After baking a spooky cake decorated with gummy eyeballs and worms, student Jessica Stivers and her family celebrate Halloween by watching Hocus Pocus together.
But this year, Stivers, a junior public relations major, won’t be able to go home. She will be celebrating Halloween on campus instead.
Stivers isn’t worried though, because many clubs and organizations are holding events on campus to celebrate All Hallows Eve.
On Thursday, Oct. 27 the Student Activities Board (SAB) is hosting a Free Flick showing of Ghostbusters from 7-9 p.m.
SAB is also hosting events such as Escape the Room on Friday, Oct. 28 from 7-10 p.m., Halloween Horror House co-hosted by the SHU Theatre Council on Oct. 31 from 8-10 p.m. in the Theatre-in-the-Round and Six Flags Fright Fest on Saturday, Oct. 29.
Jacqueline Murdocca, a junior special and elementary education and theatre double major, is one of the four student producers in the Theatre Council who help advertise the shows, make campus more aware of SHU theatre and organize events, such as the Halloween Horror House.
“This is the first time Theatre Council is putting on a Haunted House in years,” Murdocca said. “We thought it would a fun event on campus. Actors enjoy dressing up in costumes, putting on crazy makeup and playing a role. Students like coming out to events with their friends and some enjoy getting scared, so why not have our two worlds collide?”
Murdocca said when students step inside the Theatre-in-the-Round on Oct. 31, they will be walking into a universe of untold stories that haunt the theatre. The Haunted House tells the story of a little girl and her clown statue.
“The audience will have to find the girl to escape the theatre,” Murdocca said. “They will enter into the dark backstage area and be in for a spooky treat.”
Other organizations are also hosting events, such as the Halloween blood drive put on by Alpha Sigma Tau and the Harvest Festival in the Campus Garden. Both take place on Halloween.
Daniel Osika, a senior marketing major, said ROTC will be celebrating Halloween at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28 starting at Mooney Hall with its annual Halloween Run, where they wear costumes.
“The Halloween run is one of Pirate Battalion’s most enjoyable traditions,” Osika said. “We start by conducting our Preparation Drill behind Mooney Hall, then run a 5k that takes us around campus and the local South Orange area. Also, we always run by the elementary school to say hello to the students as they are participating in their own Halloween Parade. Finally, each Halloween run ends with a contest on the SHU campus green to decide the top three costumes of the day.”
While students celebrate Halloween on campus, Dr. William Connell, professor and the La Motta Chair of the Department of History offered an explanation of the origin of the holiday.
Connell said Halloween is one of a series of old harvest holidays that coincides with an old tradition of beliefs about the spirits of the dead that then continues into Christianity with All Saints Day on Nov. 1.
Connell added that various cultures celebrate this time of year differently.
“In a lot of cultures, like in France, Saint Martin’s Day is a big day which is on Nov. 11, which is when they would slaughter cattle and there would be the making of wine,” Connell said. “Then there’s the Day of the Dead in Mexico. So these all seem to be related to the question of looking after the dead, caring for their souls, the questions of the harvest, all in preparation for winter.”
According to Connell, the tradition of wearing costumes that we know today originates from Germany and Victorian times.
“It’s astonishing that [Halloween] is so large now in our culture, compared to where it was 20 years ago,” Connell said.
Paulina Wojciechowska, a senior diplomacy and international relations major, is the President of the Slavic Club. She said Slavic countries just started celebrating Halloween in the last 30 years.
“They do sort of an American Halloween, just like dressing up and going to costume parties,” Wojciechowska said. “They don’t do trick or treating though. They’re not super into it because of the two days of complete mourning and religious celebrations that follow.”
Wojciechowska said that Slavic societies emphasize the religious holidays on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.
Dr. Dermott Quinn, a professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of History, grew up in Ireland, where he said the celebration was more innocent than in America.
“When I was growing up, it was a harvest festival and end of summer festival,” Quinn said. “When I was a kid, it wasn’t as big of a deal in terms of commercial culture. We did trick or treating, but didn’t call it that.”
Quinn also recalled playing games, like apple ducking, which is similar to bobbing for apples. He added that these games were the main way children celebrated this time of year. They also bought fireworks and sky rockets for themselves.
“Now-a-days Halloween is more commercial and a tourist attraction and a public performance,” Quinn said. “The place where I come from, Derry in the north of Ireland, Halloween has become the biggest holiday of the year. It’s voted one of the best places for Halloween.”
While Halloween is originally a Pagan holiday, it was Christianized over time.
“The Pagan elements seem to be predominating over the Christian elements and I would suspect that nine people out of 10 do not realize that Halloween is a Christian holiday, and that All Saints Day is about saints,” Quinn said. “What happened historically is the Christianizing of the Pagan festival, but in contemporary times we have the re-Paganizing of that Christian festival.”
Rebecca White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.