nice and abortion rights (the bishops in the lords were prepared to vote IN FAVOUR of maintaining abortion rights in the recent bill, it just never got that far). That’s why Richard Dawkins is bezzy mates with the Bishop of Oxford, hell Dawkins talks about jesus more than the bishop.
    The second effect is that for most people religion is something they take for granted. The Church is part of the state and therefore for most people, “god business” is assumed to be taken care of in the same way “foreign relations” is taken care of. Someone else sorts it out on your behalf and you get to spend sunday morning in bed.

    5. Religion in Schools. Every school must by law teach Religion, so those few people who do care about such things don’t mind that evolution is taught in science because young earth creationsim is taught in RE…alongside all the other creation myths on an equal basis. There is also a law about daily worship which (at least when I was at school) is essentially a farce there aren’t enough ‘bible stories’ to fill everyday of the school year, so by Whitsun term it’s 300 teenage boys listening to Kipling Stories or stuff about Gandi or the importance of not “getting a young lady into trouble” (which i took to mean don’t involve them in your petty crimes). I can still remember our school prayer: “OhGodinwhomwetrustblahblahblahblahAMEN”

    Like anything, making religion compulsory in schools makes it a ball-ache. It puts god on a par with woodwork and P.E.

  42. @JamesBall: Our Accents also take us up a notch or three on the attractiveness scale. I spent some time at NYU and an Englishman in the US is like an Italian or Frenchman in the UK, ethnic and exotic but only a little and not scarliy so.

    Not to disparage american men, but (gay or straight) their chat up moves are appalingly crass and about as subtle as grabbing your balls, AND for some reason they can’t hold their drink AND they don’t believe bisexuality exsists (“No, I’m not half-out the closet, I genuinely like girls as well”)

    BUT both sexes f*ck on the 2nd date which is more than any Englishman/women would do. So its not all bad

  43. a) I am English

    b)Halloween is an excuse for drinking

    Therefore: I will be drunk. Clothing optional.

  44. @neverclear5: Seconded! :D

    @russellsugden: That all adds up! :)
    It does seem that because the Church of England don’t have to compete for their undeserved cash and followers, they don’t feel anywhere near the need to preach and convert people as the American denominations of Christianity do. If the American populace in the southern states all miraculously (hehe) decided to become atheists then the churches there would eventually have to shut down due to lack of funds I take it?

    Whereas over here, the Church of England is still comfortably droning on in it’s churches despite their only subscribers being OAPs. I’m not sure which set up I prefer. Living in a secular country but having to put up with those young-earthers exercising their constitutionally protected right to spew garbage OR living in a country wherein religion is “promoted” by the government but as a result of that promotion the faith-heads feel secure enough to keep the noise down. Hmm, which is the lesser of two evils?

    Interesting point about religion in schools. I remember being told that by law all English schools have to have one assembly/lesson per week with a “broadly Christian theme”. Of course now we’re such a diverse and multi-faith, multi-ethnic country that enforcing such a law would be impractical as half the class would undoubtedly up and walk out. I’m one of four caucasian students out of the seventeen students in my Chemistry class, of course no racism implied but it just goes to demonstrate that Hinduism/Islam etc are common enough that promoting Christianity would upset a lot of people.

    Surely there are religious education classes in America as well? Despite my fervent atheism I actually quite like them. I always saw them as “Debunk the ill-equipped to argue back teacher” studies :) The majority of English teens really don’t buy into the religion thing, most of my friends would spend most of the RE lessons berating the teacher and textbook on the irrationality of it all even without my skeptic-y influence. But whenever we did a pole in class, I was always the only person to identify as an atheist, everyone else seemed to think that atheism is an arrogant viewpoint.

  45. @russellsugden: I think New Zealand, being founded/colonised/stolen in the late 1700 s and early 1800s we managed to inherit most of these things from England. When I was growing up, aside from a few exclusive brethren who lived down the road, I don’t think I knew any religious kids and its wasn’t really talked about. Plus although going to “chapel” as it was called in my school was mandatory most of us used to hide all over the school, including under the floorboards to avoid it. I remember one “mandatory” session when about 10% of the school actually showed up, that was when I 1st discovered that they can’t punish everyone :p

    I don’t recall Halloween really being celebrated as I was growing up, not while I was living in NZ anyway.

