Opinion | Halloween is our fall semester savior

By Sarah Liez, For The Pitt News

Halloween is, and has always been, my favorite holiday — hands down. As a kid, it was a magical time, a time to pretend that I was anyone I wanted to be, a time to walk around my neighborhood on the prowl for candy until my feet were sore and my legs felt wobbly. As a teen, it was no longer a time of magic, but instead a time of simple fun.

Halloween transformed from a mere night of enchantment into an entire week of movie marathons, baking colorful cookies and drinking apple cider with friends. Now, as a college student, Halloween means even more. It is no longer a day or even a week of holiday spirit, but an entire season of playful, spooky and bewitching enjoyment.

Halloween in college is an entertaining distraction from the problems of young adult life. As college students, we all share many of the same struggles — affording rent and food, balancing academics and social life and preparing for the future that comes after Pitt. In an especially stressful time amid midterms and COVID-19 scares, Halloween season approaches when it’s needed most. This year, more than ever before, Halloween is our fall semester savior.

Thus far, fall in Pittsburgh hasn’t been a true fall in Pittsburgh. We’re more than halfway through October, yet waking up to 75-degree weather and high humidity nearly every day. Climate change is intensifying the planet’s hots and colds — extending both winter and summer in the process. As a result, climate change is also shortening the seasons that connect these extremes — that is, spring and fall.

Fall is an important transition season — not simply between summer and winter, but between the start and end of our fall semester. We commence with warm weather, shift to colder as we near midterms, and then even colder as we near finals. With the constant state of warm, humid weather, the proper transitions aren’t taking place. Midterms came quickly and suddenly because it feels as though we’re still living in summer, and an unpleasant summer at that. Halloween is the only concrete event that can still make this fall feel like fall.

In addition, Halloween is the light at the end of the tunnel that is midterm season. As all Pitt students know, midterms can be contained within one week, or within six. With the widespread arc of midterm exams, papers and projects, early to mid-October is the midterm hotspot. By the end of the month, the vast majority of Pitt students will have finished their exams. The major event that marks the finish line? Halloween.

The nearing prospect of Halloween gives us all something to distract ourselves with, to work toward and to look forward to. At the conclusion of weeks of intensive studying, a fun, careless weekend of amusement and mysticism is what we all need.

This entertaining holiday also works as a social incentive. First years, transfer students and other individuals on the timid side are encouraged more by Halloween than any other celebratory season to get out and participate in festivities.

First of all, Halloween is one of the most popular holidays in America — 65% of Americans are estimated to participate this year. Kids raised in America are nurtured on the spirit of Halloween from a young age, and this spirit carries us from youth into adulthood. Halloween is known for being a night where everyone can be anyone they want. You can dress up, get weird and act crazy, and it’s all justified because, after all, that’s what Halloween is about. It is the only holiday where you can truly and openly be yourself, and thus not have to worry about social constructs or peer judgment.

Halloween also acts as a catalyst for community involvement. The Pitt Program Council facilitates a number of engaging, Halloween-centered activities for students. Many events, including Haunted Holland, Autumn Decorating After Dark and Adventures on the Farm, exist to get students out of their dorms and socializing with their peers. 

As many students are lacking in financial resources to do these activities themselves, and Halloween is a most beloved and special holiday, it is this season more than any other that encourages students to engage with the University. Halloween-themed programming is a valuable campus resource that can help us through this hectic semester.

With all of this in mind, this particular Halloween is even more important because it is the first real Halloween we’ve had in years. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Halloween has not been celebrated to its fullest extent in about two years.

This year, with high vaccination rates and a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases among students, we can finally participate in one of our favorite holidays. Plus, the prior absence of Halloween will intensify everyone’s relationship to the holiday even further, generating even more enthusiasm. With that being said, students should continue following all COVID-19 safety protocols as we enjoy the holiday weekend.

All in all, Halloween will be the best part of this semester. The costumes, parties and pumpkin carvings will be an otherworldly break from the constant hum of student responsibilities. For weeks, my friends and I have used breaks between coursework and studying to plan our costumes, our Halloween itineraries and the delicious snacks we plan on making. You, too, should get giddy, get involved and get excited for the best Halloween we’ll have in years.

Sarah Liez writes primarily about gender issues and social phenomena. Write to her at [email protected].