The Spirit of Halloween

Posted: October 28, 2020 in Halloween, real life
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Well, here we are: pandemic Halloween.

Restrictions may vary by region, but in Colorado, Halloween celebrations as we know them are largely cancelled. No school costume parades, no drunken costume parties, no trick-or-treating. I hear pumpkin patches and haunted houses have been operating, but I have not been. Largely, the season has been reduced to decorations and horror movies.

Which begs the question, what is Halloween? What is the Halloween spirit? What makes Halloween Halloween?

Is it Halloween without trick-or-treating down a dark street, dead leaves crunching beneath your feet? Is it Halloween without disguising yourself in another character in a drunken crowd, losing yourself in the night? Is it Halloween without being scared in a haunted house or during horror movie marathons, clutching someone’s hand tight as you cry out?

For me, I would say Halloween is all of these things. And more. I take the entire month of October to indulge in Halloween, and I truly try to do it all. Pumpkins, haunted houses, horror film festivals, parties, costumes, trick-or-treating, all the things. And I have missed all those things this year.

I resolved earlier this month to try my best to adapt and enjoy October 2020 as best I could. I decorated, even though no one will really see the house. I got my kids Halloween costumes, even though they won’t be trick-or-treating. I attended the Telluride Horror Show, even though it was all online. I decided to go all in, even if there wasn’t much we could do.

Even though it feels frivolous and borderline fucking stupid this year, I am wearing and posting my Hallowear every day. I am playing #31DaysofHorror bingo and watching a horror movie every day. Inside the house, it is still everything October and everything Halloween. I try to force myself into that Halloween spirit.

Yet it does not feel the same. Because the Halloween experience, like so many things, has a community element. Trick-or-treating includes going around a neighborhood, to other doors. Parties include groups of costumed friends, neighbors, or classmates. Haunted houses are filled with the screams of people.

The real terror this year is the distance and the isolation. The real fear is all the unknown ahead. And those are not the fun kind of horror that Halloween is about.

I just finished writing a novel that ultimately questions if someone can love the horror genre after real horror has happened in her life. That theme echoes strangely in my head these days.

Personally, I do not think Halloween is embodied by any one activity or celebration. I think it is a unique expression for each person. It means different things to different people so can’t be quantified by trick-or-treating or getting drunk dressed like a slutty pumpkin. So a pandemic Halloween can still be Halloween. It just might take some creativity and commitment.

Every year is not going to be perfect. Every year is not going to be the same. I can resign myself to letting 2020 go, to doing the best I can with the options available.

This year, Halloween might be watching Trick ‘r Treat with a bowl full of Reese’s pumpkins and a tall pour of whiskey in my Morticia costume on the couch… but it would still be Halloween. Just Halloween 2020.

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Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Comments
  1. I find I miss the Halloween of my youth — not because I miss my youth — but because it was (like Christmas) all about the kids, about home-made costumes, and the fun of (yep) seeing inside the neighbors’ houses! Adults had fun because of the kids and WITH the kids — even when they were not their own, just watching the parade of trick-or-treaters. Now we see so few kids because of the health and safety threats, the costumes are Hollywood commercials, candy prices are through the roof making the purchase of it a hardship for many, and we sometimes risk opening the door to teens whose costumes are minimal enough you wonder if it is really a home-invasion or a candy-extortion plot. The adults have more parties than the kids…there are fewer decorations because of theft…

    Kids are the Horror fans of the future….I miss the fun of those Halloweens that lured so many of us in!

    Like

    • Oh KC, I know exactly what you mean! It has changed so much since I was a child too. And I wish I could have given my children the Halloweens of my youth. I have been especially annoyed with all the outrage over not being able to trick-or-treat when so many people haven’t participated in the last decade or so. They did not seem to care until they were told they could not do it!

      Like

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