Some of the Reasons I Don’t Do Halloween.

Via Joslyn Hamilton
on Oct 24, 2010
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I have a personal October 31st tradition of hiding in a dark house praying the doorbell doesn’t ring.

Like many people, the holidays depress me. It’s not the decline in the weather, or the waning light and how it affects my S.A.D. It’s not that I’m single and live 3,000 miles from my family and sometimes end up spending holidays alone.

It’s the garbage.

The sheer landfill-bound waste of it all. Every year around this time, the plethora of fugly, cringe-inducing Halloween décor starts to hit the streets, kicking off the big ol’ wasteful consumer-America holiday season. Suddenly, there is future garbage everywhere in sight: globs of cotton hanging from the trees like big phony fog; tacky plastic pumpkins on doorsteps; cheap kids’ costumes in overpackaged boxes hanging off the edge of pharmacy shelves, begging you to buy them for one-time use.

The other day, I saw a couple of kids in Whole Foods wearing their Halloween costumes a good week ahead of time. I asked one of the boys—he looked to be six or seven— about his football player costume. He informed me that this was not his “real” costume. His “real” costume hadn’t arrived yet—it was a mail order Dearth Maul getup. Of course, he explained, he couldn’t wear that to his school Halloween party, because it was against the rules to wear a scary mask. So, he would be saving Dearth Maul for trick or treating, and had a third costume lined up for the school function. Three costumes. The kid is ripe for Burning Man.

I myself have never been a costume party girl.

Costume parties feel like a lot of pressure to me. It’s hard enough to be comfortable being myself—now you want me to be comfortable pretending to be someone else too? I’m not a performer, never have been. I always feel like a giant conspicuous asshole when I am forced to dress up, even if everyone else is dressed up too. I really can’t hang.

And if I’m going to be honest, I have to admit that Halloween kind of scares me. There’s an ominous vibe to the season that makes me want to hide out in my “safe place” (the library), curled up with a novel, ignoring the fact that the days are getting shorter and chillier and that the rowdy are on the prowl.  I admit that I have a strong imagination that I don’t always use for good, but when Halloween looms on the horizon, I start to feel insecure. Plots of Stephen King horror movies play out in my subconscious, and I become extremely anxious every time I find myself in an everyday situation like waiting in a car (is there a rabid dog encircling?) or meet someone’s sister while she is watching tv (will she have a face?). I’m on edge, let’s put it that way.

Also, on a more practical note, when it comes to Halloween evening itself, handing out candy to children just feels kinda wrong. On the other hand, handing out wholesome all-natural treats seems radically lame and unpopular. I don’t want to be that adult. So, I abstain from participating in the great trick-or-treating tradition.

I admit that most of my disdain toward Halloween is more about personal taste and cowardice than enviro-spiritual conviction, but there you have it: the reasons why, once again, I’ll be spending Halloween lurking alone in a dark room, quietly watching tv in smug satisfaction.

Cheeky illustration uptop by Vanessa Fiola:


About Joslyn Hamilton

Joslyn Hamilton is a freelance writer living in beautiful Marin County, California. She is one of the co-founders of Recovering Yogi and also launched Creative Truth or Dare. Joslyn has an imaginary spice + skincare line called SimpleBasic. She is a functioning craftaholic and counts hiking, cooking, reading and rabid tweeting among her many chaste vices. Reach her directly at [email protected]


39 Responses to “Some of the Reasons I Don’t Do Halloween.”

  1. buzzie says:

    I absolutely agree on every account. At least you can hide. If I turn off the light and do not participate every neighbor and kid on my street will hate me and tell everyone in town. Peer pressure alone keeps me running to the door for three hours and oohing and ahhing at all the little hobgoblins allowing them to grab more treats than is their fair share and gently admonishing them to "take only one please, there are lots of other kids coming".

    I have been invited to several parties where I am supposed to wear pajamas. Pajamas? Huh? Do not invite me, I will never, ever go to a party in my P.J.'s. Not that I have any, anyway. I hope that you have not had this misfortune. Good post, and Happy Halloween!

  2. Lisa says:

    I agree with you. I really love seeing kids dressed up. In my neighbourhood, we don't get a lot of trick-or-treaters- we moved to a house (!!) here last year after years of apartment dwelling, and the prospect of kids coming by for Halloween made me feel grown up and excited. Since we discovered we don't get a lot of kids coming by our 'hood last year for our first "house" Halloween, I think I'll copy you and just buy full size chocolate bars. Thanks for the idea!

  3. neil galland says:

    Amazing you are still single, you seem like a barrel of laughs…just kidding, don't hide in a dark house. Mardis Gras, Purim, Halloween, you put on a mask to admit that everyday you already wear a mask, and give yourself permission to take it off.

