Behind the Mask
At this point in October, as time draws closer to Halloween, I’m thinking about what I want to be on that spooky night. Personally, I love Halloween. I love planning my costumes, hanging festive decorations, dressing up with my friends, feeling frightened. So I’m always surprised when I meet people who have little or no interest in Halloween. I did some research to find out, statistically, how much people love this holiday. And honestly, I was a little shocked.
According to an article from Tech Times, the average American spends $77.52 on Halloween. And that number has been increasing year-to-year. It is projected that we will spend $7.4 billion in total on the holiday this year. That’s a considerable amount of money to spend on just one night, or a couple nights if you’re really into it (like me). Obviously, there’s something about dressing up for Halloween that we, as a society, love.
Maybe if we look at the origins of Halloween, we can shed some light on the reasons we love putting on masks and pretending we’re something we’re not for a night or two. I read an article from Bustle, which explained how Halloween began. Halloween originated from a Celtic holiday called Samhain. The Celtics believed that each year, on October 31, the veil between our realm and the realm of the spirits was lifted and the dead crossed into our world. These people wore masks to scare away any harmful spirits. Eventually, starting in County Cork, Ireland, Halloween took on a more celebratory purpose, and turned into a holiday instead of a ritual for warding off demonic spirits. The important thing to note from these origins, is that people originally wore masks for Halloween out of fear—to scare away the demons. Even though Halloween has become more of a night to dress up as a sexy mouse or a character from your favorite t.v. show, Halloween’s origins still have symbolic meanings for our time.
In our adult lives, Halloween becomes a night of escape. We dress up as things that we’re not for Halloween to escape ourselves for a while— to become something outside of ourselves. This holiday is so exciting because we get to play a character, run away from reality. We mask our true identities. Maybe, we’re running away from our own demons.
For a kid, dressing up is just a part of play time. But as an adult, wearing a costume for a night allows us to leave our daily lives and true forms behind. It’s easy to forget the stresses of our lives when we’re pretending we’re someone we’re not. And for this reason, even though it’s just for a little while, Halloween is one of the most fun nights of the year for many people.
I also wonder, why do we enjoy feeling afraid? Why do some of us willingly step into haunted houses, where people jump out at us and chase us with chainsaws, coming out the other end with smiles on our faces? It has something to do with the fact that these fears aren’t real, and we know that. People in bloody masks and fake spiders make us jump, but they’re no match for the fears we face in real life. So in a sense, they distract us from more realistic fears we may be facing in our lives. Real life problems and the obstacles life tosses at us scare us much more than the ghouls and goblins of Halloween. So we hand ourselves over to the ghouls and goblins, just for a moment.
One thing we know about the masks of Halloween and the haunted houses is that they’re all temporary. They roll around in October and are gone in a flash. This brevity can teach us some important lessons. The first, is that pretending to be someone we’re not can never last. Some of us spend so much time working on our Halloween costumes, making sure every detail is perfect. But we must remember to put the same amount of effort into our true selves. There’s no such thing as spending too much time on improving yourself to the best of your ability. After all, being true to yourself is much more stable than pretending to be someone you’re not. Putting on masks to hide our inner spirits can temporarily make us feel like we fit in and whatnot. But these masks can’t hold up forever. Letting your inner spirits shine will always be the best way to go about life.
Secondly, the coming and going of October spookiness shows us that fear is temporary, and we can conquer anything. It’s okay to be scared. And that goes for haunted houses and real life. As long as you know you’re going to come out the other end stronger than before.