A blog featured by our IMC predecessors two years ago touched on the roots of Halloween, evidently for informational purposes. But if we look at the origin of the holiday, and compare it to the simple consumer monster it is today, what does it say about our culture? How did it transform from a festival rooted in serious meaning to whatever it’s supposed to be today?
Halloween started with the Celts many moons ago, over time it was adapted and changed by the Romans, and became what we know it as today in the 1900s. None of that is really important. What is important is how we cannibalized the traditions and passed them along, while turning the holiday into nothing more than a consumption animal party.
The phenomenon that explains this is Social Construction of Reality, but how did it get to this? It seems that most traditions were forged in some pretty substantial fires, but American culture has a way of reducing the importance of history to make some money. The idea behind the tradition is not communicated to growing generations, and the meaning gets lost behind the ways we celebrate. Then the Americans who grow up and pay money to be a part of the “tradition” end up satisfied with their part in the whole ordeal while walking away a little poorer, and just as ignorant.
A Google Search of “Halloween Sales 2013” turns up a link to coupons from retailers pushing to sell costumes, candy, and other Halloween-related things. A short list of the companies offering these discounts are Aeropostale, The Popcorn Factory, Party City, Amazon, Toys R Us, the Disney store, Babies R Us, Walgreens, Land’s End, Pier 1 Imports, Petco, Hot Topic, The Home Depot, Urban Outfitters, Williams-Sonoma, Cotton On, Sears, Roaman’s, and Target. Apparently Tide is also in on the Halloween action (from my colleagues’ Monday post).
None of the companies’ ads say anything about the Celts or the Romans.
Nobody ever told me what Halloween was about. I just learned to associate it with costumes and candy from my mom. It’s kind of like St. Patrick’s Day, which (you would think) is not too relevant to Americans that lack origins in Ireland, but is extensively used to increase sales and get people drunk. The fact is, today, that all Halloween really is about are costumes, candy, and partying. Most holidays end up being just another reason to party in America, but Halloween is the most notorious for partying being its sole purpose.
Ask around, especially on campus, and people will have a whole slew of methods for celebrating the holiday. If a person has kids, they will dress their kids up and walk around to get candy on Halloween. Some folks may stay inside and hand out candy to other people’s kids if they feel up to it. Those who don’t have kids will probably dress up and get drunk.
That’s about it.
I could talk about the implications of the most prevalent American Halloween costumes featured in our local costume shops (which are perfectly in tune with the holiday’s roots), but everyone knows that it all pretty much ranges from “sexy nurse,” to “sexy M&M” or “sexy pirate” for women, and “pirate,” to “caveman” for men. Most Halloween emphasis is placed on the costume. The rest is on the party or the candy.
It doesn’t have anything to do with any of the reasons it was created. Sure, there’re Jack-O-Lanterns that have survived in homage to ol’ Stingy Jack, but does anybody reading this know about him (assuming that any one of the extremely cool tales about him is the one responsible for the tradition)?
I say, since Halloween seems to just be an arbitrary holiday nowadays, that we change the name completely, maybe to “Sexy Drunk Candy Day.” Let’s reconstruct the reality of Halloween. Why not?
– Chad Darrah