Why does Halloween “feel” different from other holidays? Why do so many people have a motto of “Halloween is every day”? What is it that causes tangible changes in our minds and emotions as the seasons change and October 31st approaches. What happens to us? It’s all tied up in the mass psychology of creating Halloween.
Because that’s what we do. We “create” Halloween in ways unlike any other holiday. Even that time of year which is specifically called the “Holday Season”, leading up to Christmas, doesn’t quite feel this way. Why is that?
It’s due to the fact that Halloween has no single anchor. It doesn’t belong to any religion. (Some Neopagan groups attach it to its likely predecessor, the Druidic holiday of Samhain. But even there, most Neopagans gravitate towards the same cultural iconography as the rest of the country, even those who spend the night in ritual instead of trick-or-treating.) Halloween has commercial power, as do most holidays in America, but it’s neither driven by finance, nor inimical to it; in other words, Halloween would do just fine if every bar in the city didn’t have its own Halloween Party; but those parties help fuel the cultural zeitgeist which makes “Halloween”.
What does it mean to be allowed–encouraged–to wear masks for a night? What does it mean to permit ourselves to feel that the barriers between the tangible and the mystical may not be as solid as we tend to believe? What does it mean to challenge and embrace the night with a combination of the fear of a million ghost stories, and the joy of casual pleasures? To mix our fear of the grave with our enjoyment of novelty cocktails?
Everything. We participate in months of build-up, not for a single cause or group or religion, but for the creation of that very special and very unique feeling which is Halloween. And we can take pride in it–because we made it together.
Halloween belongs to “us”–the people who made it, the people who love it, the people who participate in it. In an age of complexity and disharmony, we get to have a holiday which falls along no party lines, obeys no political or social agenda, and yet one which instills in us a feeling of connection with the rest of the world.
That’s a very powerful Halloween magic, indeed.