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Hello, Halloween

By Bill Andrews
CAMPUS LIFE EDITOR

Happy Halloween! For many people here@mit.edu, Halloween is a great time, and not just because it’s the one day many of us look normal. And no, it’s more than just seeing girls in skirts for probably the last time till April (alas). I’m sure I speak for all of us Tech men and women when I say that Halloween rocks because of its rich, historical traditions. I mean, how can history not rock? (I know the geologists are with me on this).

Indeed, this is a holiday roughly 9.6615 times as old as the United States. And that’s just the official “Catholics started doing it” date; when Pope Gregory III established Nov. 1 as All Saints day in the eighth century, the Celtic ritual of Samhain had already been going strong for untold centuries. Untold, at least, in the Wikipedia article where I read all this.

Thus for (non-integer values of) millennia, Halloween (coming from the much-too-long “All Hallow’s Even”) has been a time of spooky scares, of the dead coming into contact with the living, and of mourning the passage of summer (and mini-skirts) and the inevitable coming of winter. A few centuries ago (one, to be specific), the tradition of begging for candy became especially popular on this continent, since kids needed something to take their mind off all the doom and gloom. Things were different back then, as kids weren’t really into “goth” or being “dark,” just like women back then weren’t allowed to “vote.” Talk about scary.

But, after much suffering and suffrage, Halloween emerged in the 1950s to become what it is today: a crazily over-commercialized stop between back-to-school sales and Thanksgiving. I’d be angry about a serious, spiritual holiday turning into an excuse to buy stuff, except that by now it’s a tradition for me, and you know how we all like traditions. For as long as I can remember, all of October was merely a buildup to Halloween; I’d go shopping for candy with my mom and carve a pumpkin (recently bought, of course) with my dad. That’s what the day’s all about for me, none of that goofy spiritual stuff.

Nowadays, of course, the kids are taking it too far (as always). I see costumes on racks for such seminal figures as Spongebob Squarepants, or George W. Bush, for kids who just want to be cute or terrifying (respectively). Where’s the originality in that? Where’s the creativity? Now, if I see a Spongebob W. Bush walking around, that’d be something; knowing kids today, though, I’m not holding my breath.

Worse yet, youngsters nowadays, in an effort to look tough despite owning two cellphones and an iPod, smash all the pumpkins in sight, turning a once-respectable neighborhood into an orgy of orange entrails. Now, when I was a kid, you’d smash one, maybe two pumpkins, and call it a night; these kids just get carried away, and don’t know when to stop. It’s no wonder they’re all coke-fiends and pregnant, at least according to certain political parties.

Anyway, we’re @mit.edu, and thus pretty far removed from society in general, and youth culture in particular. My first year here (admittedly, when Massachusetts was still a colony) I wasn’t expecting to make much of Halloween. That’s kid stuff, after all, and here was I, a bright, young-yet-mature college student. By the time Halloween actually rolled around, though, I realized the error of my ways, and threw together an “American tourist” costume, thus enabling me not only to gain easy access to all the parties on campus (and thus the few remaining skirted legs), but also to continue a tradition which, even now, has remained unbroken. Every Halloween, since I was in kindergarten, I’ve dressed up as something unique and different, and though she’s never said it, I suspect that’s part of why my fianc e fell in love with me.

But worry not! If you’ve let your own tradition lapse, or perhaps if you’re from another country and unfamiliar with this goofiness we call Halloween, or if maybe you’re just lame, there’s still hope! You could always run to the Garment District real quick, grab a hat and coat or something, and bam! you’re a pimp. Or, if you’re really strapped for time, just rifle through your roommate’s things and become someone else. If you’re one of those uber-clever people who doesn’t dress up but still expects to be taken seriously because you’re “an undercover agent” or you’re “a college kid,” that just won’t cut it. Do whatever it takes not only to feel good about yourself on this auspicious occasion, but to keep me entertained in class today. And ladies, you know what to do: wear short skirts, and vote!