” If you need ideas — it’s Halloween which evidently is the entire month of October now. “

This is a line Audrey Kearns, editor of GGA, included in an email to me asking if I had any pitches for a new article. I was going to do a book review, but this sentiment stuck to my mind like caramel to an apple. It’s something I’ve seen echoed on social media, either as condemnation or celebration, myself firmly the latter.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Maybe, as a child, a couple of the gift receiving holidays slipped in with a tie for first, but purely for materialistic reasons. Halloween was the only one I ever got into The Spirit™ of.  That night held real magic for me. But just the one night. At least, that’s how I recall it.

Has Halloween always been a month long celebration? I know Christmas was, growing up. The songs and the specials and the egg nog and the snow, all leading up to the 24th and 25th of December. A final star on top of a month long pine tree. And while Halloween decorations, scary movie marathons, and forced advertising wordplay (“Sales so low they’re scary!”. Really?) began week one of October, it never felt like I was actively celebrating Halloween until the actual day. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m jumping at shadows, but I don’t think so.

Let’s talk about Hocus Pocus.

About five or six years ago I noticed Hocus Pocus had somehow become a cult classic. I’m not saying it doesn’t deserve to be loved like it is, obviously. I saw it in theaters with my mom when it came out in 1993. It’s a very fond memory and a delightful movie. But it wasn’t on everyone’s list, at least I don’t recall it being. I liked it, even though I only had seen it the once. Then, seemingly suddenly, everyone was talking about it every October. It was a beloved staple. Why? What was I missing? Why didn’t it stick with me the way it had stuck with the new crop of younger people around me?

I did some research (a single Google search) and discovered it was part of the ABC Family Channel’s 13 Nights of Halloween in the early 2000’s. Kristy Puchko wrote a comprehensive article about that last year, for The Nerdist. You should definitely check it out, as that’s not what this is about. 

What this is about is me being blindsided and lost. My favorite holiday in my favorite season had redefined itself, in a small but significant way, while I hadn’t been paying attention.

Christmas was the winter holiday we celebrated when I was a kid. It’s an easy holiday to celebrate, no matter how spiritually you’re connected to its origins. Its gifts, its family or friends, its chestnuts roasting on an open fire. At its core, it’s a warm comfort against the cold.

Halloween’s popularity lies somewhere else. Certainly there’s the warm comfort of family; trick or treating, costume parties, the safe, PG-13 skeleton thumb tacked to the wall. But the association with the devil and proximity to two bank holidays steeped in family values always left it as winter’s middle child. The de facto activity was either collecting or distributing candy. And there’s the rub.

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I don’t want to dance around the word ‘millennial’, but I can’t ignore it. Times are changing, as they always are. The wheel turns. This article posed a question I don’t have the answer to: how am I supposed to celebrate Halloween? That wasn’t rhetorical. I’m actually searching for an answer. There is no Christmas conundrum. It’s a holiday that any age group or social dynamic can incorporate. You give gifts, wear ugly sweaters, and have a large swath of music to cultivate playlists from. (Brief aside, how come there aren’t more Halloween songs? Monster Mash is doing a lot of heavy lifting.) Halloween has a much harder line to cross. If you’re a child you dress up and go door to door getting free candy, and if you’re an adult you escort the children, or pass out the candy.

But I don’t have kids. I don’t really want kids. There’s not really an option for me to continue the holiday tradition without them though. The implication of aging is that if I want to participate I have to give candy to any children who ring my bell or…throw a party with my friends? Seek out a local haunted house? Stay up watching scary movies? I’m not sure. Which brings us, finally, to my question. There’s no gap year for Halloween. I’m supposed to stop trick or treating at around puberty. I know, because I’ve gone trick or treating off and on since high school, and every house has some comment about how I’m too old for it. They still give me and my friends candy, but at 33, it’s getting hard to ignore the comments.

So this year, I don’t know if I’m going to go trick or treating on Halloween. I know I’m not going to throw a party and bob for apples. I watch scary movies all the time, so doing it on the 31st doesn’t feel like a “celebration”. I doubt I’m even going to have a bowl of candy ready to pass out to the kids who live in my apartment building. Because I don’t want to. That’s not what Halloween is for me. What I really want to do is put on a really cool, scary costume and walk through neighborhoods decked out in spider webs and flashing lights. I want to walk through the night seeing everyone else’s awesome costumes and get free candy from as many houses as I can. Because I love creative costumes and I love candy. I love Halloween decorations and feeling like maybe, for one night, being afraid of ghosts and monsters is encouraged and safe and maybe also a little real.

But I can’t. Not comfortably. And that’s why Halloween lasting an entire month sticks with me. Because what used to be one night of just a few short hours of spooky magic has changed. Trick or treating isn’t really for adults, but having a big party with booze and costumes based on puns and Nightmare On Elm Street playing on the TV isn’t what the holiday means to me either. So rather than choose between cramming myself into a box meant for children or pretending not to be bored of the watered down adult version of Halloween, I, like many of you, will choose to make all of October Halloween. I will take what was once a concentrated night of candy and costume and scares and stab an orange and black IV drip that will last 31 days into my arm. I will make one night last for a month, because I honestly don’t know any other way to celebrate my favorite holiday anymore.

Time passed, I got older, and I somehow got befuddled and left behind by Halloween’s hocus pocus.

Travis McMaster