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Why do so many LOVE Halloween?

They feel they have permission to be creative.

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In North America, Halloween has been a time when people of all ages can play with their creative inner child. Young and old take the opportunity to change from the humdrum of typical everyday life to see life from another perspective. Each year anyone can choose and create a new persona or setting. This temporary escape feeds the creative sides of our souls.

Halloween has always been a time that I have embraced my inner child. From childhood to young adulthood to parenting to teaching, it seems like Halloween has always had a feature spot as a yearly event. Even as a retiree living in a condo, I can’t help but offer treats to the kids in the building.

Way back in the ’60s, in my trick-or-treat era, people did not purchase costumes but made costumes from household items. A few children were lucky to have moms who would sew their costumes. I can remember around the end of September beginning to plan what I wanted to be that year. This month-long brainstorming was just as fun as the night of the big trick-or-treating. It was a month of chatting with friends dreaming up fun personas and scouring the closets to see if we could make any of our ideas a reality. When Halloween night rolled around, we were primed to hit the streets in our costumes with pillowcases. From grade four-ish onward, we would walk upwards to 2-3 hours filling at least one pillowcase if not more. I loved, (and still do) drama, dress-up and creating through costuming. A celebration of creativity for an entire month. Can you relate?

Aging as a teen into young adulthood didn’t stop me from participating in Halloween. I was either dressing up to greet trick-or-treaters or finding a party or event that I could attend in costume. I particularly enjoyed seeing the creativity displayed by friends who created some phenomenal homemade elaborate costuming. At this point, (‘70s into the early ‘80s), packaged costuming was becoming more readily available through party stores. Add to this, more Halloween marketing, and as the result, people were encouraged and lured into embracing their inner child. The celebration of Halloween and the creative spirit gained momentum. Several of my friends had decided that dressing up was no longer their thing, but I couldn’t be happier.

As a parent, I could wholeheartedly embrace the ‘spooky’ event. Now I could not only create my costume but decorate our front step and create costumes for the kids and for Mark. From my boy’s first Halloweens, they were dressed up. We would decorate the front step with a variety of themes each year and share in backyard kid parties, featuring themed games and foods. Oh yes, and let’s not forget about the yearly planning and carving of the household pumpkin. It was a time to create memories.

In school, Halloween is the ‘highest holiday’ for students. All kids can pretend to be something else, without the worry of teasing, or for the most part acceptability (yes, there are limits at school as to what is an appropriate costume for school). They can look and behave in ways that might be out of character, yet people accommodate and accept the dramatic change. Often staff create theme-based costumes. Typically students are excited to see their teachers in a more playful light. During the week or so leading up to October 31st, classrooms are busy with theme-based crafts. Many schools host a parade where all the classes parade through each room and march through the parent-filled gym. Last, we must not forget the classroom party, where creative activities keep the students engaged and giggling. As a teacher, Halloween is exhausting AND it is very fun. It was a day that I looked forward to year after year.

As a teacher and supporter of dramatic play and theatre, I also see October 31 as a time when students with special needs can don another persona, obtaining a respite from potential labels or preconceived labels which are barriers to equity and inclusion. Halloween allows all participating to be on equal footing. I encourage you to look at Teresa Hedley’s recent blog on how Erik, her son with autism has therapeutically used costuming.

Now as a retiree I get a chuckle out of the number of homeowners who are elaborately decorating their homes. During my daily walk I’ve noted several homes that have spent the month of October adding lights, skeletons, tombstones, hanging ghosts, spider webs, witches and more to their front yards to create a spooky atmosphere. The thrill of seeing the reactions from young and old pedestrians reinforces their efforts and becomes a celebration of creativity.

Halloween is a day when adults can embrace their creative inner child. It is a day when children can be their heroes, and engage in being something else (person, animal, object even place). It is a time when we are granted permission to creatively plan and play which in turn rejuvenates our souls.

Now to be fair, we may want to seek to understand, Why do so many hate Halloween? They feel overwhelming pressure to be creative. This is the topic of another blog post…;)

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