• Ideas
  • halloween

Move Halloween to Saturday? There’s a Petition for That

5 minute read
Jeffrey Kluger is an editor at large at TIME. He covers space, climate, and science. He is the author of 12 books, including Apollo 13, which served as the basis for the 1995 film, and was nominated for an Emmy Award for TIME's series A Year in Space.

I don’t know what Abraham Lincoln’s appointment calendar looked like on October 3, 1863, but here’s betting he took the afternoon off. October 3, 1863 was the day Lincoln signed a proclamation inviting his “fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and sojourning in foreign lands to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of national Thanksgiving.”

Americans—who recognized a handy excuse to eat when they heard one—jumped at the suggestion, so props to Lincoln for what turned out to be a great idea. But after the proclamation was signed he clearly left work early. That at least is the only explanation for why, as long as he was thinking about holidays, he didn’t take a look at Halloween too.

The genius of Thanksgiving, of course, is the business of the Thursday. Roll that day into Friday, tack on the weekend and bam, you’ve got yourself a little vacation.

But Halloween? Halloween’s all about October 31, take it or leave it. You say your child has a math test tomorrow? Can’t be helped. You say you have a presentation in the morning and can’t afford to be walking the streets till 9 PM while your kids go all Oliver Twist-y asking the neighbors for candy? Deal with it. Any parent who has spent a November 1 morning trying to roust a cranky, chocolate-drunk child out of bed could tell you that Halloween is not a holiday that belongs on a weekday. And any teacher who has tried to settle down a roomful of students still on a morning-after sugar bender would agree.

Click here to sign TIME’s petition asking the White House to move Halloween to a Saturday

None of this, it should be stressed, is Halloween’s fault. It’s the Medieval Celts who are most commonly credited with inventing what we think of as Halloween, observing a day when the boundary between the physical world and the otherworld disappears and the spirits of the dead—the Aos Sí—could travel across and wander free. Since there’s nothing worse than an Aos Sí in a lousy mood, best to leave out some food or other treats for them so they don’t mess with the crops or tip the cows. The Romans came up with a similar idea much earlier, observing a holiday feast to appease the spirits with the bounty of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds.

It’s not hard to see how a few centuries on, the wandering spirits of the Celts and Romans could turn into wandering children dressed like Spiderman. Trick or treat, similarly, replaced the feast, and as for fruits and seeds? Please. Try to give those to a 21st century child expecting a Snickers, and the goddess Pomona is going to be bumped aside by the god Sluggo, lord of the egged house and the toilet-papered tree. Best to play it safe and hand over the goodies when the kids demand them.

The problem, of course, is that those goodies come home. In a study reported in Medical Daily, researchers surveyed 2,187 parents and asked them to estimate how much candy each of their children brought home after trick or treating. On average, they found, a single child collects and consumes 3,190 calories worth of sweets, not including the amount the parents ultimately—often surreptitiously—threw away. Oh, and parents, in case you thought nobody noticed you filching something out of the kids’ bags, according to the researchers you’re on the hook for a cool 1,710 calories yourself.

All of this is fine with the candy industry, which is expected to cash in on Halloween to the tune of a record $2.69 billion this year, according to confectionerynews.com (yes, there is such a thing). And none of that touches the riches earned by the costume industry or the party decoration industry and whatever industry it is that produces those hollow plastic pumpkin-shaped candy buckets that have absolutely no use the other 364 days of the year but live on top of the refrigerator all the same.

So Halloween is surely here to stay, and in the same way department stores and big box stores have their Black Friday, let’s not begrudge the Halloween sector its Orange Friday—or even better Orange Saturday. But in the interests of parents, in the interests of teachers in the interests of the wild-eyed, sugar-wired children themselves, let’s have no more Orange Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.

If Abe Lincoln could get Thanksgiving right, Barack Obama could do the same for Halloween, and even more easily too, since while the 16th President didn’t have a White House website, the 44th does—and it’s a website that accepts petitions. TIME has already handled the hard part—setting up what will surely be the paradigm-changing Move Halloween to Saturday! petition. All you have to do is click here and add your name. Petitions that collect 100,000 signatures in 30 days (or by December 1, 2016) receive consideration by the White House and an official response. Don’t wait. Do it today—for yourself, for the children, for America’s future.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Jeffrey Kluger at jeffrey.kluger@time.com

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.