Shayne on You: Wicked advice for Halloween

Dear Maggie,

I’m a young mom, and I keep hearing warnings about Halloween in the news. All the anchors say we should have our children’s candy checked or even X-rayed before we let them eat it. They talk about razor blades in apples and poisons in other treats. It’s enough to give a mom a panic attack! Do you have any thoughts on all the hype?


Panicky Parent

Dear Panicky,

Halloween is my favorite holiday and I’m always eager to clarify misconceptions about it, and this poisoned-candy bit is one of the biggest. The real truth is that there has never ever been a single case of a child being poisoned or harmed by anything that was put into his Halloween treats by neighbors. There was one big case in the news many years ago, where a child was injured by candy, but it turned out the tainted treats had come from his own abusive home. A parent gave his own child the nasty stuff. It didn’t come from anywhere else.

However, there was a period of time during the investigation when that wasn’t known. So the initial news-blast was one about neighbors attacking kids by tampering with the treats they gave out. And by the time the case was solved, trick-or-treating’s reputation was irreparably damaged. Even to this day, we keep getting these news reports warning us to check our kids’ treats, and the reporters never bother to mention that if you found something harmful, you’d be making US history, because it would be the first time.

All that said, it still doesn’t hurt to be careful. But I’d be far more concerned about making sure the little ones are chaperoned and visible to traffic, and that the older ones aren’t out in the streets armed with rolls of TP and cartons of eggs. You know, like their parents used to be. =)


Dear Maggie,

My mother-in-law believes strongly that we shouldn’t let the kids observe Halloween, because of its connections with Satanism and the Devil. I think whatever it was about once shouldn’t matter so much. Today it’s just about kids having fun and getting treats. What do you think?

Curious Mom

Dear Curious,

Your MIL is misinformed. Halloween springs from the old Celtic holiday called Samhain (pronounced “Sow-en” believe it or not). It was the final of the three annual harvest festivals, and was at the time of year when the animals were usually butchered to provide meat that would last through the winter months. That probably accounts for its associations with death. The Celts believed that at this time of year, the “veil between the worlds” became thin, and that spirits of those who had passed on could come to visit. One custom was to set a place at dinner for those honored “guests.” To protect themselves from less friendly spirits who might wander on that night, the Celts carved frightening faces into turnips, (the first jack-o-lanterns) and set them out to guard their homes. They left offerings on their doorsteps (the first “Treats”) to placate the spirits and keep them from doing any mischief to their homes. And they even wore masks when they went out, so the spirits wouldn’t be able to tell the living from the dead. But mostly, it was a sacred time spent honoring beloved family members who had passed, and remembering them with love. Many other cultures celebrated in similar ways at the same time of year. And none of them had any devil or Satan as a part of their pre-Christian belief-system. So it clearly wasn’t about him.

The actual date of Samhain was the exact halfway point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, when the sun reaches 15 degrees Scorpio, which this year falls on November 7th.

Happy Haunting!


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