When The Spirit Moves You

Today is Halloween, which has morphed from a minor holiday when children went from house to house demanding protection money to a major money-making holiday where people do major dressing up of their house, put on special costumes, go to parties, and generally have fun and make fools of themselves. Reading LJ, I see all sorts of reports of people dressing up, getting into the holiday. They talk about all these creative ideas they have for costumes, and all the stuff they are doing.

I must not have the “halloween” gene. I know I don’t have the “christmas” gene, but then again, I’m Jewish.

By not having the “halloween” gene, I mean that I’ve never been one to enjoy dressing up in costumes. As I kid, it was always store bought stuff, until I got old enough to not care about the candy. Even today, I don’t really have the creativity to dress up in a costume. About the most creative I’ve been is one Purim where I dressed in a green sweatsuit, attached some branches, and went as the president. People ask what I’m dressed up like today. I say an Engineer. They look at me funny. [As an aside: Can you really dress as a nudist for Halloween?]

What is it with wanting to wear costumes anyway? It’s not just Halloween that folks tend to do it. Of course, we see it at Faire and other period events. People seem to love to put on other personas, pretending to be who they are not. Yet I’ve never done this. Even at UCLA, when everyone else in the UCLA Computer Club was active at Ren Faire, I would attend once-a-year and be happy.

(Note that I distinguish a costume from a uniform. The style of a uniform is dictated from above, such as what we wear when we volunteer at Orange Empire. With costumes, you need to be creative in your choices, and often, play act within a specified role)

What is the compulsion that drives the desire to dress up in costume? Am I too much of an engineer to do this? Could it just be that I’m relatively happy with who I am that I don’t need to be something else? Perhaps I just lack the imagination in that area. In any case, with that lack, I tend to feel like a 2nd class citizen on this day.

I’m also not into the elaborate house decorations or the spooky athmosphere. My daughter keeps trying to encourage me, but the spirit, so to speak, just isn’t willing. Our neighbor has gone all out: tombstones and spooky lights. I read about people putting crashed planes in their yards. Me? I turn on the lights. We also don’t decorate our house for other holidays.

There are folks with the holiday gene. They love their holidays. They are the ones out there going all out for Christmas with decorations, clothes, and traditions. They maximize Halloween. They’re as Irish as can be on St. Patricks day. They’re out with the flags and bunting on the 4th. They are out drinking margaritas on Cinco de Mayo. Then there are those like me, with no holiday genes, people to whom popular holidays are often another day on the calendar. We learn what we need to do to survive them, but we’re not into them.

During our Rosh Hashanah evening service, Rabbi Sarah spoke about the establishing of family traditions around holidays. The brisket that is brought out. They way someone reads The Four Sons. I can get into some of these, especially as the relate to holidays like Passover. But the accepted American holidays? I think with the exception of Thanksgiving, the spirit just doesn’t move me.