The date of Halloween has always been one of the easy ones to remember: Oct. 31, plain and simple. No first Tuesday-after-the-first-Monday-of-November nonsense (that's Election Day), no fourth-Thursday-in-November (Thanksgiving), no second-Monday-in-October (if you don't know, ask a Canadian). Just the last day of October.
But for the past two years, matters were not quite so simple. Across the country, people monkeyed with the optimal day to dress up. In some cities, residents decided to celebrate Halloween on Saturday, while others would rather not choose between Halloween and college football. There was even a vote for Monday.
Officials in Chatham County, Ga., which includes Savannah, also invoked a third reason — the desire to move Halloween off a school night — when they asked residents to trick or treat on Saturday.
"You're in the Bible Belt," said Laura Raschke, 37, a clerk at the LifeWay Christian Store, who supported the switch. So religion "is always going to be part of anything. But it's also school. We have kids out there as early as 6 or 6:45 in the morning."
The Savannah mayor, Otis S. Johnson, who was at a news conference where officials suggested the switch, said that as a lifelong resident of the city, he could not remember another time anybody complained about Halloween on a paticular day. But he said he supported the decision.
"Sunday is the Christian Sabbath," Mr. Johnson said. "But also since celebrating Halloween normally takes place at night, and the Jewish Sabbath ends at sundown, we would not be disrespecting their Sabbath either. And Muslims celebrate their prayer on Friday. So if there were religious concerns, we have covered all of them!"
Mr. Johnson's reasoning was not good enough for a Savannah Morning News columnist, Tom Barton, who wrote that Mr. Johnson had violated the Linus Rule, after the Peanuts character who once said, "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin."
"The county's top elected officials ignored this sage advice," Mr. Barton wrote. He added: "Saturday night is the absolute worst night for extracurricular candy-bar grubbing. As everyone who has gone beyond Sesame Street knows, Saturday is reserved as the night when Savannah's adults go out and do stupid things (think partying, clubbing, driving drunk and fighting over girlfriends and baby daddies at 24-hour IHOPs)."
Chatham County is not alone in its disobedience of the Linus Rule. Towns in Washington County, Okla., also trick or treated on Saturday. "And a lot of people in this part of the country go to church on Sunday night," said Mike Dunlap, a county commissioner. In Livingston Parish, La., the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sent a letter to local leaders objecting to a part of the parish code that states that when Oct. 31 falls on a Sunday, "trick or treat will be held the following Monday, Nov 1."
In Jacksonville, Fla., City Councilman Don Redman, responding to requests from constituents, submitted a nonbinding resolution asking residents to trick or treat on Saturday. But after people pointed out to him that the Florida-Georgia football game, known far and wide as "The World's Largest Cocktail Party", would be in Jacksonville, he withdrew the resolution. "The more I thought about it, I realized it would create a dangerous situation," Mr. Redman said.
Perhaps there should be a Lucy Rule, after Linus's older sister, who yanked the football away from Charlie Brown. The Lucy Rule would take into account collegiate football rankings and a town's population. Consider Oxford, Miss., even though the town has in the past urged Saturday observance of the trick-or-treating ritual.
"Basically, we had the Auburn game as a conflict," Mayor George Patterson said in a telephone interview. So it didn't seem practical to move it."
Not everyone believes Halloween can be moved. Many Roman Catholics celebrate a vigil Mass the night before All Saints Day, which is Nov. 1. In fact, the A.C.L.U.'s letter argued, in part, that because Halloween is religious, the government may not move the date without treading on a Catholic feast day.
And despite the Savannah mayor's protestations, moving the date might offend still other religious groups, said Jon Butler, who teaches religion at Yale.
"Savannah's shift of Halloween from Sunday to Saturday," Professor Butler said, "privileges only Christians who worship on Sunday, but ignores Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh-day Baptists, among the several Christian groups who worship on Saturday."
At the Oglethorpe Mall in Savannah, whose food court and carousel serve as a modern-day town square, the wisdom of making the change was up for debate.
"Religion's not my forte, so I kind of wish they'd leave it alone," said Tami Waters, 25.
Still, her two young sons trick or treated on Saturday. As their grandmother, Penny Bumgardner, said: "Sooner was better for them."
But you can still enjoy Halloween wherever you are on October 31.
source: New York Times