The Pleasure Principle
I was in England several years ago during late October, and being a US American, I recognized the English don’t fully embrace Halloween the way we do back across the BIG pond. But I was just a visitor and who was I to change their culture?
Back in the US, everything was decorated with oranges, black, blood red, and eggplant purple, and most everyone had their costumes ready to confuse diabolical spirits, who travel to the physical world on All Hollow’s Eve to seek out humans they can take back to the nether world. This was the basis of donning costumes and celebrating Halloween that Irish immigrants brought to the country during the wave of immigration, starting in the late 1800’s. And boy, do we go hog wild for Halloween as a culture. We celebrate it in grand fashion! We prepare for it, throw parties for it, and spend huge amounts of money on it. It’s our one time of the year, where we are allowed to let our alter-egos out, get silly, and not be judged for it.
In Southern California, since 1962, we've celebrated, a sort of Halloween in April, albeit on a smaller scale, via the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. This celebration began as a way to honor the historical period: the age of discovery and “rebirth” of knowledge. It was also the bridge between medieval times and the beginning of the modern age. When attendees enter the grounds of the Santa Fe Dam Recreation area in Irwindale, which is transformed into the market at Port Deptford in the late 16th century, they are transported back in time, with the attire and vernacular of the era.
The Faire has evolved over the years since it’s conception in Agoura Hills, near the Malibu Creek. In its current incarnation, organizers have given each weekend a theme (such as RenCon, Time Traveler, and Heroes and Villains) and encourage attendees to dress for the period. Without hesitation, most do and it is a festive time for all.
So, why do we as a culture embrace donning a costume every chance we get? I’d say, since the USA was founded on puritanical principals, unconsciously, we still hold on to these expectations on a daily basis. Success is seen as a positive thing, and the way we are taught to prosper is to go from what is deemed as negative (not behaving properly) to positive (being successful through decorum). We are taught to grow up and mind our manners from a very young age. This doesn’t leave us much time to play like a child; to be silly, imagine, and engage in much fantasy. And when Halloween and the Renaissance Faire come calling, we grab the opportunity to step into another realm, where we can be anything our alter egos desire! It is the way we celebrate what would otherwise be just a mundane life.
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