Honestly, I like Halloween. I always have. I loved dressing up and trick-or-treating as a kid. It saddens me that we don’t get that many trick-or-treaters. I guess a lot of parents think it’s not safe.
I never understood the Christian parents who got caught up in the “paganism” or “satanism” of the holiday. I respect that point of view, but I think it’s taking it way to seriously. It’s just a day for kids to dress up.
But speaking of taking things too seriously, have you noticed something, well…different about Halloween lately? Kind of like Christmas, Halloween has changed. It’s a bigger, sexier, multi-billion dollar holiday than it’s ever been…even in a bad economy.
And I’m still left saying, aren’t we taking this a bit too seriously?
The Reason for the Season
Halloween as we know it is not that old of a tradition. Kids started trick-or-treating less than a century ago. Adults thought it was a public nuisance at best, and flagrant harassment of decent, God-fearing citizens at worst. Cut a couple of holes in an old bed sheet, grab a pillow case, and bam, you’ve got a kid ready to blackmail the neighbors for candy.
And now, here we are, with a holiday that comes equipped with as much preparation as any other major holiday. NPR reported this week that a lot of moms (with obviously nothing important to worry about) feel “anxiety” over meeting the “expectations” of the holiday. People spend a $300 million on costumes…for their pets. And of course, adult costumes probably rake in as much, if not more cash than the kids’ department…even though they are typically made using less material than a child’s costume.
Honestly, I don’t care if adults dress up for Halloween. I don’t care if you dress up our dogs and cats. What I find curious about the whole day is how we’ve justified it with one word…
The Fantasy Isn’t Real, but the Money Is
Escapism is a multi-billion dollar industry. And apparently, we as a culture think escapism is pretty important.
So now moms feel stressed out about October 31? Why? Because, apparently a suburban mom’s job description now includes providing a sufficient amount of escapism for her children on major holidays, birthdays, and most weekends. When I was a kid, our very Ned Flanders-y neighbors dressed their kid as a picnic one year, a costume I assume would justify a call to child protective services today. As kids, our fertile child brains were responsible for creating our own escapism. Not Mom.
We also live in a time when adults want to be considered to be children until they’re thirty. And by then, we should all have some hobby that allows us “escapism” for a time equal or greater to that of a part-time job. Escapism is the reason for innocuous things like Halloween, nerdy things like Star Wars conventions and World of Warcraft, tasteless things like romance novels and Twilight, and for destructive things like alcohol addiction.
And I just have to ask: what are we trying to escape from?
What Are We Escaping?
I don’t have an answer for what it is we’re trying to escape from. Work? Responsibility? Family? Decisions? Grief? Loneliness?
I do know this: we spend way more days than Halloween trying to escape. Some of us would rather spend more time in a fantasy than in reality.
And by trying to “escape” all the time, we assume that life is nothing but pain and unpleasantness.
And I know that constantly “escaping” doesn’t change any of the things we’re trying to avoid.
And by “escaping” all the time from the unpleasant things we imagine, we’re probably missing out on some very good things.
If you want to dress up on Halloween, or go to a Star Wars convention, dressed up like a Wookie, go ahead. But call it what it’s meant to be: a hobby. It’s something you do to refresh yourself so you can get things done. Don’t use it to “escape.”
Your turn! Do you think our obsession with “escapism” is a sign of unbridled creativity, or have we become obsessed with living out our weird fantasies? What’s your “escape?”