The last time Halloween fell on a Sunday, then-Columbia County commissioner Frank Spears helpfully decided to weigh in on the issue. He persuaded other county officials to go along with switching the date for trick-or-treating to Saturday.
Like a killer from a low-budget slasher movie, that mistake has come back to haunt us this year. But county officials, fortunately, are staying out of it this time around.
There were many reasons cited for the switch back in 1999, but most revolved around two thoughts: "Fright night" and the Christian Sabbath don't mix; and, it's better to avoid having door-to-door candy collection on a school night.
Even as the decision was made at the time, though, very few people in the community thought monkeying with the calendar was a good idea. In fact, the whole issue very nearly made Columbia County a laughingstock.
This time around, cooler heads have prevailed. Commissioners are wisely "allowing" Halloween to come on, well, Halloween -- which just happens to be Sunday.
Our readers agree. In an online poll at newstimesonline.com, 54 percent of readers said the government should stay out of it.
By opting to let the calendar run just the way it's printed, commissioners decided to do just that. The argument that won the day came from the county's emergency officials. They point out that the confusion over attempting to micromanage the holiday would result in two nights of trick-or-treating, as word would never quite get around to everyone that their government was switching the dates.
Besides: The idea that Christian observances and Halloween are incompatible is historically and socially absurd. The holiday's roots are in pagan harvest festivals, which were co-opted by Catholic missionaries in Europe. All Hallow's Eve parallels springtime celebrations now welcomed as Easter -- and that holy day is celebrated only on Sunday.
While far too much of harmless Halloween has been hijacked by a market-driven focus on the macabre, the fact remains that Christians long ago managed to win souls by adapting their the religious practices to attract European nature-worshippers. Those roots have mostly been forgotten, but it was an honorable aim then and remains so today.
For that reason, churches shouldn't run from Halloween, but should embrace it to focus on healthy activities. Many have with celebratory harvest festivals. And government officials, other than making sure there are plenty of deputies on duty to keep the streets safe from juvenile mischief, should stay out of it.
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