Halloween Is The Quintessential College Holiday


Halloween night makes me long for the freedom and fun of college life perhaps more than any other date on the calendar. Frankly, it’s the perfect college holiday.

Other “party” holidays like New Year’s Eve and Independence Day fall on semester breaks. St. Patrick’s Day often coincided with Spring Break at my alma mater. But Halloween falls right in the meat of the academic calendar, once students are settled into the semester and football is in full swing.

College kids nationwide owe much more than the date to this most perfect of undergrad holidays, however. Credit the Celtic festivals of Samhain about a half-millennium ago for the most basic tenet of the season.

Before you close the page, no; the following isn’t a lecture on the history of Halloween. The longstanding traditions of costumes and pranks do fit the college lifestyle, however — especially the costumes.

My own costumes through my years in college ranged from fantastic — Harry Caray remains my personal standard — to pretty lazily slapped together. One year, I wore a bathrobe with slippers, a fake mustache, and called myself an adult film star.

But as a late teens/early 20s man, I was more concerned with the costumes of my peers. For those who have never seen the 2004 film Mean Girls — and if you haven’t, please do so immediately — Cady Heron’s narration explaining costume selection nicely summarizes the experience.

Costume choice can lead to some interesting experiences. One friend of mine provides two noteworthy examples.

One Halloween, he went out as Fred from Scooby Doo. He met a redhead who fawned over the costume, explaining she was a huge Scooby Doo fan and wanted to dress as Daphne, but just hadn’t met the right Fred.

I dressed as Shaggy that night. My Halloween ended watching Friday The 13 Part VII: The New Blood on my couch with a half-empty beer left unfinished on the coffee table.

However, the next year, that same friend went out as football coach John Mackovic, sporting a nametag that read “UNEMPLOYED.” Mackovic had been fired from the University of Arizona the week prior after a disastrous, 10-18 first two-and-a-half years on the job.

A member of the Wildcat football team did not take kindly to the costume choice, and let my friend know.

Moral of the story for any college kids reading this and making a last-minute decision: Tread lightly with your struggling head coach costume options. Unless you happen to be a product of the team, of course.

The childhood tradition of wandering from house-to-house in pursuit of candy becomes a tradition of wandering from house party-to-house party in pursuit of beer. Christmas is still two months away, but Halloween brings out the spirit of giving on college campuses.

For example, Oregon gave out a beating to USC in 2009 that changed the complexion of the Pac-12 for years to come. If you’re holding a house party tonight, giving visitors a red cup instead will suffice.

Indeed, tonight’s the ultimate in college holidays. My own love for the season’s been sparked anew this year. It’s the first holiday in which my 2-year-old son’s shown interest. We’ll make three trips around the neighborhood, so he can wear each of the three costumes he chose.

He’ll marvel at others’ costumes and enjoy the decorations. Long after he dozes off, I’ll presumably fall asleep watching Friday The 13th on my couch, with a half-empty beer on the coffee table.

Maybe life hasn’t changed since college that much.