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Tricky business of Halloween Sunday

The date of Halloween has always been one of the easy ones to remember: October 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.

world Updated: Oct 31, 2010 00:16 IST

The date of Halloween has always been one of the easy ones to remember: October 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 this Sunday, October 31, matters are not quite so simple. Across the country, people are monkeying with the optimal day to dress up. In some cities, residents have decided to celebrate Halloween on Saturday to preserve the purity of the Christian Sabbath, while others would rather not choose between Halloween and college football.

Officials in Chatham County, 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 this year.

“You're in the Bible Belt,” said Laura Raschke, 37, who supported the switch. So religion “is always going to be part of anything.”

Savannah mayor, Otis S Johnson said, “... 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!”

Not everyone believes Halloween can be moved. Many Roman Catholics celebrate a vigil Mass the night before All Saints Day, which is November 1. And despite the Savannah mayor’s protestations, moving the date might offend still other religious groups, said Jon Butler, who teaches religion at Yale.

In the end, 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 will be trick or treating Saturday. As their grandmother, Penny Bumgardner, said: “Sooner the better for them.”