October has descended upon us, and we all know what that means — pumpkin spice, sweater weather, and general spookiness. To cap off this long month, America has adopted an old Celtic celebration, now known as Halloween. However, this celebration is merely an excuse for people to dress up as something they’re not. Costumes are sometimes used as an excuse to take on a different identity, but they can often be offensive or culturally appropriative. Halloween is a waste of time and money and acts as the worst possible prologue to the actual holiday season. I simply cannot understand why anyone would spend all of October looking forward to it.
In 2019, Halloween is celebrated only because it is a tradition deeply steeped in consumerism and capitalism. Although consumerism and capitalism may be fundamental to American society, it’s also important to note that they are huge detriments to our society and cause massive amounts of harm to peoples and environments around the world. Then there is the strange ritualistic act of getting dressed up as someone else, getting tons of candy, and, as you get older, going to parties that are never as fun as you think they might be.
Halloween exists, just like many other American holidays, because there is a need for American people to escape and create a nationwide excuse to party. There’s no longer a religious tie to it, it’s not about one of America’s ‘victories’, and it’s not the start of a new chapter. Instead, it is a day that American businesses have commercialized in order to increase their profit margins while trying to convince the American public into believing it’s a necessary American tradition.
We should not be falling into the trap of overly commercialized holidays like Halloween or Valentine’s Day, but rather focus our energies on meaningful celebrations that revolve around love for each other and ourselves. The only thing that is traditionally American about Halloween is that it’s a capitalist opportunity for businesses that know how to churn profit only too well, just like other American holidays like Valentine’s Day or Black Friday weekend. And that profit comes from every aspect of properly celebrating the holiday, such as candy, costumes, decorations, and annoying fake spider webs. Companies have advertising schemes that are so successful that the average American spent almost $90 for Halloween in 2018.
People are excited to dress up and become someone they’re not on Halloween. This type of dress up is limited to Halloween, even though we can dress up at any point in the year. When I was young, I dressed up as a princess, mainly because I wanted a prince and I did not live in a castle, and unfortunately, Disney princesses were the only female role models I saw on TV. But now, I am older. I have the capacity, will, and opportunity to be whoever I want, any day of the year. We all do. We can all wake up tomorrow morning and decide we actually want to be comfortable, and wear animal onesies to class. The worst that can happen is you might get weird looks.
Yet sometimes, costumes end up being sexed-up versions of regular people, characters, or things. Why do we have to hide behind Halloween in order to do that? We are all old enough to dress ourselves every single day as what we want to be, not who we are right now, and do not need to wait for Halloween to roll around to wear what we’ve been itching to wear. Wearing costumes only on Halloween can lead to a road of disrespect and harm towards cultures other than your own, and this is not something we should be willing to tolerate any longer.
Offensive and culturally appropriative costumes harm progress towards an inclusive society. Most recently, we’ve seen a massive unmasking of various politicians’ past incidents of black or brown face. Whilst this is, unfortunately, not surprising, it is distressing that these individuals, who are highly educated, made a decision to follow through with an immensely insulting costume just because it was college and Halloween time. Halloween provides a day every year in America in which there is an unspoken expectation for people to have the boldest, most daring, and most attention-drawing costume, and this can push individuals to engage in extremely offensive costuming that may very well include black or brown face.
Obviously, black or brown face is not the only way a costume can be offensive. There are a myriad of ways that costumes can appropriate a culture. What comes to mind first is a couples costume many couples in my high school gravitated towards, Indians and cowboys. The women who gravitated towards the Indian side of this costume were varying degrees of insulting, but again, justified themselves by explaining it was Halloween and they were just pretending. But just pretending is absolutely not acceptable when it is deeply hurtful and insulting to another group of people.
At the end of the day, Halloween is also the absolute worst prologue to the proper holiday season, which starts in November and ends with the celebrations of New Year’s Eve. November and December bring plenty of traditional religious holidays, but those are not the only things that make November and December the real holiday season. The controversial Thanksgiving celebrations happen at the end of November, where America traditionally sits around a table and avoids talking about its history of violence, while families have the awkward opportunity to talk politics with each other. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we fuel our capitalist system by buying things we don’t need not only for ourselves, but also for the kind of people we have to be fake-nice to during holiday parties.
College students have the wonderful gift of finishing fall semester in December, and get to celebrate with finals that cost them hours of study time, but then, for a couple of wonderful days, the world is quiet. Once finals are over, people take time off work, shops close, and we’re able to properly celebrate the holiday season by being largely spared from responsibilities and briefly restoring our sleeping schedules. To start off this wondrous holiday season with Halloween is like going to a pregame and realizing everyone there is problematic and isn’t even your friend, and the only alcohol they’re serving is Pabst Blue Ribbon. And let’s be honest — that is not a pregame you should be attending because of the wasted time, effort and money it will require.