As Oct. 31 creeps closer, Texas A&M University-San Antonio is preparing for Halloween with events — from laser tag and a lip-sync competition to the ultimate Halloween affair: the costume contest.
People take on a different persona when they dress up for Halloween, said Dr. Stan Hodges, associate professor of sociology and criminology at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
“Halloween is the one night of the year when people get away with what they couldn’t get away with normally,” said Hodges, whose classes include Sociology of the Paranormal.
People’s interactions with others are different when they become their costumed counterparts, he said. They may be a character who is nicer than they are in everyday life, or someone altogether evil.
Or altogether fun. Martha Saywell, a music professor at Texas A&M-San Antonio, said one of her favorite Halloween costumes was homemade.
“I bought a Hanes plain white undershirt and painted a giant letter P and black-eyed my eye, and I called myself a Black-Eyed Pea,” she said.
Campus offers Halloween-themed events
Students, faculty and staff have at least two opportunities to dress up for Halloween on campus.
A Halloween Costume Party, organized by the National Society of Leadership and Success, is 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30 in the Vista Room of the Central Academic Building. Participants must be society members or the guest of a member.
Melissa Chaidez, the society’s marketing and public relations officer, said prizes for the best costumes are a speaker for first place and headphones for second place.
The Staff Council and Student Government Association are hosting a LipSync Battle and Halloween Costume Contest at noon Wednesday, Oct. 31 in the auditorium.
It costs $5 for an individual or a group to participate in the battle or the contest. The deadline to sign up to lip-sync is 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, said Brandon Oliver, Staff Council president. To sign up, email email@example.com. Participants can still register for the costume contest the day of the event.
Proceeds will go to the State Employee Charitable Campaign, which benefits more than 100 charities including the March of Dimes.
Oliver said organizers this year made a bigger push to include students, especially as the campus grows from a commuter school to a university with dorms.
He said this is the “first year to really open it up to students, though they have performed in the past.”
First-place winners will receive a $150 HEB gift card. Spectators choose the winners by tipping the performers and contestants, Oliver said. Previous events have raised between $800 and $900 for the campaign, he said.
“(It’s) not a big fundraiser, but it’s fun,” he said.
Less fun — and possibly more terrifying — is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
“Don’t Be Spooked by FAFSA” is 1-4 p.m. Oct. 29-Nov. 2 in the first-floor lobby of the Central Academic Building. This is the event’s second year; it coincides with Halloween because the FAFSA application period opens Oct. 1, according to Ana Gabriela Flores, coordinator of the office of transition and family programs.
“The event is an opportunity for students to receive one-on-one (face-to-face) help to fill out their FAFSAs from our financial aid counselors,” Flores wrote in an email Oct. 26.
Professor explains Halloween’s origins
Halloween traditions have ancient roots, said Hodges of Texas A&M-Kingsville.
The celebration of the Celtic holiday Samhain was around long before Halloween. Samhain celebrated the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. Most people think of Thanksgiving as a harvest celebration, but Samhain would have more in common with Halloween. Tricks were threatened if costumed children were not given treats. This would lead to the “leaving of treats to appease the spirits,” said Hodges.
In America, as a trick, outhouses would be moved to the middle of the street by mischievous youth, Hodges said. This happened before indoor plumbing was commonplace. In more recent years, toilet paper has been used to “decorate” houses by young pranksters.
Employees and students at Texas A&M-San Antonio say they are ready for trick-or-treaters.
Valerie Cortez is a psychology graduate and bookseller at the university bookstore. This year Cortez plans on dressing up her dogs for Halloween and passing out candy at her in-laws.
Ruben Monzon, an information technology junior, also will welcome trick-or-treaters.
“I actually don’t celebrate Halloween, so I’ll probably be in charge of passing out candy,” Monzon said.
Vicky Elias, a sociology professor, recalled last year’s Halloween.
“I had about 750 pieces of candy and gave it out in about 30 minutes,” she said. “It’s like a TV show. There are kids everywhere. It’s fun to hand it out.”
Near campus, the Bexar County Constables and participating stores in South Park Mall will host Mall Trick-or-Treating at 5 p.m. Oct. 31 in the mall’s Macy’s courtyard until the candy supply runs out.
“We always advise participants to come early because the candy runs out super fast,” said South Park Mall’s marketing manager, Christina Couch.
The event serves as a safe way for kids to trick-or-treat under watch by trained security as well as constables, who also assist in passing out candy.
“We do accept candy donations for the event as well,” said Crouch. “We encourage the kids to come dressed up, but it’s not necessary in order to participate.”
Horror movies are popular entertainment during the Halloween season.
Saywell, the music professor, says the “Paranormal Activity” series is one of her favorites after the original “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies. She calls them her guilty pleasure.
Business major Camden Batiste prefers another cult classic.
“I do not watch scary movies just because I prefer action and comedies, but ‘Stephen King’s It’ is probably my favorite scary movie,” Batiste said.
Melody Rodriguez, a communications professor here, grew up trick-or-treating with her family. Nowadays, it’s not something she wants to participate in any longer.
As a Christian and someone who deeply believes there is a spiritual realm, Rodriguez said she doesn’t agree with celebrating Halloween in a way that glorifies evil and scary beings.
“I believe there’s a spiritual thing with Halloween and evil and things like that. Why try opening your mind to scary things like that? Because it is real,” she said. “I’d rather just not participate; it’s not a big deal.”
Rodriguez has a 2-year-old son. She’s aware that knowledge of the holiday is inevitable and has no intention of hiding it from him. Rodriguez isn’t opposed to giving out candy on Halloween as she is still learning when she finds it OK to incorporate the holiday.
For Rodriguez, Halloween will simply be a normal Wednesday where she teaches a Bible study and then goes home to her son.
“After everything I said, I want to say this: God would never mistreat or condemn people who celebrate or participate in Halloween. Although God may not agree with everything we do, his focus is on showing his love, not on our bad habits or sin,” she said. “With that said, even though I don’t personally celebrate Halloween, I don’t think badly of people who do. It’s a fun holiday, but I personally don’t want to spend money or time on it.”
Other Halloween events on JagSync include:
- Laser Jag Tag, hosted by the Campus Activities Board, 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30 in the Recreation Field and Pavilion
- Halloween Treats Sale, hosted by the Jaguar Isotopes Chemistry Club, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31 on the Madla Statue Sidewalk near the Science and Technology Building
- Sigma Delta Lambda’s Halloween Bake Sale 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on the second floor of Madla.
Contributors to this story are Tommy Brown, Megan Delgado, Jesse Eureste and Stephanie Mulford.