When I was five, I dressed up as Raggedy Ann for Halloween. The following year I was Angelina Ballerina. The next year, as creative as I was, I decided to be a pumpkin. A few years later, I was a sorceress – not a witch, a sorceress. Since Halloween is at the end of October and it’s usually quite chilly if you’re living in the Northeast, no matter which costume I was wearing, I was always covered from head to toe. That was considered a smart decision on my part. However, soon I would learn others didn’t see it this way. As a youngster, I remember being traumatized the first time I saw a “naughty nurse” and a group of “sexy Snow Whites” trailing her. Where were the funny M&M costumes? Where were the pirates with their creepy eye patches? They were gone and, in their place, a whole new group of characters had descended upon the neighborhood, turning it from “wholesome fun for the whole family” to “ho-some fun for the whole family.”

This experience was scarier for me than anything I had ever witnessed on Halloween in years prior. It was scarier than all the big kids who would dress up like Power Rangers and smash pumpkins and steal candy. It was scarier than the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” that I watched relentlessly around this time of year. It was even scarier than the neighbors who handed out dried fruit packets instead of candy bars.

Of course, by now, most people my age are used to it. We don’t cringe anymore when we see a police officer wearing fishnet stockings or a maid that’s missing half her skirt, but I do miss the old costumes. Remember when people dressed up like crayons? The costume was a baggy head-to-toe cylindrical ensemble, in your color of choice, complete with a pointy hat that tied underneath your chin and mittens in the same color as the outfit, so your hands wouldn’t ruin the imagery of the crayon. Being hard to walk in something like that, most people were reduced to a “crayon costume waddle” unless they had been smart enough to cut a slit in the back. Regardless, it was about as G-rated as you could be dressed on Halloween. A nun costume would have been more risqu.

Then there was my other favorite costume, the dining room table. A cardboard contraption with a hole cut in the center for the upper half of your body, and cozily restrained with suspenders so it wouldn’t fall – this was definitely an eye-catcher. A red gingham table cloth was draped over the cardboard, while forks, plates and knives were glued on top in various layouts and the look was completed with a baggy, mauve-colored sweatsuit and Nike sneakers.

When I was really young, we used to have costume parades around our school, where we would march into various classrooms and show off our duds. Some kids were really creative. I remember one kid dressed up as a fishbowl. He had a clear, plastic bowl wrapped around his body with fish painted on the inside of it. While in the midst of parading, he absentmindedly lodged himself between a couch and a bookshelf and a teacher had to pop him out of it. It was still a pretty cool costume though.

But compared to what Halloween costumes used to consist of, at least our costumes are sanitary. Halloween just happens to date back thousands of years to Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival. Instead of dressing up like superheroes and witches, people dressed in animal skins. Sometimes they even wore animal heads. Supposedly, they were scaring away evil spirits while damaging crops and sacrificing animals in these terrifying costumes. I’m sure they succeeded.

I predict streets will be flooded with many of the usual costumes this year, such a ghosts, goblins, and cheerleaders – hint, last one is not scary. Try something new this year, like a politician for example. There are plenty of spine-chilling choices to choose from. Another fun costume theme might be penguins. Imagine a group of 20 penguins stumbling around campus – what a fantastic idea!

Whether you choose to be fully clothed or not on Halloween this year, at least make your costume interesting. Just don’t dress up your dog. Believe me, your terrier doesn’t want to be a scarecrow this Halloween, and your golden retriever could probably do without being a “dog pimp.”

Kraus is a member of the class of 2009.



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