At Halloween, reality is altered by facing our fears, and ultimately, overcoming them, which is affirming and transformative unto itself. When dressing up in costumes, we show other sides of ourselves. Halloween, though, is not an escape from reality, but another reflection of it, different than what is usually presented. It is one night in which things need not be as they seem, when there can instead be some mystery and magic, a sense of the unknown under the veil of moonlight and stars illuminating masked trick-or-treaters who resemble masquerade party-goers of old, like those stepping out from carriages on their way into the ball in The Phantom of the Opera. Venturing into the unknown, however, calls for courage and belief, rather than doubt.
If everyday reality is regulated by social norms and categories, the fun-house mirror reflection of it that Halloween presents is one of whimsicality, a break from mundane routines. Differences are embraced, and each person can be their most vibrant and creative, finding their inner child again. In this, there is joy, making Halloween traditions into celebrated events that are renewed year after year, time and time again. These celebrations bring a warmth that is kept through the autumn, descending into winter, like a candle that still glows in a jack-o-lantern, a light still felt even after the festivities are over, the leaves have all been shed from the trees, and the nascent taste of snow is in the air.
Spring may be the season of rebirth, new life, resurrection from winter’s repose, but autumn is a season when life is changed, preserved, and appreciated, because in the turning of the leaves, we learn of metamorphosis, and further, of ephemera. The beauty of the leaves is savored, before they fall, and we continue on, doing what we can to hold onto such beauty, and our memories. We absorb the color and glory of life in the autumn, but from a wiser perspective than in the spring, when everything was young; in autumn, the senses are sharpened more acutely in the crisp air, and we more tangibly feel the movement of time, with all of its pirouettes that can too easily be missed if the eyes are not opened.
Celebrating Halloween allows for a last embrace of autumn’s lifegiving richness, a way to sustain its golden glow, and to more readily transition into winter, learning to find the beauty in all seasons, with all that they offer. Reality may be transformed at Halloween, when new ways of seeing and believing come alive — what with costumes, folklore, and legends — but ways of finding magic in everyday realities, and thus accepting them, are illuminated as well. Therefore, reality is not always transformed, so much as seen anew, through a lens of greater wisdom, along with respect for tradition. Reverence for the profound and transcendent, a kind of spiritual knowledge, is instilled.
The coming months of bare trees, icy frost, and cold, are met with greater resolution on this eve before the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, when we can let go of fear, being redeemed, and live life with a stronger sense of presence, consciousness, and prayerful wonder of beauty and faith without the inhibition of fears. We can thereby become more aware of time’s fluidity, non-linearity, and transience, the connections between ourselves and our ancestors, the time that has passed, and now, the fallen leaves sown back into the earth, that still are like garlands of blossoms on an altar, memories floating through the mind.
On Halloween, there is an air of possibility. There is the potential for self-discovery, as the costumes we choose — the ways in which we outwardly represent ourselves — reflect something of what we value, who we want to be, or how we wish to be perceived, which teaches us about who we are. Moreover, there is a reflection of our roots, and those who came before us, to shape our lives. While Halloween may seem to be a refuge in which there is the freedom to be someone besides our most familiar selves (i.e., someone new), perhaps rather than concealing ourselves under costumes, or trying to be someone else, the holiday allows us to further appreciate the nuances that make us unique, and be more compelled to be our authentic selves, without the fear of judgment that may initially lead one to assume a guise.
Looking back at the costumes worn each year, we see our growth over time, the changing of interests and seasons, but ultimately, we can appreciate how this growth contributed to where we are now, in our current reality. There is validation that in the future, we can overcome fear of change, and enjoy the journey of becoming who we are meant to be, living out our dreams, realizing the purpose that guides each of us, while celebrating the mystery of the unknown. In so doing, it is possible to continue positively transforming reality, long past Halloween, by making a meaningful impact on others and having faith, rather than devoting time to worrying, or trying to predict the course of events. Thus, the magic of Halloween lives on, permeating our realities.
Kathryn Sadakierski’s writing has appeared in Critical Read, Literature Today, NewPages Blog, Northern New England Review, Origami Poems Project, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing, Spillwords, The Decadent Review, The Voices Project, Visual Verse, and elsewhere. Her work is forthcoming in Auroras & Blossoms,Inkwell Literary Magazine (BLC),and seashores: an international journal to share the spirit of haiku.