Across the Bible Belt this Halloween, some little ghosts and goblins might get shooed away by the neighbors _ and some youngsters will not be allowed to go trick-or-treating at all _ because the holiday falls on a Sunday this year.
"It's a day for the good Lord, not for the devil," said Barbara Braswell, who plans to send her 4-year-old granddaughter Maliyah out trick-or-treating in a princess costume on Saturday instead.
Some towns around the country are decreeing that Halloween be celebrated on Saturday to avoid complaints from those who might be offended by the sight of demons and witches ringing their doorbell on the Sabbath. Others insist the holiday should be celebrated on Oct. 31 no matter what.
"Moving it, that's like celebrating Christmas a week early," said Veronica Wright, who bought a Power Rangers costume for her son in Newnan. "It's just a kid thing. It's not for real."
Sensitive issue in the South
It is an especially sensitive issue for authorities in the Bible Belt across the South.
"You just don't do it on Sunday," said Sandra Hulsey of Greenville, Ga. "That's Christ's day. You go to church on Sunday, you don't go out and celebrate the devil. That'll confuse a child."
In Newnan, a suburb south of Atlanta, the City Council decided to go ahead with trick-or-treating on Sunday. In 1999, the last time Oct. 31 fell on a Sunday, the city moved up trick-or-treating to Saturday, which brought howls of protest.
"We don't need to confuse people with this," Councilman George Alexander said.
In Vestavia Hills, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham, a furor erupts every time Halloween falls on Sunday. Local officials decided not to take a stand this time.
"About 15 years ago, we decided to have Halloween on Saturday instead. People went crazy. We said, `Never again,'" recalled Starr Burbic, longtime secretary to the mayor. "It messed everybody up to move Halloween. Some people don't like having it on a Sunday, but we just couldn't find a way to make everyone happy."
The patchwork of trick-or-treat zones could work to children's advantage: Some might go out on both nights to get all the treats they can.
With so many towns split over when Halloween should be celebrated, many are going with a porch-light compromise: If people do not want trick-or-treaters, they simply turn off their lights, and parents are asked not to have kids knock there.
"Most people don't have a problem with it. It's a pretty universal compromise, so that's what we go with," said Grand Rapids, Mich., police Lt. Douglas Brinkley.