"Halloween wraps fear in innocence,
As though it were a slightly sour sweet.
Let terror, then, be turned into a treat..."
Halloween, in my book, is the happiest day of all and even though I won't be celebrating it in the traditional way this year (since I'm preoccupied sunning myself on a Jamaican beach...), that doesn't mean I can't still be super excited about my favorite day of the year! Recently my coworker asked me, "What do you think it means that you love Halloween so much?" and it really got me thinking about the holiday. What is it that I love so much about it? Of course, all of the orange... and the candy... and the dressing up... There are so many great things about it that popped into my head when she asked the question, but none of them really addressed what it means to be so into Halloween.
My Halloween History
Of course, as soon as my coworker left my desk, I attempted to look up what it meant to be so infatuated with Halloween. I was hoping to find a concrete reason for my love of the holiday. After all, there had to be some explanation for this odd obsession... right? Apparently not. After neglecting work for a bit on a hunt to understand a love of Halloween, I didn't come up with much. I decided it would be up to me to figure this one out. No relying on good ol' Google this time! Instead, I'd actually have to give it this some thought all on my own. In an attempt to make some sense of my love of Halloween (before it dawned on me that, really, I didn't have to make sense of it...), I searched my brain for Halloween memories, looking for a link to my love of the holiday.
My mind swirled around a mess of Halloween memories -- the year I dressed up as a giant gift and couldn't sit down in class, the year I learned about bones from a Hallmark-made skeleton, the year my teacher had a stuffed bear dressed up as a devil that I desperately wanted to take home with me, the year I visited a house in which you had to reach into a giant spider's belly filled with "eggs" to get candy out, the year my sister and I dressed up as the opposites we are (devil and angel), the year I decorated my braces with orange and black rubber bands, the year I got the Halloween blanket that I still pull out every fall (see Bella wrapped in it at the bottom of the post), the year my best friend decided she was too old for trick-or-treating, the year I fitfully tossed and turned knowing my boyfriend was up to no good (he was), the year I attended an exclusive Hollywood Halloween party, the year I went to not one but three Halloween parties with different costumes for each, the year I fought with a good friend, the years of dressing up Bella in Halloween costumes (see Princess Bella's 2009 getup above). So many memories, both good and bad, of the very last day of October.
I rifled through them all -- all of those good and bad recollections -- and still couldn't figure out what it was I loved so much about the day, or why. I decided to look up the psychology of Halloween. Maybe if I understood the psychology of the holiday, I rationalized, I couldn't understand the reasoning behind my love for the day...
The Psychology of Halloween
After much searching that was pretty unsuccessful (clearly there aren't many people writing about the importance of Halloween to a twenty-something with a mild obsession!), I realized that it pretty much was going to have to come down to the fact that, at it's core, I just liked it. I couldn't necessarily explain why and, after years of being asked why I liked Halloween so much, I'm not sure why I thought this would be the year that I'd somehow come up with a definitive answer.
Though I didn't come across a clear reason behind my love for October 31st, in the article "The Modern Psychology of Halloween," I read: "There’s something so timelessly magical in the golden colors of fallthat’s annually reflected in the glowing flames of our Jack O’Lantern smiles. Rather than feeling a creepy chill in the air, instead, many of us today associate a sense of warmth and togetherness with the date October 31st. The past associations with all things evil have today been replaced by the amusing notion of a good scare, meaning that it’s time once again to party." Finally, something I could relate to! It wasn't the fear factor that enticed me into loving the holiday or even the dressing up that was so appealing. This article hit the nail on the head when it addressed one of the key components to my love for Halloween: the warmth and magic of it. It is the tantalizing mix of comfort and mystery that I love so much about Halloween. The warmth and comfort of the day couple with the potential for tricks and treats really does leave me feeling happy and inspired.
