There’s no trick behind this treat

Daniel Duart—a resident of Forest Ranch via Berkeley, Chicago and Princeton, N.J.—is a freelance writer and student of comparative religions.

There is a chill in the air. Most harvests are in, and autumn is upon us. Halloween, the fastest growing holiday in the United States, is within arm’s reach. That seems to worry people who see it as more than an ancient and spirited celebration.

Some people see Halloween as a secular holiday gone wild, which it may be, or worse: as a celebration of the devil.

Halloween traces back hundreds and hundreds of years before the Common Era. It came from the Celtic celebration of the transitional season at the end of harvest and the coming of winter. Samhain (pronounced “Sow-en"), as the Celts called it, developed into All Hallows Even, which has occurred the evening before All Saints Day (or All Hallows) for over a thousand years. The name became Hallowe’en, then Halloween.

Its spiritual element comes from the ancient belief that this is the time of year when the world of the living is closest to the world of the dead and it’s the season most likely to have spirits walking among us.

Like most holidays, Halloween has evolved over the years. Its popularity as the first in a string of big holidays (including Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Day) is growing quickly. Many people enjoy dressing up as their favorite character, spooky or otherwise, for an evening of spirited socializing. Carving Jack-o-lanterns out of pumpkins and dressing up kids in costumes can be wonderful family fun.

Good secular fun.

Granted, Chico and other college towns seem to have a difficult time reining in the Halloween festivities in the later hours of the evening, but I’d venture to attribute that problem more to drinking and drugs than to the veneration of any devil. Pioneer Days got out of hand more than a few times, too, but that doesn’t mean that it was Satanic.

I guess if you believe that there is a devil behind all revelry not focused on a god or a saint, then you might want to stay home and pray for the heathens on Halloween.

If it happens to be your belief that no one should dress up in costumes, I will argue that you have the right to believe what you choose.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will enjoy our own brand of recreation and celebrate Halloween as we always have—getting together with family and/or friends dressed up for a good laugh.