Michael Jackson, giant Heinz condiments, Ms. Green M&M and four Tetris pieces. It's not a punchline. It's not an excerpt from my dream journal. It's a sampling of the creativity that comes pouring out on Halloween, which is why I'm giving it the alternate name of National Creativity Day.
Think about it. On this one day of the year, people can dream up the wildest, funniest, scariest or craziest alter-ego, and wear it out into public without concern for their job, their reputation or their chances of being locked up in a padded cell. They dance through the streets with complete impunity, embracing the character they have imagined for themselves and reveling in the creations of those around them. There are people who start planning and creating their Halloween costumes on November 1st, before the chocolate and fake blood have even been wiped off the tabletops. There are people who have an intimate relationship with foam rubber, latex and hot glue guns because of this holiday. No matter how plain your everyday life may be, Halloween is the one night when you've got free rein to go wild and spice it up.
According to the National Retail Federation, this year a whopping 40% of Americans will dress up for Halloween. That's about 120 million people expressing their likes, their passions and their fears on a single day. It goes even further, as apparently 11.5% will also put Halloween costumes on their pets (who likely have very little say in choosing their own costumes). Some will be purely store bought, some will be custom-crafted masterpieces, and the rest will fall somewhere in between, but each and every one will reflect the thought, personality and imagination of the person wearing it. No other day even comes close in terms of the sheer creative energy and output. When you stop to think about it, it's really incredible.
So why do so many people choose to dress up and express themselves on Halloween? I could go with the easy answers of "it's fun" or "they enjoy the freedom of pretending to be someone else", but I want to toss another one onto the list. They take the opportunity to be creative and express themselves because on that one day, society universally encourages and celebrates it. Little kids are encouraged to "make-believe" and "use your imagination" all the time. It's how they grow and develop. But for adults, the message on every day EXCEPT October 31st is "be realistic", "look at the facts" and "dress for success". It's stifling. No wonder when that one day a year comes along that we, as a culture, say "alright, it's make-believe time", so many of us gladly and eagerly jump on board.
So here's what I'd say. Embrace this day. Celebrate it for its creativity. If you're not dressing up this year, at least start thinking about what you want to be next year. And beyond that, let's get more of this spirit into the other 364 days. Zombie bar crawls around Easter are a great example, but let's make costume parties and theme days the next big thing. Let's try harder to one-up each other. Go bigger, go scarier, go funnier, go stranger. And when you see someone with a crazy costume on a day other than Halloween, don't treat them like they're crazy. Treat them like they're creative.