Halloween is finally upon us, and as Andy Williams' classic Halloween tune goes, "It's the most wonderful time of the year."
Wait. Scratch that.
In any event, I'm quite certain that every American is at least somewhat familiar with the annual celebration of Halloween and all that has traditionally gone along with it in this country.
However, according to a new study published in Some Famous International Sociological Journal That Nobody Actually Reads, the overwhelming majority of Americans have absolutely no idea as to what Halloween is actually a celebration of, or how the holiday even originated.
Put plainly, we know how to celebrate. We just don't know what it is we're celebrating.
We are, quite frankly, Halloween idiots. If Halloween were a topic on Jeopardy, we'd be up the proverbial creek. In fact, we'd have to move on to an easier category, like Fiscal Policy in 17th-Century Bolivia.
Nevertheless, this lack of knowledge concerning the topic of Halloween is extremely discouraging, especially because Halloween ranks second only to Groundhog Day on the government's Official List of Important Insignificant Holidays.
In any event, because our very own town of Chapel Hill has hosted some of the largest Halloween parties in the country over the past few years, I believe it is only right that we, the residents of the host town, become better educated on the intricacies and details of Halloween than the average American.
In fact, we should become authorities on the holiday.
Well, perhaps "authorities" is a bit much.
However, we should have a good grasp of the holiday, its origins and the traditions surrounding it.
And so, All Hallows' Eve, in a nutshell:
The word "Halloween" actually has its roots in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows' Eve, which is the day before All Hallows' Day, also known as All Saints' Day.
Admittedly, this historical derivation can be a little confusing. Therefore, if anyone asks you about the history of Halloween while you're out on Franklin Street, ignore the question and continue spraying shaving cream on mailboxes and throwing eggs at windows.
One of the distinguishing features of Halloween is the wearing of ornate and unusual costumes. Of all the holidays, Halloween is the only one that affords us the opportunity to become someone - or something - else, even if only for a single night.
Children under the age of 12 can walk into any Halloween store and choose from approximately 13 million possible costumes. At their age, anything from Pokemon to Superman to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle will prove sufficient.
However, the older the Halloween celebrator, the harder it becomes to find an acceptable costume. A high school student, for example, cannot show up to homeroom dressed like Batman. (Actually, I suppose he could show up dressed like Batman. But somehow, I think Batman would be spending the rest of his Halloween stuffed in a gym locker, wondering how to remove his Bat Cape from his Bat Rear End because the school bully gave him an atomic Bat Wedgie).
By the time the celebrator reaches college age, there are only a select few costumes that will prove socially acceptable. In fact, acceptable collegiate costumes can be sorted into two general categories:
It's true. The overwhelming majority of college men involved in the Halloween celebration wear a sleeveless undershirt, seven gold chains and enough hair gel to snag every bird and low-flying aircraft within a five-mile radius of his head.
The women, on the other hand, participate with absurdly tight shirts made of either dental floss or Saran Wrap (but not both), two layers of makeup and a black miniskirt that defies every known law of Newtonian physics.
Costumes, however, are not the holiday's only significant feature. The door-to-door expedition for candy - also known as trick-or-treating - is another immensely important aspect of the Halloween celebration.
Even though those children participating will be wearing costumes and pretending to be something they're not, they still retain their adorable little capitalistic tendencies and, therefore, look to maximize the amount of candy collected.
Like any other endeavor involving young entrepreneurs, trick-or-treating can bring out the competitive fire in youngsters. In fact, it is not uncommon to see Malibu Barbie and G.I. Joe beating the living hell out of each other on the front stoop of someone's house over a Kit Kat.
Which reminds me - a word of advice to the older members of the community who will be distributing tasty treats to the youngsters: Do not give them raisins, granola bars or anything else that might be perceived as having any nutritional value.
If the children are given such items, they will become enraged, spray shaving cream in your mailbox and throw eggs at your windows.
Just like the college kids up on Franklin Street.
Joe Monaco is a junior journalism and mass communication and political science major from Long Island, N.Y. , who will be dressed
as Batman on Tuesday evening. Reach the Bat Cave at email@example.com.