Gabriel Niforatos | Tuesday, November 5, 2019
People wear masks every day. Halloween is, perhaps, the most freeing holiday there is because it allows us to fully embrace the masks we wear without restraint. It is, in the fullest sense of the word, a time when we can Purge (and I don’t mean acting on our most primitive instincts when we have another Moreau portfolio due). It is a time when the mask that we put on perhaps most accurately reflects who we are, ironically or unironically. It is also an all-encompassing holiday. Even when it feels slightly anticlimactic that we spend Halloween in a classroom, it is undeniable that the spirit of the holiday is inescapable the entirety of the week. In his tower on the 14th floor in Hesburgh Transylvania, I guarantee you Father Jenkins went in costume, bishop’s collar or not. My costume for a majority of this week was an exhausted college student arriving back at school after fall break, not prepared for the rest of the semester (absolutely not prepared, despite what I just stated a few sentences prior).
So with the importance of Halloween in mind, I deliberated the most important question of all: What mask would I don for the only time in the year when reality is flipped, where our daily selves are actually costumes, where “regular” is a mask and madness is the “normal?” My tell-tale heart beating wildly, I thought of a solution on a night when the full moon reflected off the twin lakes. It was simple really. I would be an observer and go on a quest to uncover what my peers were going as in order to find the perfect “Notre Dame” costume.
The choices before me fell into but a few categories, and yet, the variety of masks within those categories was immense.
Costumes inspired by horror movies and classic figures in literature are by far the most popular, and they say the most about people than any other costume. Little did I know that Kyle from sophomore philosophy was a werewolf (which significantly raises the stakes of “to be or not to be” now that I think of it), or that the real reason Katie enjoyed Latin so much was because she was writing a book of spells that she hid between her Chemistry books back in her room. I could go as the ghost of Bond Hall and haunt the architecture majors with building plans for the old log chapel we visited in Moreau that is Notre Dame’s version of the cabin in the woods. I could lurk at the top of the Basilica as Claude Frollo and look down in disdain at Esmeralda and Phoebus below.
The second category of costumes had to do with regional affinity, although it is slightly misleading to call it that. When I say “regional,” I really mean costumes that fall into one of two categories. The first one is “to go green or go home,” as one friend described to me, and to dress as a leprechaun. I cannot tell you how many suits and red beards, made of felt or otherwise, I have seen in the past week. While arguably Notre Dame in the most literal sense, I wanted a costume that was a bit more memorable. Hence the second regional category. Several of my closest friends are from Texas, and their advice was extraordinarily similar. Dress as a cowboy on the new frontier, and I would have the best costume of everyone at Notre Dame.
Still unsatisfied, I turned to my fellow political science majors for advice. The most popular suggestions I received were Karl Marx, Homer or Antonin Scalia. Of all the clubs and secret cults on campus, I have found that there is none more secretive than Marxists. I have barely scratched the surface of their network, but an anonymous source told me that it encompasses the infamous tunnels around campus and may or may not be led by a certain individual named Montressor. By the dim light of candles and halfway in the catacombs, I assured this source anonymity and swore that I would not go as Marx. This left Justice Scalia. Instead of the familiar adage of “trick or treat,” I could implore my friends to adhere to the language of originalism, judicial review and ask if they had a rational basis for turning down Reese’s and choosing Three Musketeers instead. Perhaps not.
There were also several costumes I saw that did not fit any category, and I am not entirely sure what they say about Notre Dame. One of these belonged to somebody dressed in a completely green bodysuit running at full speed down South Quad to a destination I will never know.
Halloween is a sweet escape. There is no perfect “Notre Dame” costume because it is inherently human to have an affinity for the morbid and the extreme. I am not simply talking about enjoying horror movies or not, but rather a knowledge all of us have that our lives have a compass to them and that time is its only direction. Edgar Allan Poe once said in a short story that the boundaries that divide life and death are shadowy at best, and Halloween is a way for people to make light of and understand something that is an inescapable part of what it means to be human. Of course, death does not really consist of jack-o’-lanterns and costumes and pumpkin carving. But the taste of candy is a perfect mask for the melancholy that is part of the human experience.
My time across the river Styx will come. But until then, I will go as undead Bernie Sanders and rail against the PACS and super PACS.
Gabriel Niforatos is a junior majoring in political science with a minor in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service. He is passionate about giving a voice to the disenfranchised and writing is the muse he is persistently chasing. He can be found at [email protected] or @g_niforatos on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.