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Should We Put Halloween Back in its Crypt?

Horror of horrors! All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, is in a bit of trouble!

The informal holiday, celebrated this Friday and every October 31st, is still big business for the makers of spooky costumes, candy for which masked kids go begging door-to-door, and alcoholic beverages that are liberally poured at adult costume parties.

People still happily pay to be frightened half to death at dimly lit haunted houses. And Hollywood is rolling out ever-grislier slasher movies, sure to send audiences into full-throated screams.

So what's the problem?

A segment of the population has always objected to the holiday because of its origins as a pagan Celtic festival. They say Halloween is anti-religious and glorifies evil and the occult.

And now many parents are complaining that Halloween dress-up parties at their children's schools promote violence and unhealthy competition over who can show up in the most expensive or scariest costume. In turn, kids with cheap outfits or none at all face derision from their peers. Critics also note that the shrieks, fake blood and make-believe killing associated with Halloween can traumatize little ones.

So some schools have switched to harmless fall harvest festival parties, minus the costumes. Others allow Halloween dress-up, but only as benign storybook characters, not menacing monsters.

All this has prompted a backlash. It's just one more erosion of an American tradition that's been tossed out the door because somebody didn't like it, a Maryland parent told the local newspaper.

Lots of Americans still think sending their little ones to school or escorting them about the neighborhood on Halloween night dressed as a vampire, or an un-dead mummy, or a blood-soaked ax murderer — is all in good fun. But for many others troubled by the violence in our world today, Halloween gore is a tradition they'd like to send to the grave.

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.