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selena gomez in Only Murders in the building season 3
selena gomez in Only Murders in the building season 3
Life > Experiences

Is Halloween Better for the Soul than Christmas? 

Updated Published
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

According to History, Christmas is celebrated on December 25 and is a sacred religious event as well as a global phenomenon in culture and Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth on Christmas Day. Popular traditions include giving gifts, putting up Christmas trees, going to church, gathering with loved ones for feasts, and, of course, watching for Santa Claus.

Meanwhile, Halloween is a holiday that is observed on October 31; in 2023, it fell on a Tuesday. The custom has its roots in the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, when people would dress up and build bonfires to fend off ghosts. Before Halloween, the previous evening was referred to as All Hallows Eve. Halloween has changed throughout the years to become a day filled with festivities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive get-togethers, dressing up, and enjoying sweets.

These are the holidays that consume our lives in the last half of the year. In Puerto Rico, the towns celebrate their customary “Christmas Lights” event, during which lights are hung up and illuminated adorning schools, streets, and houses. Christmas lights are another distinctive feature of the Christmas season here. Puerto Rico is known for taking on a decoration mania, which accounts for the excessive number of lights and light on strings that give the entire nation a big glow. 

But that’s just what the site says. With your own eyes, you can see stores filling up the aisles with Christmas decorations as early October. Halloween seems to be a little holiday, with only Walgreens having a lot of Halloween decorations. It seems that the Puerto Rican populace, especially the homeowners, love Christmas. 

I’m sure I don’t need to do research to know that the younger generation loves receiving gifts, but it seems to be the only benefit for us odd ones. You know, those of us who go to Hot Topic and Box Lunch, the ones that are interested in the macabre, the horror movie fans, the true crime listeners, the ones that saw The Addams Family and wished their families were like that. 

Halloween works for these people, my people. Someone that dislikes Halloween describes it as: “Appealing to our basest instincts, Halloween’s basically a celebration of gore and fear and humanity’s lowest common denominators.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds awesome. I’m not even going to explain the excuse to wear cosplay outside of cons and the excuse to indulge in candy. I once hosted a Halloween party at my house with everyone in costume, eating candy, playing cards, and making connections between my mutual friends. I wouldn’t be able to do that with Christmas, as it’s a family oriented holiday. We can skip Halloween, but our mothers would drag us to hell or high water if we tried to evade the family Christmas party. 

So maybe you were sent to a catholic school like I was, where Halloween is seen as a sin, so you could only longingly watch Halloween themed movies and play with the Halloween decorations at stores. I was lucky that my parents had assured me that Halloween was okay, but that I shouldn’t talk about it in school. However, my family lost interest in Halloween, so we no longer have Halloween reunions.

My mother used to watch shows like True Blood and The Walking Dead. She would take me to late night viewings to watch horror movies like Knowing and I Am Legend. On one of those trips, I met up with two of my classmates and they were watching the Hannah Montana movie. I felt strange saying I was seeing a lesser known horror film, but now I wish I had been happy about it. 

Those movies were a strange middle between the daytime cartoons that I watched and the sitcoms I would refuse to see until I entered my pre-teens. They were grim, yet they had protagonists that were fighting against fate. I didn’t enjoy it the way I enjoyed my cartoons, yet I was completely fascinated. I learned of death, fate, pain, and the support that people can give each other in the worst of times. I was too young to apply it to my own life, but I like to believe that it went into my unconscious mind. 

I’m not sure when my mom changed. She suddenly stopped watching edgy series like Dexter and she didn’t take me to the movies at night, it was always during the day. I still did have alone cinema experiences with her, but they became less and less as I became a bitter, stressed out teenager. 

She developed a love for Christmas. I should mention that my mother is a homemaker and she has watched HGTV since I can remember. She would change the interior decorations and made me give an opinion on it, or she would make me hold up the painting or decoration so she could see how it looks. It would be hours, if I was lucky it wasn’t late at night. 

During COVID, one Christmas, she hyper focused on Christmas decoration. I’m sure I blocked out most of the experience, but I remember the misery. I never hated a holiday so much. She blew up my dad’s credit card, and then she would ask me to use my card and she would give me her cash. Look, I also indulge in buying merchandise, like anime figures, pins, books, prints, and stickers, but this was only for a single holiday. The house looked shiny and cute with little elves, a Santa Claus figure that stood at four feet tall, the Christmas tree with the little, old decorations, and so many other trinkets that now overcrowded the storage shed. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the cost, I was almost begging her to stop, and it wasn’t even my money. 

Maybe I should forgive that. She didn’t have an easy life, she takes care of my physically disabled sister, and she is very busy with housework. Let’s pretend for a moment that I excused her and I hold no ill-will towards that. So let’s look at the other side of Christmas: the family coming together. 

Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, maybe a cousin’ boyfriend, unite in one person’s house. In my case, it was almost always at my aunt’s house and it happens to this day. It’s always the adults chatting and drinking, which would lead to arguments. My cousins, which were five years younger than me at most, would begin to focus more on the television, video games, and the phone rather than each other. I include myself, I had undiagnosed depression so I had lost interest in socializing. The adults were annoyed by us not socializing, but at least we weren’t loudly arguing over something that would be forgotten the next day. 

