Halloween: Ways We Celebrate (or Not)

The high school art club organized a pumpkin carving activity after school. Photography courtesy of Juri Yamashita.

It’s safe to assume that most students at HBA have celebrated Halloween in some fashion, or have at least participated in Fall dress up festivals. Halloween is, after all, one of the stand-out holidays of the year for children, being a time to dress up in fun costumes and get free candy to hoard for months.

Despite Halloween’s ubiquity in American culture, its origins are not well-known. Halloween, referred to by some as All Saints’ Day, dates back to 2,000 years ago, and was a Celtic festival to ward off evil spirits. This festival was called Samhain, and was held on the Celtic New Year’s Day on November 1, a day when demons, fairies, and spirits of the dead were thought to roam the earth. Later, early Christians turned the Celtic tradition into a holiday celebrating martyrs and saints, hence the name All Saints’ Day.

Here at HBA, Halloween is officially not celebrated during the school day. Students have been reminded in the past that accessories with skulls, ghosts, and other horror-themed symbols are not school-approriate. There is also no costume day to celebrate Halloween. There is no explicit mention of this policy in the high or middle school handbooks but in the elementary handbook, it is explained this way: “All school activities reflect Christian values. HBA
does not observe Halloween. Please refrain from sending goody bags and treats with Halloween decor, graphics, and memorabilia.” At the high school, the current policy also stems from practical concerns. Principal Marsha Hirae writes, “Many years ago, we celebrated Halloween at school by having kids dress up but it got way out of hand. A few dressed up like trees and could not even sit down in class. The costumes distracted students from learning and the school made the decision to stop celebrating Halloween.”

Outside of school, English teacher Dawson Vorderbruegge celebrates both Halloween and All Saints’ Day. He writes, “This year we’ve got a neighborhood BBQ and trick or treating on Halloween. My kids are going as Robin Hood and Little John. Then, we are having a major feast at church on All Saints Day. Toasts will be given, songs sung, praises uttered, prayers said. We have a full communion service on All Saints Day in the evening, and we will remember some heroes of the faith from every nation, tribe, and tongue who have faithfully proclaimed the salvation of Jesus Christ.”

Students at HBA shared their opinions of Halloween and how they celebrate it, as well as their thoughts on HBA’s Halloween policy. Junior Jolie Wong writes, “My overall feelings towards Halloween are rather neutral, since I enjoy the excitement around the holiday but get scared pretty easily. Although I don’t draw much enjoyment from dressing up or going out, I love the energy that almost kickstarts the holiday season.” When asked if he celebrates Halloween, Junior Azure Watson says, “Sort of. It’s my sisters birthday, so we have a party, but I don’t really celebrate Halloween like, the classical things.” As for HBAs’ policy regarding Halloween, Wong said, “In elementary school, I used to wish that we had a free dress day like other schools did. However, as a high schooler I don’t really notice the policy anymore.”

On October 31, even though students did not dress up in costumes for school, the seniors organized an “Anything But a Backpack Day” where they brought their school supplies to school in anything but a backpack. For students who are looking for a chance to show off their costumes, Spirit Week Wacky Wednesdays are coming up early this year, starting this week with Sports Fandom Day.

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