by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

The tradition of Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. It seems the ancient custom held that ghosts came back to the earthly world on a certain day. In an attempt to protect themselves from these ghosts, people wore masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. Additionally, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people placed bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

It’s said that the Halloween tradition came to the United States in 1840 with the arrival of a group of Irish immigrants. And trick-or-treating — as we know it — developed between 1920 and 1950 as a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6.9 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second biggest commercial holiday.

Of course, the spirit of Halloween and the meaning behind it has changed over the centuries, yet it is still a holiday that allows us to pretend to be someone else.

Costume parties and masquerade balls have no age barrier. Both the young and the old love to dress in disguise and behind masks. Even if only for a night, we enjoy becoming the image of our hero or the star of our worst nightmare or our favorite fantasy.

Our selection of costume doesn’t really matter. What is interesting is how our behavior changes to match the identity or character of our impersonation. For many of us, it seems easier to be someone other than our real selves. I admit that it has sometimes been more difficult to be my real self than to create a façade for a Halloween party.

What face do you put on every morning? Do your friends and co-workers know the real you? Or do they only see who you want them to see?

When I’m in a group setting, I’ve often found it difficult to be myself. My natural personality becomes hidden by what I may feel others will expect of me or by what I think they will accept. Sometimes I feel intimidated in a large group. And feelings of inadequacy, fear and shyness cause me to camouflage my true inclinations.

How can we dispose of our masks and let our real self be seen and known?

Perhaps before we can be who we are, we need to know who we are. I love the title of a book I once saw on bookstore shelves: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

We each have an authentic self that God created — and it’s one of a kind, individual and special. Don’t be afraid to let others see the “real” you. You don’t need to spend a lifetime trying to be more like your mom or your brother or a teacher. Your life journey is about knowing and being “you.” And you are someone who is worthy to know. Knowing yourself begins with a sincere desire to do so. And since God made you, you can be confident you’ll like what you learn. God does!

So don’t let anything deprive your world from knowing you — the real you. Be willing to learn about the child that God created. And be willing to explore and discover your talents and abilities. You and I have a unique purpose to be fulfilled.

Have fun this Halloween and choose your favorite mask to wear. But after Halloween, my friends, remove your mask. Don’t put on another face other than your own each day. Everyone around you will be happy to meet YOU!