Stress levels are high at the University of Michigan as midterm season is in full swing. As you spend endless hours cramming information in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library and try your best to remember what it feels like to study for an in-person exam, take solace in the fact that we are officially in what is the best time of the year: spooky season. I argue that Halloween, to the surprise of absolutely nobody who knows me, is the best holiday ever created. From its fascinating origins to now, Halloween is something that I fervently believe can bring joy to anyone in some way or another.
Halloween historically refers to the night before the Christian celebration of the departed: “All Saints’ Day.” Its origins are also linked to the Celtic festival, Samhain, which celebrates a time where mythology posits that the separation between the spirit world and the mortal world is lessened. Over time, Halloween has transitioned into a secular holiday; it is celebrated around the world and has adopted a very unique identity of everything from jack-o-lanterns to haunted hayrides. This is not to say that there is anything negative about sacred holidays like Christmas or Yom Kippur or Ramadan, but I love the inclusivity of Halloween. It doesn’t matter what religion you choose to identify with (if you identify with any), or what part of the world you live in. Something about the sights, sounds and smells of spooky season just emanate serotonin. Especially in a world where we are already so divided, it is relieving to see people collaboratively celebrating something independent of their personal identification.
Speaking more specifically to the assets of spooky season, it would be impossible to avoid the main event: trick-or-treating. I remember the last year I went trick-or-treating. It was melancholy and a bit strange; my friends and I almost silently acknowledged that it was our last year. It’s something you graduate from, in a way, but what was reassuring and an imperative point to my argument is that while you may outgrow conventional trick-or-treating, the costumes and candy prevail as long as you would like them to (which in my case will certainly be forever). The concept of wearing costumes, in and of itself, is extremely beneficial for ones mental health. There are a lot of psychological benefits to revisiting your inner child by dressing up — both in an imaginative and introspective way. Society deems certain actions, behaviors and ideas as correct or incorrect, and in doing so systematically categorizes human beings into various boxes; this puts a great deal of stress and pressure on individuals to live within predetermined boundaries of existence. In the endless battle of fighting societal norms, dressing up is a time to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Ultimately, it is the construct of societal roles and the stressors that accompany the daily struggle of fitting within those cages that underscore the irrefutable awesomeness of spooky season.
Oftentimes, allowing yourself to take life a bit less seriously leads to an opportunity to truly enjoy the world around you. It goes without saying that costumes are an incredible way to try out something new. You can dress as someone from a movie or book you love, or make a group and dress with friends; the floor is wearing a “This is my Halloween costume” T-shirt and the ceiling is non-existent. Of course, make sure to be respectful in your costume choice. Be mindful of dressing up in any way that might be disrespectful or misrepresentative of a culture or character; use your best judgment.
Beyond the chance to essentially dress up in whatever costume you want, Halloween is also foundationally a day to give, receive and eat candy. I don’t really see how anyone could find anything controversial about candy unless you are literally an anti-sugar, fun-sucking human. Unlike the often-debated Thanksgiving cuisine or Valentine’s Day conversation hearts, Halloween candy is unanimously fun. For some reason, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (pronounced ree–suhz rather than ree-sees, for clarification) simply taste better when they are shaped like pumpkins. On ending the subject of candy, the ultimate staple of Halloween delicacies is, arguably, candy corn. In the wise words of Eli Rallo, Michigan Daily alum and TikTok star (@thejarr), candy corn is in, “(don’t be immature).”
As someone who grew up in New Jersey, I remember the year Halloween was “canceled” in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. That may have been the year I also realized how much the magic of spooky season was previously taken for granted. In the wake of the pandemic, perhaps it’s time for everyone to do the same. Take a moment and appreciate the beautiful changing leaves in Ann Arbor, find a costume (or costumes) to be chaotic and express your creativity, eat candy corn and watch scary movies. Try to reconcile the slow and steady end of turbulence as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” With pumpkin spice essentially flowing through my veins and “Jack’s Lament” on repeat, I am beyond ready for the indisputably most wonderful time of the year: spooky season.
Jess D’Agostino is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.