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Q: Can you shine some light on American customs for Halloween?

What's with so many of the female costumes being so revealing? What's the deal with trick-or-treating?

A: I have to say, I was particularly delighted to see this question come through. Being my favorite holiday, this is a topic I'm always giddy to discuss regardless of the time of year but, being mere weeks away from All Hallows Eve, it's simply a must. Personally, I tend to low-key celebrate the entire month of October by attending themed events around town, listening to darker music even more than usual, taking advantage of any costume wearing opportunities, and watching all of the horror movies that can possibly be crammed into my day-to-day, so I'm more than well versed in the customs and happy to oblige your curiosity.

First off, I should probably address a misconception that's especially common amongst Christian circles, and that is the idea that Halloween is somehow evil, demonic, or otherwise a celebration of the sinister and malevolent. Now, yes, many of us do revel in spooky tales, horror movies, and the like during this time of year, but the holiday's origins were actually quite different from what many might think.

Believe it or not, the idea of dressing up as ghosts or donning other costumes reportedly got started as a means of trying to fool actual vengeful spirits. See, back in the day, it was believed that the souls of the dead tended to wander the earth until All Saints' Day, which falls on November 1st, making October 31st their last opportunity to exact vengeance on their still-living enemies before moving on to the next dimension. Well, what better way to hide from these vindictive entities than disguising oneself as someone (or someTHING) else? All the better if that something else is a fellow ghost.

"Okay," you ask, "So how did you guys go from that to every female costume looking like it came straight out of a brothel?" And to that, I answer Why not? Seriously, though, why does anything go the steamy, sexy route? Sex sells. Women like to look sexy, and people - particularly straight men - like to look at sexy women, bonus if they're scantily clad. I feel like I'm stating the obvious here, but hey, you asked.

Anyhoo, this whole costuming thing branched into kids in disguises going trick-or-treating in the US somewhere in the 1930's. This was apparently inspired by a combination of the medieval practice of "mumming" and the Christian "souling," the former involving masked Europeans moving through the streets and entering homes to dance or play dice in silence, and the latter consisting of Christians going to parishes and begging for soul cakes in exchange for prayers. Fast-forward to 1930's America, and it becomes kids threatening mischief if their demands for candy aren't met on the spot. How's that for modifying a tradition to perfection?


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