Halloween Then and Now

Halloween is and always has been a staple holiday, but the way we celebrate it certainly evolves as we move through our lives. Unlike holidays such as Christmas, which tends to have the same traditions that persist year to year with little variation, Halloween — and the traditions that come along with it — tend to age and evolve in the same way we do. VALLEY is here with a few examples of the Halloween evolution that may hit close to home for college students.


Close your eyes and picture it: you’re in elementary school, and it’s the day of your town’s local Halloween parade. All of your classmates are there and they are dressed to the absolute nines in elaborate Halloween costumes. Some wore expensive, online-ordered costumes, complete with accessories and matching candy-collecting tote bags. Others were the embodiment of DIY, flaunting the product of three weeks’ worth of sewing, stitching and Goodwill-searching.

Now, in college, with our narrow budgets and lack of parents to sew outfits for us, we have to get pretty creative with Halloween costumes. Some diehard Halloween-lovers will still cough up the cash for a fancy costume, but more often than not, a costume party will be full of last-minute decisions. This isn’t always a bad thing though – some of the most creative costumes come from a random spark of easy-to-execute inspiration.


Again, you can probably picture it. As a kid, driving through a neighborhood during the spooky season meant seeing house after house decked out in orange lights, fake cobwebs and – if the house really wanted to put in the effort – creepy decorations galore. Some houses really went above and beyond with skeletons emerging from graves and fog machines setting the mood against a backdrop of eerie music.

Now, it’s a pleasant surprise to see students around State College who put effort into their decorations. A common décor is a carved pumpkin, and for college students, this is the perfect opportunity to express what they’re really about. We don’t see pumpkins as just a canvas for a fun face anymore. Instead, they’re the purest expression of love for whatever we are passionate about — usually a sports team or a college-aged pun. 

Halloween Night

Ah yes, Halloween Night. What was once the purest form of innocent fun, consisting of gathering in a group of friends, taking pictures and running from house to house ignoring the “just take one” rule, is now the embodiment of the Penn State spirit. Yes, college students still go from place to place, but usually the goal in mind comes in the form of a liquid treat rather than a candy bar. Instead of coming home at 10:30 to count and sort candy before heading to bed because it’s a school night, many college students are still getting ready at this time with the false hope that they will make it back by 2 a.m. so that they can make it to their 9 a.m. class in the morning.

Of course, there is also the reverse story: sometimes the college stress gets to be too much that Halloween Night becomes a “Stay In And Do Work” night, and as we type away on our essays or study for our exams, we long for the days when the biggest stressor of Oct. 31 was whether your friend got more Twix bars than you did.

All in all, while Halloween is different each year and evolves as we age, the spooky season always delivers on its promise of excitement and entertainment – in whichever form that may come.


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