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The (lack of) reason for the season

| Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. In elementary school, teachers would essentially surrender the day to us, knowing all too well that no 7-year-old could focus on fractions with the prospect of Kit Kats and jack-o’-lanterns hanging in the air. Instead, we’d test how gourds float, count the seeds left over from carved pumpkins and make those popcorn-candy corn hands that I don’t remember anyone ever actually eating. After school, I’d go home, carve a jack-o’-lantern, eat pizza with my neighbors, then hit the streets, always ending the night haggling with my friends over the exchange rate of Crunch bars to Butterfingers while I lounged on the couch with tired feet and a stomachache from eating too many Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Essentially, the entire day was devoted to candy and costumes and good old-fashioned fun. Hardly any task of substance was accomplished. And it was glorious.

See, I love Halloween because it’s festive. I love that it encourages people to embrace their imaginative, childish whimsy. Most of all, though, I love that it’s meaningless.

So many holidays are inexplicably “layered.” New Year’s Day celebrates the new year, but really it touts the joys of new beginnings and a fresh start. Thanksgiving offers time with family and plenty of good food, but the core of the holiday lies in its reminder to be thankful for our blessings. Columbus Day is complex for all the wrong reasons. Easter has always been one of my favorites, but its target audience is hardly universal. Christmas has become more widely embraced, but even its adoption by non-Christians sparks divide, as disgruntled followers call for a return to the original meaning of the holiday. Alas, even the once-simple Arbor Day isn’t safe in this day and age, as it turns into an annual debate of climate change’s validity.

I love Halloween because it’s not pretentious. It’s not pushing any agenda. Halloween is a little girl dressed up as Winnie the Pooh, holding her mom’s hand. Halloween is the old couple on the corner who always sit outside with their bowl so they can reminisce as they watch the young families walking down the street. Halloween is South Dining Hall putting out a steaming cauldron of candy and Rice Krispies Treats shaped like monster heads. 

With Halloween, what you see is what you get. It doesn’t yearn to be more than it is. There’s no deeper meaning, no hidden moral, no angry neighbor ranting on Facebook about the truth of the holiday. It’s a celebration that welcomes observance from people of all backgrounds. Participation requires no declaration of faith, no endorsement of controversial values, no expensive purchases. All a person needs is a little creativity with their closet and a penchant for festivity. With an easy enough message for kids to understand (i.e., dress up, eat candy), a cheerful spirit, a myriad of ways to participate that can appeal to everyone and a lack of problematic undertones, I dare say Halloween belongs to the people. Sure, it started because of All Saints’ Day, but that’s Nov. 1. That’s not Halloween. Oct. 31 is about playing pretend and asking strangers for candy. And nothing more.

Too often, we feel a need to find a deeper truth in all that we do. We search for a nuanced approach, a profound psychological implication to explain every aspect of our lives. But sometimes candy is just candy. Sometimes you just want to dress up like a witch and carve a pumpkin and that’s all there is to it. 

As we get older, as we mature, there comes an expectation that all we do must be thoughtful, intentional, complex, but I think if Halloween has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no shame in mindless fun. There’s nothing wrong with putting on some cat ears if it makes you feel festive. There’s no reason to pretend to like raisins when everyone knows you’d rather eat the Twix in the bottom of your bucket. Halloween lets us us take a break from putting on airs and just be people.

This Halloween, I ask that in addition to dressing up like the cast of “Stranger Things” or making caramel apples in a dorm kitchen, people take a break from the serious, the important, the meaningful. If you want to read the fluffy YA novel instead of the dystopian psychological commentary, read the teen romance! If that comedy is calling your name instead of the foreign film with subtitles, watch that! If you want to do a craft for no other purpose than it just sounds fun, all power to you. If you’re doing ice breakers and your favorite song is “Ice Ice Baby,” not Bach’s “Concerto for Two Violins,” for Pete’s sake, say “Ice Ice Baby!” If you want to write a column voicing your concerns regarding boys feeling left out from twirling instead of penning a sociological commentary on communication in the digital age, go for it! Who are you trying to impress?

This Halloween, I ask you to enjoy the festivity for no other purpose than it’s enjoyable. I ask you to revel in the freedom of its lack of depth. I ask you to have fun. Happy Halloween, everyone! May you remember the true meaning of Halloween is that there’s no meaning at all.

Julianna Conley loves cereal, her home state of California and the em dash. A sophomore in Pasquerilla East, if Julianna can’t be found picnicking on North Quad, she can be reached for comment at [email protected].

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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