Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is Brit's Halloween Spooktacular?
A: Every year, the City of Albion closes Hannah Street between Cass and Porter and students at Albion College organize treats and Halloween activities for area children. All community children (up to 8th grade and accompanied by a parent or guardian) are welcome! Parking is available behind Ferguson Hall and along adjacent streets. This year's Spooktacular will begin in Baldwin Hall at 5:15 pm and end at 6:30 pm.
Q: Monster music, dancing zombies... Where are you getting these ideas?
A: In planning this event, we are taking cues from a number of other American cities and parks that have incorporated "Thriller" performances, zombie walks, and Halloween parades into their seasonal celebrations.
Q: Why "Thriller"? Why not the Electric Slide, or the Hokey Pokey, or something?
A: Well, of course, it is seasonally appropriate. But, more importantly, "Thriller" is iconic. Thirty years after its release, it remains the most popular music video of all time. Plus, the hokey pokey (even in zombie makeup) just doesn't look as cool.
Q: How does this "Thriller" dance thing benefit the participant and/or community? Why should anyone want to take part in this event?
A: Did you know that dancing, singing, and playing music encourages humans to connect to one another by stimulating the same brain circuits that are involved in empathy, trust, and cooperation?
Yep, music and dance not only strengthen social bonds, they also support important cognitive, physical, and emotional functions. If that weren't enough, science shows that music actually makes brains happy! In short, it is our hope that by taking part in this public dance performance, individuals will HAVE FUN and CONNECT to our wonderful Albion community.
Q: I can't dance. Does that matter?
A: Nope! The point of this event is not to showcase the dancing prowess of our community, but to simply have fun and forge connections between the many different residents of the greater Albion area. Zombies, to our knowledge, are not particularly well-coordinated creatures, so the more imprecise and awkward you are with your motions the better!
Q: Do I have to dress like a zombie?
A: Not at all. Dance as a zombie. Dance in another Halloween costume. Dance in your pajamas, your sports uniform, or your work clothes. JUST DANCE.
Q: What is Halloween, anyway? Why do we celebrate this holiday?
A: Halloween has its origins in an ancient Celtic New Year’s festival called Samhain.
Samhain was traditionally celebrated on November 1, the day when the Celts believed that the gates separating the world of the living from the land of the dead were temporarily opened, allowing souls to pass through. This and other local religious beliefs were redefined with the conversion of Ireland to Christianity in 300-400 CE. Thereafter, November 1 became a day to honor the Christian Saints (All Saints Day). The day before All Saints Day became known as “the Eve of All Saints” or “the Even of All Hallows,” which was later shortened to “All Hallows' Eve” or “Halloween.” Around 900 CE, the Catholic Church added the holiday of All Soul’s Day on November 2nd to pray for the souls of all people who died during the past year. Together, Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls day constituted a triduum, or three-day religious celebration, called Allhallowtide which retained many of the traditional Celtic beliefs and customs, such as the offering of food and drink to masked revelers, the idea that night was a time for the wandering dead, and the lighting of fires to guide the souls on their way.
Celebrations of Allhallowtide have varied over the years, especially after ideas about wandering souls changed following the Protestant Reformation. Today, the many denominations of Christianity engage diversely with Halloween. While some use this day as an occasion to pray beside the graves of their loved ones, others have Reformation Festivals that celebrate the anniversary of the nailing of Martin Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses” to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. But, for the majority of Americans, Halloween has become a secular holiday filled with costumes, candy, and parties.
Q: What is the Day of the Dead?
A: The Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) is a holiday most commonly celebrated in Mexico on the first and second day of November. The holiday represents a synthesis of indigenous (pre-Hispanic, namely Aztec) beliefs and Christian religious traditions (specifically, the Roman Catholic feasts of All Saints' and All Souls' Day). The Day of the Dead offers its celebrators an opportunity to honor their ancestors and deceased loved ones by creating altars (ofrendas) in their memory. In addition to the construction of ofrendas, other common Day of the Dead practices include the cleaning and decorating of family gravesites, the preparation of special foods and beverages, the recitation of prayers on behalf of the deceased, and the attendance of Catholic Mass. Some Day of the Dead festivals also include singing, dancing, picnicking, nocturnal vigils, games, and kite-flying (Marchi 2013). According to Congdon, Delgado-Trunk and Lopez (1999), the Day of the Dead is one of the most important celebrations in Mexico, surpassed only by festivities recognizing the Madonna of Guadalupe .
Q. How is the Day of the Dead similar to, or different from, Halloween?
A: Good question! The Day of the Dead and Halloween are similar in that they are both festivals that emphasize death. They are both a result of syncretism—that is, the fusing of multiple cultural traditions (and, in both cases, one of those traditions is associated with Christian Europe). But, where the Day of the Dead has its origins in the Aztec culture, who set aside an entire month to honor the deceased, Halloween has its origins in the Celtic New Year's festival of Samhain. Fun fact: it was during the era of reformation and counter-reformation that the Spanish set out to establish the Americas as a "refuge for the Catholic faith" (Congon, Delgado-Trunk, and Lopez 1999: 316). So, had the Celts not inspired the Catholic Allhallowtide several hundred years earlier, the Spanish might not have taken this tradition with them when they colonized the New World. The two holidays are connected in this sense.
A key difference between Halloween and the Day of the Dead is that, while Halloween is a mostly secular day of costumes and candy, the Day of the Dead remains for many a spiritual celebration associated with the Catholic faith and the sacred traditions of Indigenous Mesoamerica. What is more, the Day of the Dead has served as a vehicle for sociopolitical activism among Mexicans and Mexican Americans and is a symbol of Mexican heritage (indeed, it is included in UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity!). Given its unique historical trajectory, the Day of the Dead bears a social significance that sets it distinctly apart from Halloween.
Baker, Tim. 2014. Making the Greatest Music Video of All Time. Newsweek.
Congdon, Kristin G., Catalina Delgado-Trunk, and Marva López. (1999). Teaching about the "Ofrenda" and Experiences on the Border. Studies in Art Education 40(4): 312-319.
Marchi, Regina. 2013. Hybridity and Authenticity in US Day of the Dead Celebrations. Journal of American Folklore 126(501): 272-301.
Suttie, Jill. 2015. Why We Love Music. Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.
Suttie, Jill 2015. Four Ways Music Strengthens Social Bonds. Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 2016. Indigenous Festivity Dedicated to the Dead. List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.