Back in “the day,” my brother and I were lucky if we got to carve a pumpkin. Now, if my front porch doesn’t look like a replica of Disney’s Haunted Mansion and my front yard is not a perfectly replicated spooky graveyard complete with animated ghouls and goblins by October 1, my children want to know, “What gives?”
What has happened to Halloween?
I just took a cruise around some business marketing webpages and found the following startling news:
- American consumers spend approximately $7 billion in total Halloween spending. (This is 1/10 of the gross domestic product of Sudan. No kidding. I looked it up.)
- Spending per American customer was down from $79.82 in 2012 to $75.83 in 2013? (Wow. I am surprised my stock broker–if I had one–didn’t warn me about that impending crash.)
- Retail outlets are encouraged to exploit this fun un-holiday because “no one complains that Halloween is too commercialized.”*
- The average American eats 1.2 pounds of candy on Halloween. This is the equivalent of 33 fun-size Snickers, 56 fun-size Twix, 127 Starburst or 280 M&M’s. (This number of calories would feed an average Ethiopian for more than 2.5 days. No wonder so many Americans are “fun-size.”)
Everyone celebrates Halloween. Everyone. Apart from your religion, your cultural background, your political affiliation, or the school you cheer for–everyone loves a good carved pumpkin and all the free candy you can collect. Also, who doesn’t want to dress up like Batman or Cat Woman? I saw this sign in a store yesterday: “Be yourself–unless you can be Batman, and then be Batman.” I want to be Wonder Woman, and why shouldn’t I?
Some spooky cultural facts about Halloween:
- This year marks the 48th showing of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV.
- The first celebration of dressing up and extorting candy from strangers was “guising” in Scotland. (Hence, the origin of the word “disguise.”)
- When I was in elementary school, our October word list always included “Hallowe’en;” and, if you didn’t include the apostrophe, you got points taken off.
- When I was in high school, I dressed up in gold lamé go-go boots, tights, black wig and bodysuit (all collected from my mom’s closet), sewed a cat’s ear cap out of scrap blue felt, applied my mom’s bright blue creme eye shadow (with just a hint of glitter) and won my town’s Prettiest Costume award for my rendition of Cat Woman. Remarkably, this costume did not cost me a penny out of pocket and I did it all without access to Pinterest.
- One Halloween, I dyed one of my mother’s white sheets black, added a silver chain belt and pillowcase hood to be the grim reaper. Until she reads this, she probably didn’t know what happened to break up her set of nice white sheets.
- In Ethiopia, they have a similar holiday called Buhé (appropriately pronounced, “boo-hay”), where the children do not dress up, but go door-to-door requesting pieces of injera, sour-sweet fermented bread made from several grains, including teff.
As I contemplate how the un-holiday has evolved over the years, I still have just one important question about the term “fun-size”: What is fun about getting a smaller candy bar instead of a bigger candy bar?
Happy Hallowe’en, y’all!