The Most Bittersweet Holiday of Them All

I miss Halloween.

In today’s emotional economy, it may seem a silly thing to miss—given that there really is nothing stopping me from celebrating Halloween save my own misgivings—and that there are so many more pressing things to worry about. But as the holiday season draws nearer, that old nostalgia stirs up in me, reaching, cackling, plastic skeleton hands out of front lawns to seize me by the ankle.

Of course, I can still go to Albertsons and buy discounted candy by the metric ton; I can still go to Halloween-themed parties with plastic spiders hanging from false spiderwebs and drink spiced punch from carved pumpkins; I can even still dress up now, in today’s burgeoning cosplay culture, without garnering too many odd looks. Halloween still exists, as resilient and undead as the zombies which shamble out of the dark-lit corners of Haunted Mansions and Halloween Horror Nights.

But as a newly-graduated 20-something, meant at last to be a “real adult,” it is all but impossible to engage again in that old, elementary fun of Hallow’s Eve that I knew so well. As a child, it was always my favorite holiday, easily beating out Christmas or the last day of school — or even my own birthday — for my most anticipated day of the year. Beyond simply the prospect of staying up long past my bedtime and carrying home pillowcases heavy with that night’s sugary plunder, there was always an energy I adored about Halloween. It was the only night of the year when no one batted an eye at hordes of underage children dripping in awkwardly-applied makeup and disintegrating papier-mâché costumes. All our parents’ warnings about taking things from strangers or staying out past dark were thrown out the window, and we embraced the madness of the night as a single whole.

Now, as an adult, Halloween holds few promises beyond the possibility of a costume party, where the “candy” is of a more liquid sort and the costumes are little more than an excuse to wear as few clothes as possible. I have long since decided that such parties are not for me, and rather than demand others share in my distaste, have chosen to remain at home for several past Octobers. But that leaves little option for me beyond sitting on my couch with my bags of discounted candy, watching reruns of The Nightmare Before Christmas or perhaps more aptly, John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Upon reflection, this may seem like little more than a recent-grad’s complaint about the lack of eventful nights now that I have escaped the sticky hold of higher education. Something akin to the nostalgia of those who look at Norman Rockwell paintings and reminisce about a time when, “America was Great,” when it was simply the rosy-glasses of childhood that had masked all the unpleasant bits of life. In that sense, perhaps Halloween truly is the most childish of all the holidays, not in an ignorantly naïve sense of sticking toilet paper over the rotted bits of the proverbial mummy that we would much rather ignore; but in the innocent sense that for one night a year, everyone—young and old—could believe in ghosts and ghouls and demons.