November 4, 2022 | OPINION | By Karly Hamilton | Illustration from The Catalyst Archives

As we age, the way we perceive the world changes. But what about things that stay constant, such as important moments, dates, and events? How do we respond to changes within ourselves, even as these moments don’t change with us?

As we enter the holiday season, there are a range of celebratory events coming up. Halloween this past week is one of those days.

When I think of Halloween, I think of dressing up as a little kid and going trick-or-treating. I remember the costume parade we had in kindergarten and parents coming to watch us show off our costumes. I think of my purple trick-or-treating bag with a witch on it and of sorting and trading candy with my younger brother.

Looking back, a lot has changed in my perception since then. Those are still happy memories I have and hope to hold onto for a while longer. But with time, a new meaning has become part of my understanding of Halloween: a reason to drink.

According to American Addiction Centers, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that between the Halloween nights of 2009 and 2013, 43% of the motor vehicle deaths involved a driver or a motorcyclist with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit of 0.08 percent, and 23% of pedestrian fatalities included a driver who had had too much to drink.”

As we age and experiment more, drugs and alcohol become part of the social atmosphere, especially during times of celebration. As children outgrow dressing up in costumes for trick-or-treating, the nature of Halloween begins to shift. Treats become alcohol and costumes are not always the centerpiece of the night.

Many college students use Halloween—and Halloweekend—as an excuse to partake in extreme drinking behaviors. But why have we shifted from trick-or-treating to playing drinking games in costume?

Personally, I don’t understand the desire to dress up and go out with friends. Maybe that’s my germophobe nature that prefers staying in to going out. Or my affinity for staying in control, which does not coincide with excessive drinking. Or maybe even my dislike for being the center of attention, costumes are not much help in that department. 

But what baffles me more than the events on Halloween, is why excessive drinking is justified in this environment. The same goes for other celebrations, including St. Patrick’s Day, the Fourth of July, and sporting events. Why is a cold beer frowned upon at Sunday brunch, but perfectly acceptable—if not expected—if one is at a football game instead?

I find Halloween to be representative of a greater discussion: why is it that we perceive some days and times to be more acceptable to consume alcohol? And why do we feel the need to justify our consumption choices? What’s to stop us from throwing a costume party in the middle of April, or drinking eggnog in July?

The way we view holidays as we age is interesting to contemplate. The childhood joy often associated with celebratory events takes on a new life as we age. I, for one, hope we can hold onto some of the simpler moments of joy as we continue to grow and change.

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