October 24, 2023
Why is Halloween such a big deal, and why should everyone – at any age – channel their inner child and have a spooky good time on October 31?
Let’s begin with a brief history of Halloween.
The Origins of Halloween
Verbally morphed from “All Hallow’s Eve” (the night before All Saints’ Day), “Halloween” was historically a religious day. Today, however, it is more reflective of the ancient Celts’ Samhain, meaning “summer’s end,” when people would wear disguises and light bonfires to ward off ghosts on October 31.
Trick-or-treating has its roots in Scotland and Ireland, when young people went from door to door in costumes seeking food or money in exchange for singing songs, reading poems or performing tricks.
The Halloweens We Remember
While modern Halloween is vastly different from its archaic beginnings, older adults have seen some big changes in the day even in the past few decades.
The hallmark of Halloween, trick-or-treating became widespread in the 1950’s. Today, it has declined significantly, due to restricted hours, age limits, reduced social connections with neighbors and the fear of candy tampering.
But the memory of fervent trick-or-treating remains.
As one woman in her 70’s recalls, “My friends and I would stop at every house in the neighborhood and beyond, beginning when we got home from school and coming in after 9:00pm. We had so much candy, we had to keep coming home for new bags to hold it all!”
Popular costumes back in the day were witches, ghosts, cowboys, clowns and well-known TV characters such as Zorro and Superman. Decorations were modest – nothing like the elaborate displays of macabre seen today. The typical American front door featured a paper skeleton or witch with movable joints.
The Lasting Allure of Halloween
Despite the decline in trick-or-treating, Halloween has nevertheless become a blockbuster industry, particularly in the U.S. It’s everywhere – in the media, stores, restaurants, night clubs, neighborhoods, schools, even houses of worship. Why has it so thoroughly captured our attention?
- People love to be scared. Psychologists tell us that when we know we’re not truly in danger, we love the adrenaline rush of being afraid. Why else would people pay to be jumped at, howled at, and otherwise creeped out of their skin at a haunted house or scary movie?
- It’s fun to dress up. If even for a day, it’s exciting to be someone – or something – else. Wearing costumes allows us to literally hide behind a façade and explore an alter persona. For scarier costumes – monsters, vampires, ghouls, zombies – it’s fun to explore our “dark side” in a way that’s socially acceptable and not truly a threat. Important notes about Halloween costumes: 1) Avoid gory or frightening costumes around younger or more vulnerable people (and pets!); 2) Do not culturally misappropriate by adopting or exploiting other customs, races, genders, clothing, hair, etc. Read more about cultural misappropriation and why it matters here.
- It’s a bonding experience. What good is a good scare if you don’t have someone to share it with? It’s socially affirming to experience an emotionally charged situation with others when you know you’re safe. Along with trick-or-treating are the myriad Halloween parties, activities and Fall festivals that bring people together.
- It’s a great creative outlet. Perhaps more than any other, the quirky holiday provides endless whimsical activities and forms of expression for every generation. From funky foods and treats to extravagant decorations, haunted front yards (check these out!), costumes, arts and crafts and spooky-fun games, Halloween is our chance to explore the depths of our imaginations. The sky’s the limit! Or should we say the grave…?
- It’s a favorite time of year. With the heat of summer giving way to cooler, crisper days, there’s a certain magic in the air during the month of October. Leaves are turning brilliant hues, the sky is especially blue, and a new season of school (and football!) is underway. In fact, Fall is America’s favorite season by 41 percent over the other three.
- We can be kids again. Above all, Halloween is a rare opportunity to indulge our inner child, that part of us that grew up but never really left. In addition to the aforementioned creative outlet, Halloween allows us (within safe and appropriate reason) to be silly, goofy, outrageous…even someone entirely different.
Halloween with Grandchildren
Anticipated by youngsters almost as much as Christmas, Halloween is the ideal time for grandparents or older loved ones to dig into fun with them. Be it carving pumpkins, baking pumpkin seeds or Halloween treats (the recipes are ample!), making decorations, trick-or-treating, watching a family-friendly Halloween movie, playing freaky-fun music (introduce them to 1962’s “Monster Mash”!), the opportunities are endless this time of year to make priceless memories with beloved children.
Fall Fun at Barclay Friends
We at Barclay Friends will celebrate our inner kids with our annual Fall Festival, when residents, families and friends can enjoy games, Fall favorite foods like apple cider donuts, and a best-dressed pumpkin contest. We will also enjoy trick-or-treating and a Halloween party.
Plain and simple, this time of year is FUN – at every age!