Although so much of history is rewritten and disputed, the best version of the holiday’s origin shows it as having grown out of a pagan ritual. Halloween became a part of Ancient Celtic culture where tribes would light bonfires and wear masks to ward off evil spirits. They believed that on October 31st, the line between the living and the dead became blurred and by wearing a mask thereby becoming anonymous they would protect themselves from the evil spirits who were roaming around. By the 8th century the day was deified by Pope Gregory III to honor the various Catholic saints and is still observed today as All Saints’ Day or All Hallow’s Eve. That name evolved in America as Halloween with folks running around in costumes and saying “Trick of Treat.” They expect a treat but if they don’t get the treat, they are likely to cover the house with toilet paper or otherwise, do some other mischief to persons or property. Too, law enforcement personnel know that in offense, crimes such as poisoning candy, inserting razor blades in treats and candy snatching, have been committed on Halloween by otherwise law abiding citizens. Have you ever what makes this so?
Halloween means costumes and crowds. When people are dressed up in costumes and roam the streets in large groups just like in the days of its history, their identity is altered and noone knows who they are. This can result in antisocial behaviors. The larger the crowd, the greater the mayhem.
Also, in Psychology, we know that everything has meaning. Have you ever wondered what the costumes chosen reveals about the people underneath? The research shows that the costumes reveal your mental state, your interests, your mental assets or your deepest longings. Choosing and crafting a costume takes imagination and creativity. In times past, I have crafted a variety of costumes for myself. A Native American Maiden, a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar, and a bunch of grapes, a witch, all come to mind. Upon reflection, I get it. I recognize the developmental trends they represent.
Costumes are communication devices. They tell others something about you that on the surface, you may not have communicated. What’s on the surface, covers what’s underneath. According to Diane Roberts, “This isn't simple make-believe. The costume gives people power. I can put on my witch costume, heft up my power and no one can tell me what to do. Nobody tells Spider-Man, Sponger Bob or Minnie Mouse what time to go to bed or when to do homework. On Halloween, all the doors are open. The M&Ms, the Butterfingers, the Reese's Pieces, the full-size Snickers bars will be surrendered at lease for this one day. It's the same with grown people. They, too, want unaccustomed importance, beauty and power. On Halloween they can cast off that old, responsible, sensible, careful thinking self and become Batman, a vampire, a pirate, a super hero or a dirty traffic cop. Offensive costumes have become a part of the Halloween repertoire. Many people are choosing costumes such as domestic abuse victims, Ku Klux Klan members and the late Trayvon Martin. Author and advice columnist April Masini of AskApril.com says not having experienced specific pain can lead people to make their Halloween choices. Conversely, the comfort of familiarity can divide your boundaries. "It's like making bad jokes because you're either unfamiliar with the hurt that someone who's the butt of the joke may feel, or else because you come from a background that is abusive, and you're insensitive to the concerns of others and pass it forward because it’s normal to you."
These days, we think of Halloween as fun and family friendly. It takes all of us to keep it that way.
What’s a person to Do?
1. Consider the message you’re giving your children as you help them chose a costume. Make sure it’s what you mean to convey.
2. Go with your children (even the older ones) There is less mayhem when adults are present.
3. Evaluate your words, actions and choices. To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park, “Just because someone can do something doesn't mean they should."
4. Have a Happy Halloween
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for many years. She now lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.