In recent years, the cousins and I have reconnected, so don’t worry about that. At midnight, when it was actually Christmas Day, we would gather in my aunt’s living room with the Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped presents with our names on it. When we were kids, we would keep peeking at the tree to see when Santa would leave the presents. As adults, I would get tired and irritated that we still did the ritual of one person picking up the present and declaring who it belonged to. I guess it was a real life unboxing video. 

Christmas stopped being a happy time, I could ask for what presents I wanted but I had to choose something that my mom would approve of. I would love to ask for books but my mom got annoyed at my book collecting, so I asked for money or gift cards. I helped in getting a gift for my dad, since my mom did that. Every Christmas would become a complaint about a mother-in-law saying something sarcastically or how my aunt had gotten a decoration style before my mom could. 

When I was old enough to drink, I would drink to cope. I couldn’t feel any love towards my family, which I would later find out would be the result of autism and mental illness. It’s not that I didn’t love them, it was that it wasn’t a feeling that overtook me. It was mostly instinctual: I would worry if they were sick, feel happy when they came over, but I didn’t have that romantic idyllic feeling of family. 

Between us, I still consciously cared for my friends, but that could’ve just been a teenager phase. 

Truth is, my teenage years were spent with me hating the idea of family. I consumed fiction where friends became the most important part and me and my little circle of friends were convinced of that as well. We were the odd ones in our family and in the school. Nowadays, I’ve broken ties with half of the group and still consider the other half to be close friends, but I was replacing the family comfort into friendship, which was toxic in its own way. I expected the responsibility of family in my friendships, and I quickly learned that it doesn’t work like that. Yet it wasn’t until last year that my psychologist made me realize that I had to lower my standards, not just for friends but for everyone in my life. 

Years ago, we had a Halloween party at my house for extended family. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but my mom was having me dress up like a fallen angel. It was one Halloween that I will never forget. My mother had gotten me a gray dress with a long skirt. She put on black lipstick and I had angel wings. I was a fallen angel. It was my first personal encounter with gothic fashion and the soothing comfort of embracing dark femininity, I was a very gender-focused child. 

My cousin, who was my age, had a fairy costume that day. We had fun with our siblings—making eight of us—playing pretend games in the garage with the square tiles and the orange light and the candy; it was indulgent heaven. I would slowly eat all the candy for the next few days. 

I don’t know why my family stopped having Halloween parties. My mom suddenly became conscious of Catholic beliefs and wanted to avoid dark topics in fiction, albeit she doesn’t mind seeing the news three times a day. The only reminders I had of Halloween were the American TV channels having Halloween-themed commercials and specials. Between middle school and high school, I kept missing Halloween and I resented religion and my family for taking my favorite holiday away from me.

Then college came, my dad gifted me a Jeep, and I began to plan my own outings. My family’s abandonment of Halloween led to a greater experience: Halloween with my friends. One day, I decided to have a Halloween party for the first time with six friends. Some of them knew each other from school, others had only heard of each other through me.

My mom became even more involved than I was. She decorated the inside of the house so much that I felt too guilty to appreciate it, and then she led me to decorate the outside, where the actual party would be. It was so much work that I vowed to never do it again, but I still appreciate my mom for doing a good job on an event that was just for me and my friends. 

I should probably mention that when I say party, I don’t mean a club inside my house. I’m a chill person and so are my friends. It was just a long table with a pink tablecloth, a bowl of candy, and some alcohol. We were dressed up, one was a cat maid, another had an umbreon hoodie, and I was Morticia Addams. I bought a black wig and dress from Amazon, and I felt as gothic and beautiful as Morticia. I didn’t notice until writing this that I was recreating my childhood fallen angel persona. 

One of the guests brought the meme card game and we had lots of laughs from the pictures and questions. Old friends met up again after a long time, and new people met and connected to others with similar interests. It’s one of the best days of my life but it will never happen again because I broke up with three of them, either romantically or platonically, willingly and unwillingly. 

However, I didn’t let it stop me last year. I asked two of my friends, who had attended the party,  if they wanted to go to the mall dressed up on Halloween week. While my costume did unravel a bit and we were one of the few that were costumed, we had so much fun. People smiled at us and my friend’s unique cosplay had her getting fans that wanted a picture with her. We went to Hot Topic and felt like it was home. We were a trio of friends having fun together. 

I could never get that from Christmas. 

This year, I’m only doing a sale for the English Majors Association, and I have a simpler costume which is just a Kuromi headband, a little dress, and maybe I might dye my hair purple (which I already do beforehand). My belief in friendships has gotten unstable because of my mental illness, but I want to emphasize that my friends have done nothing wrong. I stopped drinking, I’m going to the gym, I’m becoming better. 

I wish I could tell you that Halloween brings acceptance of the unusual, the macabre, of neurodivergence, and mental illness. I wish I could say that it excuses us to be goth for a day, to put on black lipstick and a headband with cat ears. And I don’t want to say that Christmas is bad or that it always means misery. But I can’t help but wonder if Christmas promotes normal and Halloween pushes us to be our unusual selves.

I am a English Literature student from the University of Puerto Rico. I am a bookworm with tastes that go through fiction, psychology and history. Tik Tok, Twitter and Instagram is where I seek fun and news at the same time. I hope to entertain and educate the readers.