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Candy From Strangers: Halloween Culture

How Halloween Has the Potential to Bring out the Best in Us…

Photo by Cala on Unsplash

It’s hard to believe that on one day out of the year people in various countries like America flip social standards on their head.

On Halloween it is completely acceptable and encouraged to:

  • Take candy from people you don’t know. Especially if you’re a child.
  • Embrace demons, witches, and other taboos related to concepts of evil/death.
  • Pay for candy. Then give it all out for free.
  • Open your door to strangers.
  • Show as much skin as you care to. Have less people judge.
  • Watch movies and events that may give you a heart attack.

I love Halloween. This bizarre holiday that gave me a pillowcase full of free candy as a child and an opportunity to dress like a weirdo at work as an adult. A holiday where people who have No Soliciting signs on their front doors generously give out a variety of sweets and smiles to anyone who rings their doorbell.

One night. All the rules change.

Why?

A Safe Environment

What allows humans to willingly enter a “haunted” maze, or ride a free falling elevator, or sit and watch a psychopath chase people down?

When my husband Jonathan Chew and I took an Entertainment Design class in college we learned that fear is an incredible tool to exhilarate the senses when used safely.

The equation is simple. Fear - Death = Thrill.

Fear, in a safe environment, can empower us.

I’ve experienced this firsthand…

I remember the day I was finally brave enough to ride The Tower of Terror at Disney World.

Though I closed my eyes for the majority of it, I exited the ride feeling elated.

It wasn’t that scary. It was fun. Or it was a kind of fun-scary that made me want to ride again and again, opening my eyes more and more each time.

It was closer to a rite of passage than it was a scary encounter.

As my family patted my on the back, congratulating me on surviving, I knew I had graduated from something. Maybe, it felt like, even death itself

It was silly and it was pretend but the effect was real.

In a way, Halloween has become like this. It’s a safe environment where we allow ourselves to face scary things while having total control at the same time. It’s empowering. It’s magical.

And also, it’s really fun night to just dress up too…

A Place To Explore Identity

I remember one year, my best friend and I dressed up as dead Christina Aguilera and dead Britany Spears for Halloween.

A little morbid, yes, but we completely meant the costumes as a compliment.

We had the best night singing all the popular pop songs in zombie voices, even as we rang the doorbell at stranger’s houses…

Being dead Christina Aguilera meant I could sing off-key and not comb my hair and people would still ask for my autograph (which actually happened at a few houses who played along before giving us the usual handful of candy.)

For a moment, I got to feel what Christina Aguilera would feel, but in a sort of weird zombie setting, an experience I will never get to have again in my entire lifetime. For one day, I wasn’t me, I was dead Christina Aguilera. And that could only happen on Halloween.

I think it’s healthy to have times where we are allowed to go out of our comfort zone, especially as children. The fun in pretending to be someone we are not allows us to discover who we really are.

It’s also important for adults to have a socially accepted time to let their hair down. As we get older, we lose the opportunities to make believe, to play pretend, to stop take ourselves less seriously. Sadly, play becomes something left behind to the nostalgia of childhood.

Except on Halloween, where we have the freedom to flirt with our identity once again as we did as children…

A Creative Space

Halloween is like going to Comi-Con and an Arts & Crafts fair and a theatrical show all at the same time. Originality is awarded, applauded, and of course picture-worthy…

Growing up with a love for theater, I get to feel as if the world is truly a stage once a year on Halloween…

The costumes. The presentation. *Sigh* It makes me so happy to see creativity like this applauded.

I LOVE to see how people can get clever and creative with their costume ideas too.

I have a special box in our garage that I throw random things into, in case they might serve as additions to the perfect Halloween costume one day.

There’s something about creating your own costume…It’s kind of like waiting for a vacation, half the fun is in the planning.

And of course that planning is extremely fun when it’s with a person or group of people you care about.

One of my favorite years of Halloween was when my husband and I dressed up as Ariel and Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, along with another couple we love who dressed up as Flounder and Scuttle.

We made some rules for our costumes:

  • We weren’t allowed to spend more than $10 on them.
  • We had to make them ourselves.
  • Creativity must be used.

(Ok ok I know what you’re thinking, pics or it never happened…)

I will never forget how much we laughed when we decided to use oven mitts as Sebastian’s claws or how excited I was when I found purple duct tape to use for Ariel’s clam shells…

The point wasn’t a perfect costume, the point was to bond and connect together through creativity…

A Gift to the Tastebuds

There’s no denying that we connect with each other through food as well. I especially love the army of people who emerge every year that declare to the world they are lovers of CANDY CORN!

You either love this Halloween candy or hate it. (I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone that fell somewhere in the middle?)

But because I am a lover, I literally race down to the grocery store when this seasonal candy is available and basically stock up for the winter by buying bags of it…(especially the big pumpkin shaped ones…mmmm…)

That’s how much I love. candy corn.

It’s a fun reminder. When the candy corn comes out, (and all the pumpkin-flavored pastries and treats too) Halloween is here!

Halloween, you bring out the best in us (and our taste buds too!)

A Place To Be Better Versions of Ourselves

When the December Holidays roll around, people often express how they wish the spirit of love and giving could last much longer.

But what if we felt the same way about Halloween too?

Halloween can be a place to confront fears/explore identity. It’s about creativity. It’s about connection! Not to mention, it’s a holiday that encourages giving to others, even when you don’t know who those others are!

What if we had more opportunities to embrace this throughout the year?

Some ways might include:

  • Give something away in bulk to friends and coworkers. It doesn’t have to be candy. My husband and I really like to pass out little pop-up cards called Thoughtfulls. They have a little quote or happy saying on them and you can write a quick note on the back. They’re a small but powerful way to brighten someone’s day.
  • Encourage dress-up days at work. I can’t express how much I love working at companies that do this. It helps build better relationships in the office and also puts people in a relaxed space where they can have fun together (which actually increases productivity in the long run.)
  • Throw a themed event or murder mystery party. You can get a boxed party game that already has the script and characters and give people roles and encourage them to dress as their assigned parts when the event comes.
  • Play a board game like Betrayal At House On The Hill. This game is fun because it’s different every time you play. Halfway through, a “haunting” occurs and one player becomes the villain with a new objective. It’s a really fun character-driven game and also a very safe space to explore various things you might encounter in a Haunted House…

Though not everyone shares a love for this holiday I think there’s a lot of great aspects to it!

Do you have any other tips on how to spread the spirit of Halloween? Or have any other great stories related to the Holiday and it’s unique culture? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!