Halloween is America’s third favorite holiday, just after Christmas and Thanksgiving. (See the whole list after the jump.) Halloween used to be a holiday mainly for children dressing up and going trick-or-treat, but now it has been seized by adults, who also like to dress up and scare themselves. Why do you think Halloween has become so popular in our culture? Is there something about American individualism that makes us enjoy dressing up, putting on a mask, and pretending to be someone else? I hear that the big Halloween dress-up thing for this year is to make yourself up to look like an Ebola victim. The Halloween vogue would appear to be related to the aesthetics of darkness and horror that seem to be dominant in our popular culture, judging from our movies, books, films, art, television shows, and video games. This would seem to accord with what the recent pope called our current “culture of death.” Maybe death provides the mystery, the sense of the uncanny, the non-rational emotions even though they be horrific, that can substitute for the mystery, the sense of the supernatural, and the religious experiences associated with a transcendent faith.
I don’t intend to take an anti-Halloween stance, as such, in this post. I’m just curious why the holiday has jumped ahead of Easter, patriotic holidays like the 4th of July, and even people’s birthdays in popularity. What significance do you see in this? [Read more…]