Monday was Halloween. My husband came home and expressed his displeasure at his coworkers coming to work in Halloween costume.
“I don’t understand how grown people could be dressing up in stupid Halloween costumes,” he said.
Without missing a beat, I replied, “The same way we dress up in costume for Carnival.”
That stumped him.
I have to admit, that was just how I thought not too long ago. I looked down on Halloween as a very silly infantile activity. I mean, why would a culture celebrate the darker elements of life and death? I was not alone in this. Many people from the Caribbean have a very negative opinion of Halloween ranging from it being silly, to it being the work of the devil.
I spent 3 years living in Brooklyn, NY in a community of Caribbean immigrants and I never once saw trick-or-treaters or anybody dressed in costume on Halloween. Yet folks from that same community spend lots of money on costumes for the Labor Day West Indian Parade on Eastern Parkway.
It’s only after having kids I’ve come to rethink Halloween. I’ve come to realize in every country, from every part of the world, people dress in costumes at different times. Whether it’s carnival, Halloween, Chinese New Year, Native American ritual dances, whatever it is, people like dressing in costume. Why?
Maybe it’s a form of suspended reality. For a brief moment you get to change your character and be somebody else. You can let your imagination run wild.
Suspended reality, that explains it. Why else would we dress up kids and let them walk from house to house begging candy from total strangers? And why would we open the doors to strangers without even looking and give them stuff? Yes suspended reality. When in costume, we change our characters.
But isn’t that what we require readers to do as authors? Don’t we ask readers to suspend reality and delve into the world that we created, with the characters that we created?
Authors are the biggest creators of suspended reality. We create the costumes with our words and paint them to the pages. And readers feed on it. Why else would Comic Con be so well attended by people wearing costumes?