COMPLAINING ABOUT city and county government changing the "official" celebration of Halloween -- itself a ridiculous concept considering that Halloween's not an official holiday, nor one that government would seem to have a need to intrude upon -- sounds like a pretty small thing to complain about.
And I suppose in the grand scheme of things it is.
But when a government action fits into an already well-established narrative of politicians constantly poking their head into places they're not needed, it becomes worth talking about.
I'm very much an all's-well-that-ends-well person. So I'm happy to report that all the trick or treating and assorted Halloween goings-on Saturday night Oct. 30 -- the night before Halloween, for those who've never looked at a calendar their entire life, I'm looking at you, City Council and County Commission -- seemed to go swimmingly.
All the kids were happy, all the adults were happy. Candy was gathered, brew was quaffed.
End of story, right? Not so much.
By the time you read this, the House of Representatives will almost certainly have changed hands largely because of a sense of government overreach, a sense that politicians have no handle on the really big issues and therefore are concentrating power wherever they can, on general principle.
True or not, this is certainly the national perception, and it's no less true at the local level.
For those of you not versed on the particulars, here's the story in a nutshell:
Less than a week before Halloween, city and county elected officials held a press conference wherein they designated Saturday night, Oct. 30, as the "official" trick-or-treat time for area youth.
Despite the fact that the Savannah Film Festival opened that night.
Despite the fact that Saturday night is also when all the drunk drivers are on the road.
Despite the fact that many parents already made plans based on Sunday trick-or-treating.
Despite the fact that public schools were out on Monday anyway.
Despite the fact that the hallowed tradition that is the Georgia-Florida game was going to be played Saturday afternoon .
Despite the fact that Halloween isn't an official holiday and is therefore none of the government's business.
Despite the fact that Halloween is on Oct. 31.
While there was a tepid attempt to justify the decision based on school attendance -- public schools may be out Monday but, um, lots of kids go to private school! -- the real story eventually came out:
Pressure from churchgoing voters resulted in local government "moving" Halloween away from Sunday, the Christian sabbath.
(Our fearless leaders expertly avoided the obvious anti-Semitic implications of moving Halloween from Sunday to Saturday by pointing out that their Jewish constituents could safely trick-or-treat, theologically speaking, after sundown on Saturday.)
My question: If you're against Halloween for religious reasons -- odd since the celebration has its roots in a religious observance, see below -- why is observing Halloween OK on a Saturday but not on a Sunday?
If you're opposed to Halloween because of religious convictions, wouldn't it be more righteous to be against Halloween at all times of the week, not just when it suits you?
In other words, isn't the takeaway here that Halloween is OK for religious folk as long as it's not on Sunday?
Pretty hypocritical, wouldn't you say?
Perhaps it would be best for the very pious among us to simply opt out of any Halloween observation, thus letting the rest of us observe it as we please, i.e., on the actual date.
(I leave it up to you if you want to bring in the old alcohol-sales-on-Sunday debate, which breaks down along similar lines, with similar rank hypocrisy.)
The silver lining for local politicians is at least they know they're being heard. Despite initial protestations and dissident threats -- Ardsley Park's insurgent pro-Sunday night campaign caved within hours -- most everyone in town did indeed change their trick-or-treating night to Saturday instead of Sunday.
The politicians even got themselves some national publicity out of it, in the form of a long story about the decision in the New York Times. You can guess how that went. (Hint: The story referred to the Oglethorpe Mall food court as a "modern-day town square.")
Every calendar in the English-speaking world clearly identifies Halloween as Oct. 31. For those in tune with the religious angle, there's even a specific religious reference: All Hallow's Eve, which comes before All Saints Day on Nov. 1.
I've never understood the American mania with changing observed holiday dates. I suppose I can understand something like Presidents Day getting moved (which, speaking of malls, is mostly done to accommodate sales).
But deeply traditional holidays like Christmas, Easter, and yes, Halloween should be celebrated on their exact date.
I don't know why this is so difficult for some people to understand.
You're probably wondering why I'm so worked up about it. You're perceptive, because there is a personal annoyance:
Because Halloween was moved to Saturday, I had to juggle my work responsibilities (covering the Film Festival) with my family. Being a devoted parent who never misses trick-or-treating -- this time is precious and fleeting and I refuse to miss more of it than I have to -- I opted to go to the opening party but miss the opening night film, Black Swan, so that I could spend time in the neighborhood tricking and treating, a decision I have zero regrets about.
Still -- had the government just left well enough alone it wouldn't have been an issue at all.
The real fun could come next year, when Halloween falls on a Monday. Surely they won't move it back to Saturday again (since Sunday is clearly out of the question).
Surely they'll just leave it alone.
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Thanks, Lisbet - all fixed.