New York is big on holidays. Not mundane holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day or President’s Day, but the real holidays that virtually everyone celebrates. New York is the Christmas and New Year’s capital of the world – St. Patrick’s Day and Independence Day aren’t far behind, and Thanksgiving is big everywhere in America. But one of the biggest holidays in New York is not a formal “holiday” at all – just an excuse to carve pumpkins, decorate bars and restaurants, sell tours of haunted houses, and of course dress up in wild, exuberant, absurd costumes that would be thoroughly inappropriate 364 days out of the year.
Yes, that day is Halloween, arguably the holiday that has increased in popularity more than any other over the past several decades. Halloween, derived from pagan Roman harvest festivals and Celtic mysticism (the Irish carved turnips instead of pumpkins), celebrates the Fall season more than anything else. Taking place on October 31 in the heart of Autumn, Halloween is symbolized by colored leaves, chilly temperatures, shortened days, bonfires and burning leaves, and Fall treats such as candy and caramel apples. While people carve pumpkins and visit haunted mansions as part of the traditional Halloween activities, the most popular event is dressing up in costumes and trick-or-treating. While children enjoy the door-to-door begging for candy, adults enjoy dressing up as well.
Which brings us to New York. I’ve never been to a city where virtually everyone of all ages dresses up for Halloween. Walking the streets on Halloween night, those of us not in costume are the very small minority. Kids dress up of course, but their parents dress up as well along with 85% of all the people walking around Manhattan. By costume I don’t mean regular clothes topped off by a head pieces or heavy make-up or an unusual hat. No, by costumes I mean all-out costumes that are creative, provocative, bizarre, sexy, humorous, and of course thoroughly entertaining. People dress as animals, celebrities, and well, basically anything and everything.
I walked around for about 20 minutes a short distance from our apartment in the East Village Saturday night. In that time I saw every type of costume imaginable – I cannot even begin to list them all. Health care seemed like a big theme this year, with quite a few blood-stained white coats and scrubs, along with numerous skimpy nurseoutfits. Fairies and princesses were popular among women, and all sorts of Roman and Green warriors were popular among men, along with famous athletes of all types. The most bizarre was a man dressed in a business suit with a horses head. To top it off, he carried a brief case and had an ear piece running into the front pocket of his coat.
Those were some highlights, but there was anything and everything in between. Women dressed as Wonder Woman, a man dressed as some sort of ancient warrior with a huge sword and a small loin cloth, a fat man wore a Smoky Bear costume, a woman dressed as Sally Bowles from Cabaret, a man (I think?) dressed as Spider Man with some sort of dark cloak, four guys dressed as the “Four Horsemen” of Notre Dame, complete with football uniforms, and a woman dressed entirely in white fur with a white bear cap, white fur leggings, a short white skirt, and a white fur bra were some of the more memorable outfits. There were many, many more that are just indescribable.
Yes, Halloween is a big deal in NYC, complete with a big parade that winds its way, naturally, through Greenwich Village. As a city that combines weird, artistic, creative, and uninhibited people in very close proximity, New York is perfectly suited for a Halloween extravaganza. Since the Yankees played the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series Saturday night, most of the bars were crammed with elaborately costumed people all fixated on televisions while cheering wildly for their beloved Yankees – surreal to say the least. Only in New York…