Don’t make criminal conduct a part of Halloween, says Judge Gerald A. Williams
Don’t make criminal conduct a part of Halloween, says Judge Gerald A. Williams.
Halloween is hard to explain. Why do we think it is normal to carve a face into a fruit, put a candle inside, and then to give candy to masked children? Where did this holiday come from?
In the early 20th century, Halloween in the United States was marred by significant vandalism, property damage, and even arson. In response, communities started hosting events, including costume contests, in an effort to decriminalize Halloween. Paper masks and costumes were sold. However, even today, what is a prank to you may be a crime to someone else.
A discussion of the origins of Halloween should perhaps start with Celtic tribes. They held a harvest festival and celebrated both spirits and harvests with bonfires each year on Oct. 31. Much later, as people throughout Europe became Christians, there was an attempt by some to replace pagan festivals with new Christian traditions. Consequently, All Hallows Day or All Saints Day, was created and then moved to Nov. 1.
The eve of All Hallows Day eventually became known as Halloween. At some point, during the Middle Ages, on the days before All Saints Day and All Souls Day, beggars would go door-to-door, offering prayers for lost souls in purgatory in return for receiving a small cake.
If you think that the mixture of a Celtic pagan festival with questionable Christian theology sounds like a bizarre beginning for Halloween, there’s more. It’s also connected to someone who, by modern standards, would be considered a domestic terrorist.
On the evening of Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes Night is sometimes celebrated. Its origins begin in England in 1605, when he was arrested for guarding explosives near the House of Lords. The assassination plots failed and in thanksgiving and celebration, Guy Fawkes Day (or Gunpowder Treason Day) was born. It was usually celebrated with a bonfire and does not really have a direct connection to Halloween, other than children in England started using the day to beg for money and people started carrying jack-o-lanterns, although they were carved from turnips, not pumpkins.
What we now consider Halloween apparently started around 1930, when cloth costumes for children could be ordered from catalogues. The actual phrase “trick or treat” appeared in a publication, perhaps for the first time, in 1939. The author described how none of the neighbor kids performed any pranks at her house because she held an open house and gave them food. Also introduced was the concept of giving kids candy instead of homemade treats.
Halloween arguably exploded into what has perhaps become America’s second favorite holiday in response to a television cartoon in 1966. That was the first year It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown appeared on television. Halloween, regardless of its complex origins, was now enshrined in pop culture. Now, it’s also clearly an adult holiday as well.
A Criminal Record Can Haunt You
Most people understand that criminal convictions have the potential to show up on background checks; but there are some potentially unknown collateral consequences as well. Even a misdemeanor conviction can complicate your ability to obtain or to maintain a professional license, can be a ground to cancel your homeowner’s insurance, and can result in worker’s compensation benefits being stopped. A.R.S. §§ 20-1652, 23-1031. Here are some additional thoughts:
Basic Safety: Driving after dark any evening requires extra diligence; but perhaps especially so on a night where hundreds of children (and adults) are running around wearing costumes that likely have limited vision.
Alcohol: Unless you are 21, don’t consume alcohol. It really is that simple. Alcoholic beverages, in and of themselves, are not bad. However, the consumption of alcohol impairs judgment and where there is underage drinking, there is usually other arguably more serious misconduct as well. Regardless of your age, drunk driving should never be a part of any evening,
Criminal Damage: Arizona’s definition of criminal damage is very broad. It includes recklessly defacing or damaging another’s property and also includes “tampering with” another’s property “so as substantially to impair its function or value.” Depending on the cost of the property damage, criminal damage can be charged as a felony.