Halloween is celebration of deviance, prof says

Evan Hessel

Halloween is the only day in the calendar year that children are allowed to extort candy from adults and engage in generally deviant behavior, according to sociology Prof. Allan Schnaiberg, who delivered a lecture Wednesday that outlined his sociological analysis of modern Halloween celebrations.

In his speech at the sociology department building, 1812 Chicago Ave., Schnaiberg explained the historical origins of Halloween, which date back to Druid harvest festivals that celebrated the final days of autumn. The festivals often involved people dressing up in animal costumes. He said All Saints’ Day, the Catholic holiday celebrating the lives of saints, also influenced modern Halloween celebrations.

Schnaiberg said U.S. Halloween traditions are less concerned with seasonal changes or memorializing the dead but instead focus on deviant behavior.

“Halloween represents some form of legitimation of deviance from our everyday rules, roles and relationships,” he said.

He explained that children first demand candy from adults by threatening them with unknown “tricks.” After extorting treats, Schnaiberg said, children brag about “the amount and quality of their loot.”

Following his speech, faculty and sociology graduate students recalled their Halloween memories. Prof. Albert Hunter said today’s children don’t understand what is required to be an effective trick-or-treater.

“We would threaten people by throwing eggs or soaping their windows if they didn’t give us candy,” Hunter said of his childhood.

The presentation also included a performance by singer-songwriter Minna Bromberg, a sociology graduate student. Playing on the themes of costumes and deviance, Bromberg performed four songs about seafaring women who dressed as male sailors so they could search for lovers lost at sea.

The program ended with attendees making masks that represented sociological concepts.