To me, there's something warm in the thought of Halloween, and especially in the color orange. As you may have guessed from the design of the blog, I'm a pretty big fan of orange. I don't know if I loved orange first or Halloween first, but to me the two go hand-in-hand. While some people find orange to bright or overwhelming, it's by far my favorite color and when I look at it I feel cozy inside. Apparently orange makes Bella (sleeping on my new orange couch above) feel cozy as well!
The Meaning of Halloween
In my mind, Halloween -- the word alone! -- evokes so many things, and so many of them are positive. When I think of Halloween, I think of all of the following things (and more!):
Community: Most of the people I know dress up for Halloween. Little kids, teenagers, college kids, and adults -- most of them love to get into the spirit of Halloween. Additionally, because it's become such a commercialized holiday in America, most people -- regardless of the their backgrounds -- join in on the fun. For that reason, Halloween is one of the greatest holidays because every can participate and get joy out of it.
Generosity: Halloween is the one day of the year you can (if you are a kid) knock on all of your neighbors' doors and they will greet you with a smile and a delicious treat. Can you imagine if every day were like that? If you could just walk up to your neighbors door and s/he would open it with a smile and treat? I'm sure some neighborhoods are like that, but, where I come from, Halloween is pretty much the only day you go knocking on neighboring doors.
Acceptance: Though this one probably doesn't apply to everyone, Halloween, for me, is a great symbol of accepting someone for who they are. I love Halloween -- really love it! -- and it's something that people in my life have to accept (even though people often think it's odd that I like the holiday so much). Because of raised eyebrows I've received and the confused looks I've been given, I know that not everyone really gets my love of Halloween, but the people I'm really close with accept it and that's what really matters.
Imagination: Halloween is a great time to use your imagination. Every year -- probably around the middle of summer -- I start thinking about Halloween and wondering what I'm going to be. Though I do have a few go-to costumes that I for some reason cannot get enough of (Alice in Wonderland and a 1920's flapper being two of them), I love the idea that, for one night a year, I can dress up as anything I want to and (most) people won't judge me. Being able to use my imagination this way is truly liberating!
Change: Traditionally Halloween symbolized the end of summer and the beginning of winter and, in a way, that's what it still does for me. Where I live, it usually isn't until after Halloween that it starts to get really cold and it's at this cusp between the lingering warmth of summer and the crisp onset of winter that I find myself face-to-face with the idea of change. In addition, because I am usually changing myself into someone else by donning a costume, the holiday really makes me think about the concept of transformation.
Celebration:In my world, Halloween has -- and will always be -- a time for celebration. In my mind, Halloween is New Year's Eve and Independence Day rolled into one. It's better than fireworks, more exciting than champagne. Whether it was tame classroom parties at school or wild ragers in college, Halloween has always been a time for celebrating, for dressing up, for getting too excited due to a heavy sugar rush. When I think about the celebration aspect, a big smile spreads across my face and already I can't wait until the celebration begins again next year.
Since I love Halloween so much, it often comes up in conversations I have with others. It seems to me that Halloween is one of those holidays that people either really love or don't care much for once they've reached the age of ten. Most adults either feel passionately about it or can take it or leave it. I, of course, am the former. I really do love Halloween and all that the word brings to mind. It's a day filled with a lot excitement, mystery, and warmth. It's day we get the opportunity to be really generous to our neighbors and explore our creative sides by dressing up as anything we want to be. It's clearly my favorite holiday, but I'd love to hear about whether or not you love it too. And if you are a Halloween fan, why do you love it? The reasons I've listed above are only some of the many exciting, positive things about the holiday, but I'm sure you've come up with some of your own ideas while reading this. If you have ideas and would like to share them, send me a tweet @positivepresent!
Treats for the Halloween Lover
After being asked about my Halloween obsession, I attempted to learn more about the psychology and history behind the holiday. I found some pretty interesting stuff out there and those of you who love Halloween like I do may find these links interesting. To learn more about Halloween, check out these links:
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