Halloweekend — a term that is as renowned as it is self-explanatory: the weekend in October (or, rather, half the week) known for its raucousness and lack of inhibitions, and that, statistically, sells the most candy and ranks as the third largest party occasion, after Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Originating from the term All Hallows’ Eve, the occasion marked the pagan holiday of honoring the dead. It is an understatement to say Halloween has come a long way from its origins, re-born and re-created hundreds of times over to the holiday that is celebrated today. As with all major publicized festivities, those who are prejudiced against this over-indulgent celebration, claim that it is simply a marketing ploy: an easy way to manipulate consumers into spending copious amounts of money on costumes and props that will gather dust in garbage bags, or plastic boxes, only to be found years later shoved to the rear of one’s closet. To some extent, I agree. There is, however, something to be said about being carefree that, I believe, trumps evil consumerism any day.
On Halloween, we become actors, in the best possible sense. There is no stage fright (or, at least, it’s done away with, upon indulging in large amounts of not-so-virgin cider), no forgetting of lines, and no audience. The world around you becomes a theater troupe, reveling in mimicry and the avant-garde, and putting on the finest show you will ever find. In other words, we honor not the dead, but the imagination, not that which is present, but that which we yearn for and which is somehow absent. It is the one day of the year when we can create who we want to be, who we know we can possibly never be; who we believe we can emulate better than any other. Costume shopping, then, is not just picking up different garments and accessories: it is the putting together of a persona who does not exist.
What Halloween does is create a temporary, alternative reality, where every form of interaction becomes diversified. No matter what anyone says, the costume takes over you, in whatever proportion you let it; it’s not so much about spirit as it is about letting go. The antagonism about Halloween lies in the fact that while it is the celebration of the haunted and the ethereal, it is also the letting go of the haunted— of one’s insecurities. We rid ourselves of the things that haunt us when we put on that costume. For one night (okay, maybe a couple), we get to pretend. As children, we ended the night with baskets and buckets full of candy (or the wrappers) thrilled with the euphoria of being a superhero or a cartoon character. In college, we may not knock on doors and receive chocolate with that same eagerness, but we still do buy into the world of make-believe. No matter what you say, that gun you carry, the sombrero you wear, the cigar you smoke, or the pair of wings you put on, makes you feel the same euphoria as you did when you were seven.
The thing with euphoria and invincibility, however, is that you just don’t want to let it go. That’s the vice of Halloween, the trick spirits play on us. Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith Grey sums it up aptly, as she does so many things in my life, observing: “When you were a kid, it was Halloween candy. You hid it from your parents and you ate it until you got sick. In college, it was the heavy combo of youth, tequila and well, you know…[Y]ou take as much of the good as you can get because it doesn’t come around nearly as often as it should. [But] good things aren’t always what they seem. Too much of anything…is not always a good thing.” Perhaps this is what the anti-Halloween crowd, the ones that think Halloween is just a ploy for naive consumers, believes. Perhaps it’s the fear of getting swallowed up in something bigger than oneself.
I mentioned before that, on Halloween, everyone turns into actors. Every actor, however, is at the risk of being swallowed up by his/her part—of becoming the character so completely, that he retains nothing of himself. Now, of course, I do not mean that you stand the risk of turning into one of your costumes (although, for future reference, Buffy always guaranteed this excitement), but simply that Halloween should be taken for what it is, at face value. Halloween is a celebration of what we are not, only when we keep in mind that who we actually are is pretty damn fantastic. It is only if you know who you truly are that you can take pleasure in being someone else, if only just for the night. It’ll probably be the best one-night-stand you’ll ever have.
So, in the words of Afrojack, “Take a picture, make a show.” Remember, as all children do, the power of imagination and make-believe. They say a childhood generally makes for the best memories, and Halloween provides this childhood every year—a release of the old and rejuvenation of the new. There hardly ever comes another time you can wear fluorescent tights without regretting it. The only option we have, then, is to tug them on, and for once, let go.
(Photo 2 and 3 courtesy of Molly Chambers)