Halloween: the word brings to mind pumpkin carving, costume parties and bags filled with bite size candies. This holiday has existed for years, but what does it mean to people? What does it mean to college students, specifically? Is it about facing one’s fears, celebrating the dead, eating so much candy that your stomach feels as though it is going to explode or does it lose its touch over time? I took all those things into consideration and decided to chase these questions till they peed themselves.
Halloween in the United States comes from the Irish and Scottish immigrants that arrived in the United States during the 13 colonies and throughout history. In old times, All Hallows Eve was celebrated Oct. 31, the day before All Souls Day was celebrated, with the basic ideals of the holidays originating from Christianity.
Trick-or-treating did not go hand in hand with Halloween until the early 1930’s, the first use of the term in a federal publication being in 1939. The modern idea of Halloween has now been around for close to a century and has become a 2.3 billion dollar holiday.
Candy companies began to profit through fear, as the word ‘trick’ in trick-or-treating means that the trick-or-treaters will prank, egg or teepee your house if you don’t give them a ‘treat’. Candy companies would say, “If you don’t want your house to be tricked then buy some treats!”
During the later 1900’s, candy began to see a shift as Art Spiegelman, the future creator of Maus and receiver of the Pulitzer Prize, got together with Topp, chewing gum, candy and card maker, to create sweets that would revolutionize candy: Garbage Candy, Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids. They realized that kids love gross imagery as sweets. But as I interviewed college students, the air of youthfulness that once surrounded the word Halloween seems to have drifted away.
For 20-year-old Fahbej Allen, Halloween doesn’t hold much importance. “It’s not that I don’t care,” Allen said, “It was just never a big thing for me. Plus, not all neighborhoods are safe enough to go out at night and participate.” Allen’s position is justified.
According to statistics by James Alan Fox, a professor at Boston’s Northeastern University, crime increases by almost 50 percent on Oct. 31 in Boston. Cities have taken steps to fight this. In New York, all sex offenders in parole must stay in their house on Oct. 31 from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning, while the NYPD sometimes makes random house-calls to make sure they abide by the rule.
But even those that are able to participate safely feel indifferent. One of the questions I asked was, “If Halloween were outlawed for any reason, would you defend it?” Almost all said they wouldn’t try too hard. “I would not, I don’t really care,” said 21-year-old Katya Davis, “there are more important things.”
Even though she felt apathetic towards the idea of making Halloween illegal, Davis said she will still try to find something to do; “I’ll either stay home and watch something…or go out with friends.”
Another question of concern with the age limit of trick-or-treaters. “I think there is an age limit…16 is probably a good limit,” said 20-year-old Larry Almanzar.
“I don’t think so,” Allen said, “ultimately, it’s up to me whether I want to give out my candy and to who.”
Twenty-year-old Luke Stout, had a more individual, trick-or-treater perspective to the question. “I think it’s up to the person. If they want to, then by all means, but I see that as more of a ‘before college’ thing.”
Most college students will dress up and go to parties with friends, as kids and parents fill the streets and sidewalks. At the end of the day, time passes and so does the demeanor towards certain things. Halloween is viewed as a ‘before the times’ type of holiday, and wouldn’t cause too much havoc if it were outlawed for whatever reason.
To college students, the reason to celebrate this holiday does not seem to go much further past candy and children trick or treating.