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Boo! Why We Still Love Halloween.
Posted: 10/29/2012 | Giggling Buddha Comments
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It’s that time of year again, when we dress up in costumes, hand out candy, and indulge in all things “scary.”  Most of us have fond memories of trick-or-treating as kids, but why do we love it as grown ups? A whopping 1.21 billions dollars is spent on Halloween costumes for adults, yearly. And we eat about 1.2 pounds of candy each on this day, every year. (Of course, who can refuse that much chocolate?) 

Rooted in Pagan and other religious traditions, this unofficial holiday has become a largely non-secular tradition. What do we get from it?  Once a year, we can safely act out our fantasies, vanquish our fears, and express inner qualities we often hide. While we sometimes dress up in funny costumes, the scary ones still lead the trends. Here’s why we love dressing up:
We can ridicule our fear. Our lives are stressful, and we deal with fear and anxiety on a daily basis. Dressing up as something scary helps us process, however subconsciously, the stuff that scares us most. Zombies continue to be popular costumes. If you Google, “Bed Bug Halloween Costume” you’ll end up with 199,000 results. Why are they scary? They hide during the day and attack us as we sleep. Halloween invites us to look at our fear of death. We also might process our fears of losing control or just being different. 
We can express what’s missing. Subconsciously, we can project onto our costume qualities we repress in our everyday lives. Ever notice how many women like to dress in skimpy, seductive, and racy costumes? It may be they suppress their bold, sexual selves at work and at home. Finding their inner vamp is exciting and validating, and it’s o.k. to wear at parties what you’d never wear at the office or a PTA meeting. Dressing as a superhero (the #1 costume rental) might express the courage, strength, and desire to save the world, qualities we may not ordinarily recognize in ourselves.
We can also express values or opinions we don’t normally externalize. We can mock authority figures or show off our knowledge by referencing a current event in the news. We can appear smart, hip, tough, childlike or mean, depending upon our needs. A witch is more than a witch. She’s a woman who doesn’t pretend to be nice. Costumes help us express a freedom we wish could always have.
We get to be anonymous. We can step beyond cultural constraints, and what we perceive as normal, when we’re wearing a mask. Ordinary rules and social constructs are lifted on Halloween, and behind a costume, we’re braver and don’t fear judgment quite as much. A guy who spends his day in business casual, sitting behind a computer for hours, can boldly jump, holler and cavort in a gorilla suit. No one will think he’s weird.
We can safely act out our fantasies. Who doesn’t sometimes wish they could be a beautiful princess, a bold lion-tamer, or a super hero? Halloween gives us permission to express anything we’ve ever dreamed of, or have been afraid to pursue. Amelia Earhart, Bill Gates, or Barack Obama might all link to our desire to be adventurous, rich and powerful. Or, we might fantasize about returning to childhood and our innocence. Think of that the next time you see a Little Bo Peep costume.
Halloween permits us to explore and celebrate our darker, mysterious nature. The spooky atmosphere excites us. We can step outside of our conventional paradigm and flirt with our fears. Keep in mind, while you might feel a little wild, our behavior can follow us to our jobs and our families. Enjoy your scary evening, but play safe. While it’s great to indulge in fantasy, it’s still just that: a fantasy. 
Have a safe and thrilling Halloween!

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