  46. i used to celebrate then, when i was in jr high, my parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses, so all that shenanigans ended. now that i’m mostly out of all that mess (my wife and family are catholic) i’ll celebrate and go to the parties and have a few beers/G&Ts/martinis/whatever good stuff is being served. i do the family get togethers, office parties, friends parties, for any “holiday”. i don’t dress up for Halloween. but i don’t avoid the mess either. i’m not for the holidays so much as for a reason to get together with friends and enjoy myself.

  47. Seems to me that we all agree that Halloween is whatever we want it to be.

    I used to go out with my kids in costume when we lived in WI and MO. I got lots of comments about it – all approving or funny. More than one parent got “shot” with my phaser! ;-)

    We also used to hand out coffee/tea to the parents that were out with their kids “trick or treating” on cold Halloweens. When you line in WI, it is not unheard of to have snow on Halloween and the parents were very appreciative of the hot drink between houses! I like to think that it kept them out longer, so their kids got more candy to rot their teeth! :-D
    We also were known in the neighborhood for rewarding original and clever costumes with extra candy!

    Of course, in Bible Belt MO, we had many fundies that boycotted Halloween and had church-based “Harvest Celebrations.” Funny, it seemed to me that the kids that went to them never had much fun…If you’ve seen one Bible character costume, you’ve seen them all. The parties looked more like Arab bazaars to me…

  48. I’ve always loved Halloween. When I was growing up my family never had much money (single mother with no college education and four kids). Subsequently Xmas was never as good as it was for alot of kids, so Halloween has always been my holiday of choice. Costumes made for cheap is one of my talents.
    My wife and I were married on Nov. 1, so All Hallows Eve is always a big deal…this year I’m Santa Claus and she’s a cute Martian girl, ala Flaming Lips. All money was spent on her costume, as my Santa Rampage costume is always ready to go in the back of my closet.
    Hope all have plenty of Heathen fun!!

  49. I just remember when my wife and I were engaged we had originally planned on a Halloween wedding. We were going to be in costume and ask all of the guests to were costumes. It didn’t work out as I was sent to Kuwait so we ended up with a June wedding. I think it was June, well it was a hot summer month anyway.

  50. I have to say that I would have to withdraw from the Skeptic Movement if it meant I couldn’t do Halloween anymore.

    Its, after all, pretending, which is not in any way the same thing as magic.

    I went to a Halloween party last weekend dressed as the tenth Doctor from Doctor Who. CAN THERE BE ANY MORE RATIONAL WAY TO PARTICIPATE IN OCTOBER?

  51. Oh, hell yes Halloween! I have only ever missed dressing up for Halloween once in my life (last year: Yakko Warner. This year: Etch-a-Sketch.)

    I actually think that Halloween is one of the best skeptical holidays there is. I mean, yes, it has religious/spiritual roots, but while Christmas and Easter and the like still retain large amounts of serious religious belief despite over-commercialization, Halloween has largely become completely divorced from that aspect. I mean, when’s the last time you heard someone seriously talking about Halloween being the day that the spirits of the dead roam the land of the living and need to be scared off by costumes and glowing, carved fruit?

    No, Halloween has become — even outside of skeptic circles — a day that’s all about separating fantasy from reality. It’s about kids realizing that the monster, the ghost, the devil they see is not real. It’s just pretend. It’s someone in a mask, or a convincing scarecrow, or a shadow that seemed more convincing than usual because of the creepy atmosphere. And even if those lessons are only taught on this one day, they may stick through the rest of the year, and people might realize that those “magical” things they believe in have human faces behind them.

    Also I love candy.

  52. @JamesBall:
    First off, let me just say that Chemistry Rocks.

    I remember hearing on the TV that there are only 1 million ‘active’ (defined as going to church at least once a month) Christians in the UK and their average age was 56. So certainly in the UK having an estabilished church has worked out for us (I don’t think it’ll ever die out completely though because of that). Whereas France is an overtly secular republic but has none of the religious ferver of the US.

    We might not have a strong christian lobby, but we have more than our fair share of homeopathy, crystal healing and general hippy bullshit when compared to other countries. Hell, we even have a NHS homeopathic hospital (now THAT is a waste of NHS money) simply because the Royal Family support homeopathy and ensured it get government money

  53. All I do on Halloween is sit at home, alone, in the dark, watching horror movies and listening to Cradle of Filth (or Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Mayhem, etc, etc.)

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