Is there another holiday that encapsulates growing up like Halloween does? As kids grow up, the costumes, activities, and meanings of the holiday shift dramatically.
As children, it’s common to dress up in imaginative and colorful costumes, and kids parade around their elementary schools, showing their outfits off and making crafts in class. It’s a favorite day for many because of traditions like trick-or-treating and the opportunity to bring home a huge haul of candy. Many would trade candy with their parents for a treat that wouldn’t rot their teeth, or with friends to get their preferred selection of sweets. For young children, the holiday is mainly about innocence and excitement.
Middle school brings a new era of self-consciousness for most kids, which definitely holds true at Halloween. Nobody wants to dress up as their favorite Sesame Street character anymore because they’d rather explore more mature ideas, like horror movie characters and more sexual costumes, or they simply don’t want to be seen as “weird.” Trick-or-treating with your parents or family is suddenly seen as “uncool” and the new norm is to go out with friends. In Berkeley, kids go to streets like Mariposa Avenue and Josephine Street with big crowds, candy cannons, and the chance to have a good time. This kind of independence is often new for a middle schooler.
In high school, the holiday yet again morphs into something new for the majority of adolescents. Teens have more freedom, which opens up a world of possibilities. Candy becomes much less of a hot commodity when you can simply buy it at the drugstore. Teens also start going to parties.
However this also brings the highly sexualized standard that female-identifying teens are held to when it comes to their costumes. Young girls are made to don constumes that were once innocent, a cat or even a bunny, but instead of a furry jumpsuit, they can be seen in revealing lingerie that puts their bodies on display. The media perpetuates this standard, as is seen in the popular movie “Mean Girls,” when Cady Heron, the teen protagonist, says, “In girl world, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.” Although this is a satirical quote from a lighthearted rom-com, it accurately portrays the societal pressure women and girls face when choosing Halloween costumes.
The pandemic put a pause on this holiday but with life returning more or less back to normal, Halloween will be in full swing. It’ll go back to being our most important coming-of-age holiday. The Halloween transition happens at different times for everyone. Whether you choose to watch a horror movie with friends, go to a rager, or stay home to hand out candy to cute little kids in pumpkin onesies and bat wings, Halloween is back.