“A mask tells us more than a face.”—Oscar Wilde, Irish Poet

            Summer is gone and Halloween’s back! It’s time to change out your coronavirus masks for something a bit more glamorous, entertaining or scary. The 2020 pandemic put a damper on Halloween parties, but thanks to masks and vaccinations the fun night of trick-or-treating ghosts and goblins is expected to resurge.

Once upon a time mask wearing was viewed as fun. Halloween masks can be traced back centuries to the Celtic festival of Samhain, a celebration of summer’s end and the beginning of the cold, dark winter months when the Celts believed spirits would pass from the world of the dead to wreak havoc on the living. Folks wore costumes and scary masks to keep the spirits from knowing their identities.

Indeed, masks do compound the recognition issue. I’ve reached the age when everyone looks familiar, but I can’t remember their names. Add a mask, and I haven’t a clue. 

Masks have been used for rituals and ceremonies for centuries. The oldest surviving mask is made of stone and dates to 7000 BC. The word “mask” came from the French term “masque” meaning to cover or guard the face, and is a term for a face without a body.

Today mask wearing has become controversial. On one hand, along with frequent hand washing, public health experts recommend wearing masks as the best way to stop the virus spread. Masks protect the wearer from catching an infection and from spreading germs to non-mask wearers. On the other hand, some folks object to masks because they are annoying, muffle conversation and can even cause acne.

             They’ve been used worldwide in rituals and ceremonies to represent ancestors and exorcise evil spirits, as well as for hunting, in wars, for entertainment and for functional purposes. There are medical masks (oxygen masks, anesthetic masques and surgical masks) and protective masks worn by Roman gladiators and modern day policemen. Some occupations require a face covering, such as a diving mask, or a welding mask, and football helmets and fencing masks are used in sports. Masks also are used by evil doers, such as bank robbers.

 “From now on I’m always going to wear a mask to the grocery store. I prefer a disguise when purchasing obscene amounts of junk food,” actress Sarah Thyre said.

 *Final Word… To wear a mask or not wear a mask continues to be an on-going source of pandemic controversy and humor. Indeed, some masks are works of art, and some have become famous for the characters they represent, such as Zorro, Hannibal from “Silence of the Lambs,” the Scream Mask, the Lone Ranger, Phantom of the Opera, Batman and Darth Vader of Star Wars.

And to quote an anonymous jokester: “they said a mask and gloves were enough to go to the grocery store. They lied everyone else had clothes on.”