Friday, October 29, 2010


I must tell you that I have been looking forward to today's post ever since I finished my St. Patrick's Day blog post some six months ago (see

Sunday is October 31st, or more commonly known as Halloween. I don't know the true origins behind it, but for some reason it is acceptable to dress up as all sorts of odd creatures and the like. Even as a child I did not understand this, still don', and I can firmly remember on one Halloween I threw down a protest. I was asked, "What are you going to be on Halloween?" And I responded with, "Nothing, I am Aaron Likens".

Halloween combines many elements I find unsettling. First is the costumes and I can't help but wonder who the first person was that said, "On October 31st I am going to look like a ghost!" I know Halloween is enjoyed by many people, but I simply don't get it.

A lot of people like to go to places where they will be scared, such as a haunted house place. This too I don't understand because isn't there enough fear already in the world? Perhaps it's a release of some sort being scared knowing it isn't real, and I guess I could see that, but still I want no part in it. Emily once tried to get me to go to one and we arrived and the line to get in was mammothly long. I said, "oh wow, look at the time!" and then proceeded to get very tired. That didn't work so I started to cough and we made a compromise that if we stopped at White Castle on the way home we didn't have to go to the haunted house. Looking back I don't know which option was worse.

As a child I did take part in Trick or Treating because who doesn't like free candy? Several years I did cave in a wear some sort of costume, and then others I went out as, when people asked me what or who I was, "I am Aaron Likens. Why would I want to be anyone or anything else?" People always looked at me oddly as if I had spoiled a long secret, or given away a surprise plot twist of a movie they were about to watch.

Looking at the world now I don't know if I would want to go to any random stranger's house for candy. And maybe this is the essence of the ritual. I am afraid of people I don't know, but with the naivety of childhood the dangers of the world aren't as real. While I may not understand the dressing up aspect of it, or the fact people like to be scared, I will respect the ritual of Trick or Treating. When I live alone I don't know if my lights will be on because I don't like random encounters with other people and with that being so Halloween truly would be, well, I guess I wouldn't need to go a haunted house to feel uncomfortable, would I?


  1. Very interesting, Aaron. I've never thought of it that way.

  2. My entire life, my special interest in one way or another has revolved around studying people because I don't understand them otherwise. For the most part, this study of people has manifested as an anthropological interest.

    I find that the key to understanding--as much as they can be understood--holidays and other seemingly nonsensical cultural elements is to determine their origins. Many of the things like Halloween that make no sense originated long ago and far away and have devolved over time, lost their original meanings and become just unattached symbols that make no sense to people who try to piece them together in their current context. Easter's a really good example of this. Rabbits who lay eggs?!? Bwa-huh?! In their original context, however, there was a reason for each symbol and activity--not that each reason was always rational; religion doesn't have to be--and so each symbol and activity makes much more sense in its original context.

    In my experience, for the most part, people do things even when they don't know why or where the origin of those activities came from. They do things just because "that's how things are done." If some folks did know where the origins of their activities came from, they might be quite surprised (the date and traditional symbols of Christmas have more to do with non-Christian celebrations like the Roman Saturnalia and the Germanic Yule--among others--than anything specifically Christian, for instance).

    In my mind, it's an absolutely fascinating study. I have come to learn that others might not be quite as captivated by the topic, however. :) But I thought it might be relevant to point out that what we see today are the remnants of forgotten religious and cultural celebrations, far removed from their original context. So removed and changed that--unless one is familiar with the original context and can recognize the remnants for the shades of what they used to be--the current activities seem solely like irrational, senseless behavior. If the seemingly irrational behavior is something that rubs at you, or if you'd like to be able to more easily participate in some of it for the benefit of your family, it might help to look into the origins of the perplexing traditions.

  3. I don't like haunted houses myself either. It's either really boring or leaves me with a sensory overload and shaken. Like you stated yourself, no need to upset me if daily life can do that for me. There's a reason I avoid upsetting situations people.
    We don't celebrate Halloween here (Netherlands). We do have the tradition of children passing by houses for candy, Sint Maarten (11th november), but that's not in costume. This is (what not everyone knows, even here) because it originates from something else. Sint Maarten was a saint who shared a lot. The most well-known story about him is that he had nothing left to share and saw a freezing homeless guy and then he ripped his cloak in half and shared that.
    Also the children carry lanterns, just like during Halloween. I thought this did have the same reason (not sure).

    Yes, as you can read I like to know origins too, just like syndramise.

    With Sint Maarten we don't dress up, but I think for me this wouldn't be a problem. But this has a different reason. My hobby (those conventions I told about in earlier replies) involves dressing up too, so to me it'd just be an excuse to show off my costume without being laughed at. :P

    I went to London for the first time last weekend and London Expo was during the same weekend as Halloween! This was quite fun for me =D

  4. No Halloween? Living with it my entire life each and every October I can't imagine no Halloween.

  5. I would think that the anynominity of a mask would be similar to the anynominity of sunglasses.