[This article was originally published on October 29, 2009.]
It may sound blasphemous, or at least juvenile, but Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Not that it has anything on Christmas, but it’s definitely in my top three. When I started my life in the ”real world,” especially when I began working at Busted Halo®, I was shocked by some of my coworkers’ low opinions of this day of mirth and mischief.
I grew up in a family of theater people and always loved the fun of getting dressed up and playing crazy characters. So a day when such things were actually encouraged (and rewarded with candy) was always a boon for me (as opposed to the other 364 days when I was just a little strange). But, after spending my first Halloween in NYC I could begin to understand some of the resentment harbored by the Halloween haters against the Halloween hoes.
Halloween in New York is totally other. I have never seen a more drunken debaucherous crowd of naughty nurses, sexy kittens, and dirty [insert anything else you can think of]s in my life. It was disgusting, a little disturbing, but more than anything else, disheartening. What happened to the creative, good wholesome fun I had loved so much as a child?
Looking around the streets of New York last year it seemed it was lost. But, as the night came to an early close, and I headed home to my tiny studio, thankful that no more roving gangs of Elvis impersonators would accost me, something wonderful happened on the subway.
Sitting across from me on the train were a very brave mother — who, like me, missed the memo that no sane person should be out after 10 p.m. on Halloween night — and her two kids, dressed in homemade Timon and Pumba costumes. As we made our trek back to Brooklyn the three of them began singing the soundtrack to The Lion King, with the children acting out their respective parts. Some people on the train looked annoyed, other simply ignored the trio, but most people smiled, reinvigorated by this pure form of play encouraged by the Halloween spirit. At that moment I could see what most of the rest of the evening had been missing: a genuinely creative and fun way to celebrate Halloween. So this year I pledged not to let the Halloween haters or the Halloween hoes get me down, and instead decided to celebrate one of my favorite holidays on my own terms. Here are five tips I intend to use this year to make Halloween more fun and less foul.
- Dress like a saint not like a slut. There are two ways to take this advice. First you can literally dress as a saint. For women, St. Joan of Arc is a pretty great option, an empowered female figure complete with chainmail to keep you warm and a sword to fight off those Elvis impersonators I mentioned. For guys, St. George has some good potential as a pair costume, if you can convince a friend to be the dragon you slay — and you get to carry a giant lance too. (I suppose in case those Elvises go after you as well.) If you’re interested in going for the gruesome, forget Freddy Krueger and try St. Sebastian with 12 or so arrows shot into your stomach and chest — or any number of other saints with less than pleasant martyrdoms. In all cases, great Halloween costumes, probably more intense than your ordinary Halloween ghoul, that give you an excuse to learn more about your faith… right before All Saints Day.But if you’re not into the idea of dressing like a martyr, or think your friends will take it the wrong way (listen to our podcast #217 to hear our take on when dressing as a religious is and is not appropriate), at least try to be more creative than a store bought trashy costume that makes you look like you belong to the oldest profession around. This year my friends and I are making our own costumes, a seascape with a boat, waves, sea urchin and lobster (lobster to be played by my dog Shiloh). It’s fun, original, and none of us are planning on being sexy or naughty anythings. (How’s that for something different). Now I’m not saying you have to dress like a prude, but it should be something you wouldn’t mind having your mom see you in either. Let’s be honest, the next day, when the photos go up on Facebook she probably will see it anyway. (It’s rough when parents jump on the social network bandwagon).
- Carve out some memories. This year make your Halloween memorable; not one you can’t remember. Have friends over for a fall feast and pumpkin carving. Or go apple picking and spend some quality time outdoors with loved ones. “What better way to celebrate Halloween than with good seasonal food,” says my friend John (age 25) who suggests baking a pie with friends using the apples you pick or the leftover pumpkin. For those in the north, the weather is only going downhill from here, so take the opportunity to spend some much needed time in nature before winter fully takes control.
- Be Nice not Naughty. At Halloween, there are always festivals and fairs for children that need volunteers. Go online to see what’s happening in your community and be on the treat giving end of Halloween this year. Also, look for places that take donations of old Halloween costumes for underprivileged kids, and use the opportunity to clean out your closets.If you live in the New York City area and are looking for an opportunity, join me in volunteering at the The Puppetry Arts Theatre’s annual Halloween Carnival, a fundraising event to benefit arts education for local disadvantaged youths. No matter where you live, see what opportunities you can find; you may be surprised by some of the good work that’s going on in your community.
- Find some historic haunts. Not only is Halloween a good excuse to dress up, it can also give you an excuse to learn more about where you live (a great thing if you’re new to the community). Busted Halo® intern Kate Hunt (age 22) suggests taking a haunted tour of your neighborhood. If no tour exists, see what you can find out for yourself. Go to your public library and ask the librarian for books written about haunted areas in your town. Then give your friends your own haunted Halloween tour. If your neighborhood is ghost free (bummer) think about creating a party based around an historical ghost story. Ask your friends to dress as characters from the plot and act it out throughout the evening. (Sorry, that’s the theater geek in me talking). If you and you’re friends aren’t the acting type, at least try taking turns telling ghost stories to each other. Trust me, it will be more fun than watching Halloween III for the tenth year in a row.
- Get Creative not Crazy. When it comes down to it, Halloween is an excuse to dress up, eat sweets and let your creative side get some much needed time to thrive. Too often, we forget to look outside the boxes of our routines and habits and try something truly different, expressive and good for the soul. So even if you don’t like dressing up and Halloween just isn’t your thing, take the opportunity this October 31 to be creative. Build something, cook a new meal, write a poem, take some photos, draw or paint a picture, or do anything else you can think of to break out of your routine and get out from behind the TV or computer screen. If the only way you think you can have fun on Halloween is by getting plastered and TP-ing your neighbors home, you may need to reevaluate your idea of a good time. Last time I checked, massive hangovers and dealing with a citation for being drunk and disorderly were neither original nor a good way to spend a weekend. Besides, remember, Mom’s on Facebook now.
So don’t be a Halloween hater or a Halloween hoe. Get out this Halloween and take advantage of the opportunity to be different and creative. We don’t get to do that enough once we become grown ups. Happy Halloween!