By Annya Kong, Staff Writer
For many, Halloween is a time to have fun through dressing up as the make-believe, collecting free candy from strangers, hanging plastic decorations from the windows and putting hollowed gourds on the front porch. It’s tacky and sweet and beloved by many. But for the occasional few who don’t celebrate, what do the festivities mean to them? Or to anyone, for that matter?
I used to be an avid celebrator of the holiday, but am now a current member of this latter demographic. To traipse around in a cheap outfit, shuffle in the cold for several hours, and return home to pour ecstatically the sugary earnings of the evening onto the floor was a novelty and a delight. As I grew up, however, I faced an underlying pressure to grow out of the tradition. Unlike Thanksgiving or the winter holidays, which were encouraged as ways to connect with family or take time off, Halloween was considered more childish, a day in which you were still expected to work or go to school. In a society perpetuated with the idea that every activity must support productivity, health, or one’s social life, Halloween is more or less meaningless.
Adolescence is a time characterized by the transition to adulthood. It is a time to think about the future, find a monetizable passion, form a respectable self-identity. In other words, it is the period of life in which a person is expected to mature. For high-achieving students like those of Payton, the pervasive nature of this message is even more evident. Self-worth is measured by tangible achievements and productivity on a day-to-day basis, leisurely fun is put on the back burner, and enjoying oneself is last on the list of priorities.
Recently, however, my view of the holiday has started to shift. Even though my Monday will be another evening of homework, applying for this, working on that, I know that passing by roughly carved pumpkins and kids in brightly colored costumes will be a sight to smile at; hearing friends talk earnestly about what they’ll wear rather than the latest test is a source of interest; the pieces of candy gifted in classrooms surrounding the 31st a welcome treat in an otherwise repetitive afternoon. Even without directly participating in the celebrations, its traditions are still a respite from daily stresses. They’re meaningless, which is exactly why they’re so important. To enjoy Halloween is to stop taking yourself seriously; to goof off without consequence and with support; to be ‘unproductive’ and eat ‘unhealthy’, free of judgment. For those laden with greater responsibility or a stricter home life, the festivities become more novel, not less.
Perhaps this point is best captured in a quote from Daniel Gunderson, sophomore: “My favorite part is walking around in the dark and dressing funny.” Halloween is gratuitous, it’s silly, it’s simplistic and surface-level—and that’s exactly the best part.