Stuff

Halloween Is Fine

Like most reasonable people, I do not love Halloween, but I'm not such a spoilsport as to hate it, either.
October 31, 2016, 7:55pm
Photo by Taj Bourgeois

Today, thousands of Donald Trumps will take to the streets, shouting "pussy" jokes and demanding treats from strangers. Hundreds of Hillary Clintons will follow close, trying to remember a catchphrase. Ken Bones will be there, too, wondering where they can use the bathroom. Harambe the dead ape will rise from the grave, as will David Bowie. You may catch Prince and Willy Wonka making out, or puking, or crying. I'm tempted to stay in.

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Like most reasonable people, I do not love Halloween, but I'm not such a spoilsport as to hate it, either. I think that Halloween is fine. It's obviously better than St. Patrick's Day and Valentine's Day (if you're single), but not nearly as nice as Christmas (if you like family) or New Year's (if you use "party" as a verb). It is the median fun holiday.

The main problem with Halloween is that it lacks a central purpose. There are costumes, yes, but unless you're a child young enough to trick-or-treat, the holiday is missing a culminating event. It lacks the mission provided by Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas presents, or the shouts of "Happy New Year!" The most exciting part of Halloween is seeing what people are wearing; if you go to a Halloween party, this happens at the very beginning of the night (if it's not spoiled ahead of time on Instagram). The rest of the party is anticlimactic.

Halloween doesn't really have food, or even a special drink. (Candy is great, but you're an adult and can already buy all the candy you could eat for like $6.) To make matters worse, costumes turn everyone into a slightly or even seriously more awful version of themselves, either emboldened and obnoxious or self-conscious and uncomfortable. Plus the entire night they're all thinking about going to another party they heard about, or maybe a bar. Meanwhile, cabs are scarce, Ubers are surging, and there are dudes dressed like the Jared Leto Joker on the subway.

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This is what happens when a day for children to pretend is repurposed into a night for adults to binge drink. It's an awkward transition. Halloween is fun for kids because they get to dress and eat the way they wish they could every day; adults don't actually want to look like superheroes or eat only candy. Halloween forces grown-ups to pay lip service to their inner-child, leaving everyone feeling (and acting) like morons.

Photo by Flickr user Ed Yourdon

Halloween can suck, but it doesn't have to. What our spookiest holiday has going for it is that it's an occasion when people try to do something with friends. The importance of gatherings shouldn't be discounted. Actually planning to hang out with people can be an arduous task. Large gatherings can be tedious, but when they do work out, they're way more memorable than staying in or seeing a movie or whatever you do on most nights. On Halloween, people at a minimum aspire to have fun. Compare this to the group of holidays collectively known as "the Mondays." These days—when banks are closed and you might not have to go to work—seem like they'd be good for a barbecue or a trip upstate, but they're usually treated like surrogate Sundays. Halloween might be full of annoyances, but at least it's not just another day for errands.

To make the most out of Halloween, try less. Don't spend too much of your night trying to find the best possible thing to do. Halloween is when "good enough" truly is, so just pick a party and stick with it. How many people's costumes can you remember from last year? No one cares what you wore, either. Unless you were in theater or a sorority, your best bet is to just wear something simple. Elaborate costumes are expensive and time consuming; if you don't get some personal satisfaction from dressing like a woman giving birth to herself, don't bother. Don't try to for anything political; avoid memes and topical gags—they're not original, and you'll feel embarrassed and sick of the joke before the night even gets started. Unless you want to end up in a cautionary listicle, be careful about anything that may be construed as racially insensitive. Dress up as something obvious that people will recognize, like a mime, or buy a thrift store overcoat and be the guy from Twin Peaks. It doesn't matter if it's not clever. Your costume can be as sexy as you'd like, but Halloween is usually the first truly cold night of the year, so try to bring along a scarf or sweater if you're going to be outside much.

When Celtic pagans or early Christians (the holiday's origins are fiercely debated) held feasts to celebrate the autumn harvest, they couldn't have imagined that one day a man dressed as an Italian plumber created by a Japanese corporation would commemorate the night by peeing on my stoop. Halloween, then, is evidence that our culture is a living, breathing dialogue across centuries and continents. Isn't that reason enough to celebrate? It might not be the coolest or the most fulfilling of our holy days, but that's fine. After all, something has to be in the middle.

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