  4. Haha. Just for the record, I am not "still single." I am just single.

    I like your take on the mask thing though.

  5. anniegirl1138 says:

    My daughter has multiple costumes. They are the one "toy" I don't mind buying because she wears and rewears them all the rest of the year. I prefer costumes as toys. They fuel her imagination in a way and let her try on all the personas that we are forced to put away as we grow up.

    The decorations are overkill and wasteful – depending on your approach (recycling vs buying) but candy in moderation is fine, and for a shy person like me, trick or treat is one of the "meet and greet" the neighbors that has the least amount of pressure.

    It's all how you look at things. Half full or half empty.

  6. neil galland says:

    good clarification. I am glad you enjoyed my comment….I had a little post comment post regret thinking maybe I was walking a fine line : ) I gleaned my "take", from a Rabbi in Boulder during her sermon the week before Purim. Happy Halloween.

  7. liska says:

    " I always feel like a giant conspicuous asshole when I am forced to dress up, even if everyone else is dressed up too. I really can’t hang."


    I stopped giving out candy two short years after I purchased my house because none of the neighborhood kids even bothered to dress up before demanding treats. When I'd ask what they were supposed to be (in jeans and a hoodie), the answer would often as not be "a pimp." It was just too depressing to bother.

  8. Charlotte says:

    I really enjoyed Halloween as a kid and when I was in college. I went to school at IU-Bloomington, and Halloween was like a season there. However, my three roommates and I did not buy different costumes for each night we went out. We borrowed each other's costumes so that we could dress up differently each night. It was fun.

    Now, if I stay home on Halloween night, I give out fruit leather. The kids like it and the leftovers are relatively healthy.

  9. barb says:

    If you are ever forced to attend a costume party, wear your heart on your sleeve and dress as a giant conspicuous asshole!

  10. Andrew says:

    I agree. I hate dressing up/costuming. I will though carve a pumpkin and hand out candy to little kids.

  11. Blake says:

    I wear a costume everyday. I like Halloween because it allows me to finally wear the costume I want!

  12. Brandi says:

    Can you name another holiday tradition that brings entire communities together in the spirit of giving without discrimination? Although you have logical reasoning, it's missing a key consideration~

  13. elaine says:

    I hate certain things about all holidays — pretty much summed up in this article (garbage, wastefulness, commercialism). HOWEVER…my kids LOVE to dress up and I agree with the person above who said costumes are a good toy for kids to have. I wish my kids would go for more original costumes (one of my kids is, indeed, a mail-order Darth Maul this year), but hey — they live in the real world, too, and who wants to be the quirky kid with the costume the other kids cannot recognize?! My kids get quite a bit of use out of their costumes (particularly my youngest) and they love carving the pumpkins, roasting the seeds, handing out and receiving candy. Honestly, I could think of far worse things for kids to do… 🙂 Glass half full, IMHO.

  14. candicegarrett says:

    our local neighborhoodies pass out incense 🙂

  15. helene_rose says:

    My children dress up daily as well. It feels like Halloween in my house everyday with the princess and fairy dress up! It's fun!

  16. Brandi says:

    So activate! 🙂 Get the neighbors together or the local schools involved with a handout – try to get people on the same page. We hand out vegan treats, and show the kids who come from the "who cares" homes there is another way. "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito." ~H.H. The Dalai Lama

  17. yogadarla says:

    i feel exactly the same way you do Joslyn.i really dislike this holiday i do not dress up, i hate costume parties and i dont like strangers in MASKS knocking on my door! i turn off my porch lights and encourage my dog to bark madly when someone knocks. . when we were kids our costumes were always BAD. my mother didnt want to deal with it or take the time with it either, so it was always a pitiful attempt to fit in. i dont understand why adults like to dress up and get drunk on this night- it seems ridiculous- and dangerous. especially for us 'normal' people who just want to run to the Kroger- but dont dare for all the (extra) drunk drivers on the road.

  18. Malia, that is awesome! Hahaha. You get it.

  19. ARCreated says:

    I'm with you…it seems to be an extension of me…I guess, I find it an opportunity to be the full blown version of me that isn't quite right for daily wear 🙂

  20. ARCreated says:

    amen blake…I remember those days!!!

  21. ARCreated says:

    making the costumes is half the fun!!! I spead hours scouring second hand stores for pieces and parts, I like the creativity of it and the expression of it…

  22. ARCreated says:

    PS…I get dressed up and don't drink 🙂 I'm a normal person too…I like costumes 🙂

  23. […] me your veil is slipping… I readJoslyn’s Halloween post (I read most of her posts, she rocks) and I have to say I felt a bit of what she was saying. […]

  24. jolinda Van Haren says:

    My girls told me not to dress up, that I was scary enough without a costume. We used to take them out trick or treating as a family ,also and I loved the adults that dressed up and went with their children or handed out candy(I was never really comfortable dressing up). I thought that they were awesome to really get into the spirit of things! I was just talking about adults who are only interested in costuming themselves on this holiday for the sake of going to adult parties with no thought of the children who I think bring the magic. You're right though, the holiday is for everyone!

