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2007-10-31

Halloween: The First Mediated Holiday

I no longer celebrate Halloween. The holiday is for me wrapped in so many memories of my mother, and she's dead.

Just kidding. It's true that I don't celebrate Halloween. It's also true my mom is dead. But they're not related. I don't celebrate Halloween anymore because I like growing older and think maturity has some much-underrated benefits.

Halloween is for adolescents. Many have argued that it's also a holiday for the young at heart. But in its current manifestation, Halloween—with its cartoonish representations of the supernatural and costumes that have as much to do with wish-fulfillment as anything else—actually feeds an adolescent mindset, one that sees the world as a field of options in which anyone at any time can be a superhero or a sexy nurse or offensive.

I won't bore you with yet another history of Halloween. The Dauphin County Library System has a perfectly serviceable narrative of the the holiday's origins, if you're interested. But I will ask you to consider Halloween the first mediated holiday in recorded memory.

All tools are media. Anything that enhances our native human abilities or performs a job that we're otherwise incapable of is media. That includes the hammer, which enhances our hands' ability to pound things, and the airplane, which enhances our legs' ability to propel us, not to mention giving us the ability to fly. It also includes things we traditionally call media, such as painting, television, and the Internet, which enable us to be in several places and times at once through representation.

Therefore, when our ancestors painted themselves, built bonfires to dance around, and did similar things that we now refer to as wild and primitive, they were practicing mediation. They were surrounded by death, and with autumn they knew they'd be surrounded by darkness for months to come. They had few options. They had only some paint and fire to keep winter and death at arm's length.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

All tools may be media, but all holidays for older folk are about getting drunk...

The US has strategically set aside one day a month (except august) to have a random excuse day to get drunk.

January - New Years Eve (the mother of all excuses)
February - Valentine's Day (some more than others) and Black History Month
March - St. Patrick's Day (look at me, I'm irish)
April - usually Easter (do you know my family?)
May - Cinco d'mayo (look at me, I'm mexican) and Memorial Day (thanks for your sacrafice so i can have this beer)
June - Flag day (kinda stretching on that one)
July - 4th of July and my birthday (duh)
August - Lonely no party august, oh wait, that's when people take vacations
September - Labor Day (summer is over and no days off 'til Thanksgiving so drink up)
October - Halloween and Oktoberfest (the germans dedicate a month to beer)
November - Thanksgiving (see Easter)
December - Christmas (see Thanksgiving)

and as the Playful Librarian said himself -

They were surrounded by death, and with autumn they knew they'd be surrounded by darkness for months to come. They had few options. They had only some paint and fire to keep winter and death at arm's length.

Man... I'd drink up as well...