Zombie Awareness Month is right around the corner, which begs the question: Why is May Zombie Awareness Month instead of October?
Halloween actually has nothing to do with zombies. Celebrated annually at the end of October, Halloween seems primarily like an excuse for kids to carve pumpkins, dress up in goofy costumes, and demand free candy from their neighbors.
But this witching holiday, originally called All-Hallows’ Eve (meaning the evening before All Hallows’ Day, or All Saints Day), long held religious significance evolving from a blend of European pagan and folk traditions deeply rooted in myth and superstition.
Nicholas Rogers is a professor of history at York University and author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. He explains that the holiday originally reflected fears about supernatural threats, and these motifs are still with us today. Rogers discusses dozens of traditional Halloween monsters in his work, but zombies are not mentioned once.
Witches, ghosts, and vampires–all staples of the season–are otherworldly creatures of old, filled with mysticism, unusual powers, or spiritual significance. The modern zombie, on the other hand, is a biologically based entity that reflects thoroughly modern fears. Grounded in empirical science and reflecting contemporary urban society, the modern zombie has nothing to do with Old World legends.
More importantly, the film that single-handedly created the modern zombie in 1968, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, is set in the month of May. What more fitting month could there be?
Since 2007, concerned citizens and zombie enthusiasts have donned gray ribbons in honor of Zombie Awareness Month and participated in a wide range of awareness-raising activities, such as zombie walks, zombie theme parties, and zombie charity drives. The gray ribbon is meant to signify the undead menace that threatens our modern light of day, and the organized events are meant for fun.
From May 1 through 31, people across the globe take this small step to acknowledge the coming danger that we may all soon face.