Halloween traditions warped by American culture

By BenitaZepeda

By the week of Halloween, most people have found their costumes, purchased candy for trick-or-treaters and established where the Oct. 31 partying will take place.

The second-largest commercial holiday in the U.S. has had society smitten with the idea of spending a night as someone—or something—else for many decades. But the Halloween I know as a 21-year-old is very different from the one I knew as a child.

Nonetheless, I have a tight bond with this consumer’s holiday. I love to dress up, I still adore candy and I survive the stresses of college with an occasional party or two.  But Halloween as an adult is not as awesome as what I remember.

Each year as a child, I would pick out a new costume and parade it around my neighborhood seeking every last bit of candy I could get my hands on—enough to send me into diabetic distress.

Now I tend to opt for the “less popular” costumes each year. For instance, one year I was a hillbilly, where I donned massive fake boobs and butt, a mullet, white tank top, overalls and nasty, fake teeth.  I actually won best costume for that because I was “not wearing a slutty costume like every other girl at the party.”

I get odd looks when I choose costumes that actually look like what they are supposed to be.  Yes, I am guilty of wearing clothing as my costume during the harsh Chicago weather.  Lingerie has become the fashion staple for Halloween and with that lack of clothing this year, I have been asking myself, “Will slutty Halloween costumes be conducive to catching H1N1?”

Halloween is one of the most popular holidays of the year and it’s pretty obvious why. For one, it isn’t a holiday that you need to go home and spend with your family. Second, as an adult, Halloween has become just another excuse to get incredibly wasted in a funny costume, or like I said, without much of a real costume on at all.

But Halloween celebrations in America date back to the 19th century. The holiday didn’t start to resemble what we know it as today until the 1920s, and it continued to evolve through the 1950s.

Today, this holiday has been hijacked as the world’s largest frat party. Many men get drunk wearing generally funny costumes, like giant condom wrappers, while some women are dressed as sexy cops or firefighters, representing those occupations in the most “realistic” light possible.

I could have dressed super provocatively for Halloween if I wanted to. I understand that if I want to be a mouse, all I need is lingerie and mouse ears.  If I want to be a cat, all I need is lingerie and cat ears.  If I want to be a cop, all I need is handcuffs and … well, I think you understand.

Halloween has shifted away from what it originally was—celebrating all things scary and dead.  I rarely see terrifying costumes when I make my rounds at Halloween parties, and it seems like more adults are shifting away from scary and slipping into something a bit sexier.  There is a reason Lover’s Lane and other sex shops have entire Halloween costume sections.  The holiday has begun fulfilling sexual fantasies instead of glorifying Casper the Friendly Ghost or Dracula.

This makes me wonder if the consumer-driven holiday has been ingeniously molded by the male psyche in such a patriarchal society. I doubt that many women actually want to look like a drunken piece of meat walking down the street, but then again, it is Halloween. It’s a chance to slip out of character and be the seductress you always wanted to be.

Even though the adult version of the holiday is less innocent than original traditions intended, I still participate, but in a way that I feel at ease with. My Halloween costume this year isn’t lingerie and animal ears, and if I were still younger and had the time, I would be going trick-or-treating for candy.

The obsession our society has with Halloween is understandable because it is fun and some costumes can be hilarious. Girls don’t have to become sluts for a night and your inner kid can still come out for one day of the year.