There’s something magical about Halloween. It’s a holiday that’s fast been emerging as many people’s favourite. One at which we eat even more treats than at Easter, party later than New Year’s Eve and drink almost as much liquor as it takes to get through Christmas with our families. But what is it that makes Halloween so special?
Halloween means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To children, of course, it’s a night to take over the neighbourhood on a quest to fill as many pillowcases as their little arms can carry with candy of all ilk. The candy haul, roughly the equivalent to one adult foot lost to diabetes, is the immediately apparent allure of Halloween, but the real magic at work on this quaintly heathen celebration is something else. It’s the freedom they have to be whatever they want to. Whatever their tiny little brains can fathom, without bound or constraint, up to that at which their parents’ limitations have stunted them.
For one fleeting night a year, they can truly be whatever they put their mind to, without suffering the crushing disappointment that will come later in life when they realize that that favourite encouraging maxim of parents and teachers alike is the most widely-spread and rancorous lie perpetuated against children in the Western world.
This reveling in being someone or something else doesn’t ever leave us. Though it does recede for a time into the scornful wasteland of teenagedom, where it is just one of thousands of things heaped in the scorned pile of fuckin’ lame stuff that we’re totally better than. But, as adults whose dreams have been chopped down to a debilitatingly realistic level, this longing to live briefly as someone or something else returns to us. Much in the same way the nightly crying and bed-wetting of our childhood returns with renewed fervor. (Right?)
With make-up and masks and costumes–and, of course, the most effective modifier of all, liquor–we allow ourselves to let loose in a way that we’re not able to any other time, because we aren’t really ourselves. This is what leads to crazy parties where werewolves poop in potted ferns and Draculas wake up in the beds of Pink Power Rangers. Or the bed of one of the other Power Rangers; like I said, it’s a night to be someone else, and maybe Bill from work wouldn’t let his curiosity lead him to Green Ranger’s basement bachelor apartment to blow on his mystical dagger-flute, but perhaps Disco Dracula would.
Yes, it wasn’t Mandy who accidentally backed her car into the fence, it was a cat inexplicably wearing a corset. It wasn’t Tim who puked in the fish tank, it was one of The Avengers. The one whose super power is being a huge asshole, apparently. It wasn’t Jake, John, Sue, Thom, Terra, Miguel, Sophie or Liam who spilled red wine on the carpet, it was one of any number of zombies who didn’t get the memo that zombies have been played-out since like five years ago.
It can be a night of passion and discovery, where Gina and Phil, both too shy and awkward to tell the other how they feel, are finally able to ignite a romance as Wonder Woman and some dwarf or gnome or some shit from The Hobbit or whatever. A romance that blossoms and shines brighter as the jack-o-lanterns grow dimmer, and which goes on for five years longer than it should as they resign themselves to the blandness of each other and try desperately to recapture the spontaneity of that night.
Whether planned for months or thrown together last minute, made by hand or bought from a cheap novelty store, classic and instantly recognizable or so pretentiously esoteric that the whole party has to suffer through the same inanely recondite explanation each time someone new arrives, everyone is essentially dressing for the same reason.
For that little bit of adventure that takes them away, however briefly, from their mundane lives of offices and taxes and AA meetings and lets them act out in mischievous ways that they can only do in a spooky alternate universe where ghosts, witches and goblins exist, and STIs don’t.
Photo by hanna_horwarth via Flickr