By the time you’re old enough to celebrate or have any memories of Halloween, it generally represents the chance to take an afternoon, an evening, or a whole day to pretend to be something you’re not. When you were younger, that usually meant you would dress up as what you wish you could be. Whether it’s a fireman or superhero or even something more feasible, like just something as attainable as being an old person, you still get a few hours to feel like someone else. You get to experience something different from your identity. As you get older, there’s still a sense of taking a vacation from your personal identity for the evening, but you also add in free candy, staying up late, and having fun with your friends. When you’re in college, you start slowly transitioning into “Adult Halloween,” which for the most part means getting drunk in costume. Sure, you get to experience what it’s like to get dressed up on multiple nights for multiple parties, but the holiday still feels mostly like an excuse to party. I’m approaching my 30th Halloween, and now more than ever, watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown makes me cry.
It’s a piece of pop culture that’s ingrained in every adult’s memory to a degree, even if you can’t remember what actually happens in the story. Here, I’ll give you a refresher. It’s Halloween and Linus is preparing to finally see the “Great Pumpkin,” a mythical being that grants wishes or something. Linus, you’re crazy. The Great Pumpkin isn’t real. The rest of the Peanuts gang try to tell him this, but he’s not having it. Linus is determined to spend the night in a pumpkin patch in order to see the Great Pumpkin. While he’s waiting, the rest of the gang goes out trick or treating, bobs for apples, and engages in pretty typical Halloween behavior. When Linus thinks he sees the Great Pumpkin, which is just Snoopy, he faints. The next morning, he expresses his disappointment over not seeing the Great Pumpkin and, rather than admit he’s wrong, vows to see the Great Pumpkin the following year.
Sound familiar now? I don’t think I had ever actually sat down and intentionally watched the whole thing until just a few years ago. It was the day of Halloween and I had made up in my mind what I was going to do that evening to “celebrate.” I was going to make myself hot chocolate, revisit It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and watch Suspiria. I was living with a girlfriend at the time and, even though she enjoyed those plans I had made, decided to instead go to a friend’s Halloween party. I had also been invited to the party, along with other Halloween parties, but I turned them all down. I was determined to spend my Halloween the way I wanted to spend it and wasn’t going to “celebrate” by putting on an ironic costume and get drunk. To me, that never has been nor ever will be the way to spend Halloween. I have my own views on what Halloween is and I refuse to celebrate it in any other way, and so does Linus.
When Linus first enters the pumpkin patch, he starts explaining to Sally that the Great Pumpkin appears in the pumpkin patch that is the most “sincere.” I have no goddamned idea what a “sincere” pumpkin patch looks like, but that doesn’t matter, because Linus does. However familiar you are with quantifying the sincerity levels in a grove of gourds isn’t relevant, because you can still know how sincere you are to yourself. In a generation obsessed with status and social networking and one that focuses more on how they they portray themselves to the rest of the world than portraying who they really are, the need for sincerity has never been higher. I struggle with finding my own sincerity, especially on the goddamned internet, but I do my best to be genuine. I try to be the person I want to be instead of the person that others want me to be. Having hobbies that fall into subcultures instead of mainstream cultures, along with generally being a weirdo with a lot of skewed perspectives on life, it’s hard to center myself and stay grounded with that concept of being sincere not just to myself, but sincere to others.
Nobody can tell you your level of sincerity in life. You’re the only one who knows whether you’re living for yourself or if you’re living for other people. It’s hard to give a succinct answer when someone asks why I like Halloween or why I love horror movies, because it’s just something that you feel inexplicably and with the utmost sincerity. I know why I love those things and I don’t need to tell other people why. In fact, trying to express those loves might cheapen it. It’s none of my business how other people choose to celebrate holidays, or how they celebrate any day of the week for that matter. All I know is what feels right for me and I need to try to do that. Getting drunk in a costume might be what feels right to you, or maybe it’s watching horror movies with friends, or maybe it’s trick or treating, or maybe it’s something else even more wild that I’ve never even heard of. What’s important is you figure out what it is that you find to be true to yourself, that thing you find that brings you joy, and be sincere to it. I came to an important realization those few years ago on that Halloween night, watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I finally realized it was okay to be who I was, act how I acted, and love what I loved. Even if it meant I was staying awake all alone in a pumpkin patch waiting for something that would never come while my friends went out for tricks or treats, I was being sincere. And even if I fell asleep alone and shivering, there’d be someone to bring me inside in the morning. Even if my best friend tried to empathize with how I wasted my night the next morning, it would make me determined to be even more sincere. Either I’ll take comfort in all of that sincerity, or maybe I’ll actually see the Great Pumpkin and it will mean that world as we know it is about to end, since giant, wish-granting beings have now come to Earth in the form of pumpkins.