Trick or Treat! It’s Anxiety!

There’s a photo floating around my parents’ house of me, age five, in full vampire costume. It was one of my proudest moments—even though it was probably June. Hello, my name is Locke, and I was a Halloween obsessed kid. I say “was,” not because I am no longer active in the holiday, but because Halloween has, to an extent, become exhausting.

Somewhere between social media, YouTubers, everyone becoming a “holiday expert,” holiday tech, and endless elaborate costumes, Halloween quit being about fun and started becoming a competition. Now, hear me out here, I still love Halloween—to the point I have a Halloween themed tattoo. I just got lost in the overwhelming pursuit for Halloween perfection—oh, and the fact that every retailer has Christmas decorations out by October 1.

If you can still find the colors of Halloween mixed in with the red and green, let’s start with how those decorations have changed. Not only have Halloween decorations extended beyond the realm of orange and black, everything is now themed. Do you want an overgrown conservatory? Maybe a haunted raven sanctuary? A fortune teller’s house? Perhaps an asylum—after all, you can find themed décor for all of these and more at any retailer.

Halloween decorating has gone super niche—and mass market. Props and products once made by DIYers in their garages are now mass-produced, giving everyone equal opportunity to be the cool house on the block. Add in a dash of competition, the crippling grip of social media, and an entire generation overthinking simple things such as, “Does this cauldron read witch or wizard when I put it on a purple tablecloth?,” and you have the foundation for an over complicated holiday.

House taken care of? Best house on the block? Ok, post it on Instagram and immediately realize the mass amount of homes that not only have better decorations but are inherently spookier than yours. Great! Let’s move onto the next task—candy.

Are you giving out candy? What about prizes for kids with allergies? What about sensory specific prizes for kids with sensory disorders? Is it vegan—no, is it organic? Do you have the right ratio of chocolate to candy—or is it just fruit and veggie crisps? Be careful, the neighborhood is judging. Oh, what about pet treats—they’re family now, too. Did you forget the Halloween dog bones?

Ok, looks like you have everything under control. Oh—costumes, you almost forgot.  Are you going traditional, maybe a vampire or a witch? Are you going, perhaps, in a sexy costume—as a sexy crayon or a sexy ghost? Maybe you can take one of those internet memes and make a costume out of—never mind…everyone’s moved on past that idea already. All of this, combined with the Millennial crusade for authenticity, and you have a high-pressure scenario to show up photo ready and in something nobody has ever seen before.

The problem here is that we’ve factored everything into Halloween except the fun. As a holiday that has no emotional weight on togetherness and family, we’ve put the emphasis around Halloween on one of showmanship. Halloween has become an opportunity to take things to an extreme—your costume, treats, home—even your pet. It’s a permission slip that gives us the opportunity to one-up each other, and in turn, immediately suck all the fright, fun, and silliness out of the holiday itself.

So, this year, amidst the Instagram posts and parties I’ve already got on my schedule, I have to remind myself that, at the end of the day, I am a 36-year-old man dressed up in a costume—and most importantly, I’m here to have fun.