Don’t start crying, Halloween is here.
The most glorious, ridiculous, fabulous, guilt-free, inspiring, creative, fun holiday we offer in modern American society comes to town this weekend. With the actual date of Oct. 31 falling on Sunday those of bar-going age get a Saturday night to party on, while an early evening at the end-of-the-weekend offers trick-or-treating youngsters a chance to get the candy-collecting job done. But whenever the actual date falls, people commemorate this most peculiar of celebrations however they can with gusto and joy, using a no-holds-barred approach paired to a determination not always seen in other observances.
Why do I find this holiday the most attractive of all on our Western calendar? As I expressed in my superlative-filled sentence above, the day’s charm comes from the many and varied emotions and reactions wrought by the strangeness of the event. I appreciate the silliness of dressing up in costume and the creativeness inspired by the opportunity. Obviously this transformation of self into another being through alteration of dress and makeup strikes a chord within the basic human spirit as witnessed through time immemorial. Not only do what we call “native” or “primitive” cultures (what’s left of them) find pleasure and purpose in “dressing up,” our more “civilized” (that’s a questionable term in my book) nations certainly place a good deal of pride and a particular amount of importance in wearing outfits and altering appearances. Of course we do this every day in using apparel-oriented uniforms, from the suit-n-tie version to ones with guns, belts and badges or even bib overalls and flannel shirts, high heels and short skirts or leather chaps and do-rags.
What I find so fascinating about Halloween comes through releasing those not normally comfortable in becoming something or somebody else by providing an open invitation to alter an appearance without repercussions from a structured and inhibited society. Do you think for a moment someone dressed up like Barbie, a zombie or George W. Bush could or would walk around town like nothing is peculiar about it, on a day other than Halloween? Not likely to happen my friends, and if it did we’d think those costumers bonkers. So most importantly I am thrilled we give ourselves a day to go crazy and release our inner whatevers for a while and not make a big deal about it.
Those who try to tie the religious noose around the neck of Halloween need to read up on history like those who try to say the Christmas season is only about the birth of Jesus. You do know that Dec. 25 was picked by early church fathers to fit in with a pagan party already established by the Romans and there is no record anywhere of the actual birth date of a little baby Jesus, don’t you? Much the same can be applied to Halloween, a sacred day to practicing pagans for millennia and introduced to our culture by the Roman Catholic Church choosing All Saints Day to be on Nov. 1, making All Hallow’s Eve a night to address other issues. But never fear folks, the celebration has been around long before the Christian era gave new names to old observances and stands a good chance of outliving these times, continuing to infuse, arouse, enthuse and also confuse the human being passing through this inexplicable universe of divine dimensions.
I said all that to say this: nearly every watering hole in central Illinois and beyond celebrates Halloween with costume contests, drink specials, live music showings (Cynthia has the lone karaoke Halloween doings) and other assorted and possibly sordid happenings on Saturday night. Even St. Agnes and First Pres are sporting spooky presentations and Rocky Horror returns to the “Horrible Hoog” for a theatrical scare. My contribution came in lassoing Tom “Dooley” Woolsey into playing with the Raouligans on Sunday night for Halloween at the Brewhaus. Now that’s frightening.
Contact Tom Irwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.