  25. Kimmy Herbertson says:

    Yah!!! What Jolinda said!!!! As a matter of fact I'm going trick-or treating with my grand daughters, Good Times!!!!!

  26. Andrew says:

    Halloween has become so commercialised in recent years. Every kid you see on the streets today as a pretty sophisticated costume and and the parents have clearly spent a lot of time and money getting their kids ready. Gone are the days where Halloween is a spontaneous and fun event – now it's more about showing who has the best dressed kid.

  27. Jenifer says:

    I live in NZ now, and no one cares. Those who do — for religious reasons — practice it in April (when it is autumn here).

    I think it's possible to do a low-consumer holiday though, with any holiday. 🙂 We do quite well.

  28. Allison says:

    This made my night, couldn’t have said it better myself

  29. Chip says:

    I love the idea of a holiday that fuels creativity and imagination, but Halloween isn’t for me for the same reasons cited by Joslyn. Maybe people like us can occupy a pumpkin patch to get away from it all. Or, maybe, I’ll place a bowl of candy in a giant “Wickerman” on my lawn until it’s time for the willing sacrifice (What a strange movie. The 70s was an odd time, wasn’t it?).

  30. Enjoyed reading! I've always hated Halloween as well, and especially agree with your comment about costume parties being too much pressure! I'll be having a lovely dinner with friends tonight, to celebrate nothing to do with Halloween. 🙂

  31. guest says:

    oh sad! I l love halloween. I love dressing up! I went to a "parade of the lost souls" yesterday and saw so many amazing costumes where people had clearly put a lot of thought and work into. As for the being scared of supernatural stuff part (Steven King etc.) I can recommend becoming a sceptic/atheist/humanist, it helps cure you from all sorts of silly things.

  32. Edith says:

    Nice read – and I'm a Halloween fan. It's the one day of the year you can be anything you want without too much negativity. as for the candy – always a big struggle for me. My kids actually trade in their candy and are allowed $15 to buy a toy. i know one more toy really, but I don't have the candy discussion with them until it runs out. Costumes – we always make ours. The kids are getting big enough to help with the creating, so it turns into a craft project that we do together.

    I respect your view, honor it even. I feel much the same about Christmas. Love & light.

  33. Louse Brooks says:

    LOL! Hugs and smiles?? Get over yourself. Let kids be kids. One night of getting candy will NOT kill them. For gawd's sake, what is with this generation of parents and their over-cautiousness??

  34. Louise Brooks says:

    What a bunch of Grinches!

  35. bob wilson says:

    I agree the decorations are wasteful. The costumes though I think serve an important purpose, spiritually. At Burning Man, for example, the costumes allow you to prove to yourself that one's ego is an artificial creation–you leave one ego behind to create a new one. Plus it's fun for most, which means it's probably healing in some way. But the message to self at the end of the day is: don't invest your true energy–your eternal self energy–into this artificial ego, because it's transient. Here one day gone the next. And by the way, if you're really feeling guilty about the wastefulness of costumes, you can make costumes out of food. I do it every year. Make a smoothie in the morning, if you must. Or compost it.

  36. Kaley says:

    what happened to letting KIDS be KIDS? i grew up in a happy, healthy, respectful home and LOVED celebrating halloween. i still do. i'd walk around for hours to spend time with my friends, get to know neighbors, and yes, get candy. i love halloween more than thanksgiving, christmas, and the fourth of july put together and i ate as much candy as i possibly could, and here i am, a grown woman without diabetes, without a weight problem, and without a sugar addiction. my goodness, when did everybody become SO critical, cynical, and downright icky. if you have a problem with waste, give out treats in recyclable or compostable wrappers. allow yourself the opportunity to meet your neighbors and connect with the next generation. let them use their imaginations. diabetes stems from far bigger problems than halloween, get over yourself.

  37. Emmy says:

    All these reasons could be applied to Christmas as well pretty much…..

  38. Gina says:

    I completely disagree. Halloween is a time where kids get to use their imaginations, go out after dark, eat a bunch of candy, stay up late, etc! Halloween is a wonderful time for children to be children!

    What bothers me are these parents who dumb it down with trick or treating at malls or those “trunk or treat” things in broad daylight. That is NOT what Halloween is about!!

    Halloween is a time for kiddos to get to play dress up and pretend to be whoever they want and roam the neighborhood at night getting tons of candy and having good, old fashioned FUN.

  39. Gina says:

    100% agree Haley!