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EDITORIAL: Chills of Halloween

Hands off our Halloween. Its a night with roots in pagan tradition and early church observances, and then supposedly just a fun evening for children.

But some people still consider it sacred, especially so when local governments start messing with it.

City council in Bathurst, N.B., is finding that out, having generated some controversy over a bylaw setting out whats allowed and what isnt. A good dose of it could be called just plain common sense, yet it has some crying foul. Even the citys deputy mayor, Kim Chamberlain, thinks it should be scrapped altogether and contends that setting out rules for Halloween is outside councils jurisdiction.

Lets face it, this isnt just a Bathurst problem – many other leaders of towns and communities have laboured over ways to make it a safe, fun night for those participating, while limiting headaches for residents who are just as happy when witching hour is over.

In Bathurst, council reportedly passed amendments this week easing some of the restrictions on the bylaw.

The rules under council discussion bans trick-or-treating for anyone older than 16 and sets an 8 p.m. curfew for all, relaxing the old bylaw forbidding teens over age 14 from collecting candy door-to-door with a 7 p.m. cut-off.

The bylaw also prohibits anyone from wearing a facial disguise in public after curfew. Anyone spotted donning a mask or veil after 8 p.m. can be fined up to $200.

Interestingly, they also stipulated Halloween be held on Oct. 31. That might garner some local interest, considering some councils in Pictou County and elsewhere in the past tried to intervene on the date, for example, trying to move it when it fell on a Sunday.

Well, one might suppose we dont want those little witches, ghouls and ninjas ruining anyones Sunday evening church service. Beyond that, just think of the sugar-crash hangovers Monday morning in school.

Bathurst police have said theyll apply common sense. Dont expect martial law, but at least they have rules to fall back on if some people do take things too far.

Other towns will likely be taking note. Some of the older set remember Halloweens from decades ago. Some of the antics were just old-fashioned fun, but occasionally could see mayhem and acts that verged on criminal behaviour.

Consider too, parents nowadays are often described as a bit more of the helicopter variety than decades ago. In most cases they are concerned about where their kids, especially younger ones, go at night and how late theyre out, particularly on Halloween.

Also realize there might be residents, some of them elderly and living alone, who would just as soon not have to answer the door dozens of times on a dark night to masks and made-up faces.

Perhaps people dont want a municipal council telling them whats allowed, but some dialogue involving the community, local organizations and town representatives might yield ideas for safe activities for youngsters and guidelines on what should be curtailed.

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