It's time to get a little weird, y'all
It's the time of year when, quite frankly, I get a little weird. Walking into stores like Home Depot or Lowe's, I squeal with glee at the animatronic displays: a witch, a headless horseman, a dragon. Halloween is here.
I've loved Halloween for as long as I could do such a thing, but, being born and raised in Alabama, I had to keep quiet about it. Halloween was often seen as demonic or "the devil's holiday." And a good Christian little girl didn't want to have ANY association with the devil. Even driving past the devil sign on the interstate on our way back from the beach was enough to creep me out for a few miles.
But devil or no devil, I awaited Halloween patiently every year. Choosing a costume became a year-round thought process. I would pray that the weather would be absolutely perfect and that I wouldn't have to wear a jacket over my costume.
"Nothing scary or gory," my mom would remind me as we browsed the racks at Wal-Mart. My dad would look at my costume choices with a furrowed brow. Maybe even one eyebrow raised if my costume was borderline.
The daughter of a Catholic and a Southern Baptist, respectively, and raised in an Assembly of God church, I gave careful consideration to my costume choices so as not to offend anyone's convictions: a black and white cat, the Virgin Mary, a Barbie bride, Winifred Sanderson (that year was quite controversial).
Regardless of the holiday's history or roots, Halloween was always about something very special to me: the celebration (and recognition) of things that are different — embracing the macabre and the weird. Talking about things we don't normally like to talk about. Doing things we don't normally do.
You see this in all the fun Halloween traditions we accept as "normal" one time a year: going up to stranger's homes and knocking on the door, young children roaming around a dark neighborhood, taking candy from people you don't know, decorating houses with tombstones and bats and cobwebs – I would never do these things in, say, April. Only on Halloween.
Collectively, we spend eleven months of the year thinking about the lighter side of life and only leaving one month to talk about things that are a bit darker. We spend most of the year getting rid of giant spiders inside our homes only to buy the biggest, scariest ones we can to adorn our tables and walls in October.
2020 feels like a reversal of that in a few ways.
We only had about a month or so of normalcy and lightness when things took a dark and scary turn for our country, its citizens, and the economy. A nightmare reserved for our imaginations one time a year, the macabre surrounded us all.
This year was and is different.
But accepting "different" as normal is one of the pillars of Halloween. It's part of the spirit of the season.
And this year's holiday season is going to be different for a lot of us.
Where I once imagined an elaborate cemetery in my yard, complete with a fog machine, I now think about the 200K people in the US who died from COVID and decide to pull back on the death motif.
It just doesn't seem appropriate right now. Maybe next year.
When it's become a tradition for our family to host a huge Halloween party with dozens of people, we're now looking at more low-key ways to celebrate this year to keep our friends and family at a safe distance and avoid spreading any illnesses.
I'm also thinking of new, safer candy distribution methods for the children and families who visit our neighborhood.
Halloween masks give way to other types of masks.
And you know what? That's okay.
Halloween, to me, is all about embracing different. Talking about things we wouldn't normally talk about. Doing things we wouldn't normally do.
There's no better year to go all-in on this mentality.
In marketing messages, social media posts, blog posts, and beyond, holiday stuff should look different. Because the world is different.
As we get closer to what typically constitutes most people's favorite holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – we'll have to strip down the pomp and busyness. We'll have to go back to basics. Things will still be far from normal in a lot of ways.
And that will be okay because it's then that we'll find true meaning – beyond the elaborate and exhausting errands and events. We'll slow down just a bit.
Your copy and content should reflect this. Your marketing should revolve around this. And it should offer hope – hope that it won't always be this way.
And who knows?
In 2021, perhaps we'll all find a way to bring a little bit of that "weird" Halloween spirit into our homes and family traditions year-round and be okay with things when they're a little… different.
Perhaps we'll appreciate that when leaves start changing or falling off completely, it's nature's signal for us to slow down, rather than to speed up.
Maybe we'll finally realize that our marketing messages, copy, and social media posts can't all be driven by consumption.
They need to reflect on what's happening now.
And what's happening now is pretty different.