How Geeks Invented Halloween

Pumpkins! Image: Nicole Wakelin

The going theory is that Halloween started with the old Celtic festival of Samhain which celebrated the end of summer, and morphed into the holiday we have now. Stories of the supernatural, trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving and dressing up in costume were added a bit at a time based on the beliefs and customs of many cultures. There’s a lot of research out there about the whole thing, how it changed, who contributed what, but there is one crucial element that is missing from all of this documentation. The geeks.

I don’t mean the geeks of today, I mean the ones that were alive way back in “the old days.”  What, you think just because they didn’t have comics and superheroes and computers that there weren’t any geeks?  Au contraire. Geeks have always been and always will be out there doing their thing.  If Galileo, DaVinci or Copernicus were alive today, you know they would have legions of fans lining up at cons that would dwarf the crowds that swarm even Stan Lee.

Most geeks of history aren’t that well known, but their contributions to how we celebrate Halloween today are clear. First, you get to wield a knife and carve crazy faces into a harmless bit of produce all in the name of good fun. This means getting creative, picking the perfect pumpkin, and using all of your skills to make an amazing creation while not slicing off a finger. It is a work of art that the everyday geek can proudly display. It’s cheap, it’s fun, and it’s a point of pride. You can bet that the tradition really took hold when two geeks met in the town square, surveyed the scene, and one said “Dude, we can so make better pumpkins than these guys.”

And what about the scarecrows and skeletons on our lawns and fake bloody hand prints across our garage doors? Someone, ages ago, innocently decided to prop a few cornstalks by their front door. The guy across the field was unimpressed and made his look more real by adding a bit of hay and perhaps a gourd or two to his display. Then someone else added a whole scarecrow and you just know that if they’d had elasticity those things would have been decked out like only a geek with a little time and some tech know-how can manage.

The only problem, how to see just how much better, more realistic, more detailed your Halloween display is than your neighbor’s.  Ah-ha! Encourage everyone to get together one night, dress to fit their decorated homes, and hand out treats to visitors like any good hostess. Sure, it’s for the kids, but we all know that they can’t eat all those treats and as a responsible parent you’ll need to confiscate some.  And eat it.  All while you sit amid your Halloween themed-lawn decorations, sure that no one can touch your mad skills.  Just wait until next year!

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